Fortnightly Review & Analysis: Defence, National Security and Terrorism (Vol 2 Issue IX)

Oct 1-15, 2017

Defence

Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of the Naval Staff visits Vietnam

Admiral Sunil Lanba, PVSM, AVSM, ADC, Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of the Naval Staff visited Vietnam on a bilateral visit from 04 to 07 October 2017. The visit was aimed to consolidate cooperation between the Armed Forces of India and Vietnam and also to explore new avenues of defence cooperation.

During his visit, in addition to holding important bilateral discussions, the Admiral visited the National Defence Academy of Vietnam, where he interacted with student officers and faculty members and delivered a talk on the ‘Importance of Maritime Power’. He will also visit Vietnam People’s Navy ‘Naval Region 4’, Vietnam Naval Academy and laid a wreath at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The Indian Navy cooperates with the Vietnam People’s Navy on many issues, which include operational interactions, training and exchange of Subject Matter Experts in various fields through the medium of Staff Talks. The Indian Army and Air Force also maintain robust cooperation with the Vietnamese Army and Air Force.

Indian Navy Foils Piracy Attempt in Gulf of Aden

A piracy attempt on the high seas was foiled by an Indian Naval warship on 06 October 2017. INS Trishul a stealth frigate of the Indian Navy whilst on Anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden, was escorting a merchant vessel MV Jag Amar when she detected a boat carrying out suspicious manoeuvers in the vicinity of the merchant ship. The Indian Navy (IN) has been deploying a warship in the waters in and around the Gulf of Aden since 2008 and has safely escorted hundreds of merchant vessels through these treacherous waters.
Indian ships are mandated to prevent piracy and are not mandated for regional law enforcement. The actions taken by the ship are the rationale for the continued deployment of Indian ships for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

First Training Squadron Visit Penang, Malaysia
Ships belonging to First Training Squadron of IN functioning under Southern Naval Command (Training Naval Command) visited Penang, Malaysia from 08 to 12 Oct 17. The visit was aimed to expose the trainees to the conduct of IN warships in foreign waters, port familiarisation and foster ‘bridges of friendship’ between the two countries. Executive Branch trainee officers, after completing initial training at the Indian Naval Academy, including the successful completion of B. Tech degree course, join the First Training Squadron for intensive Practical Sea Training of 24 weeks designed to enable them to get their ‘Sea Legs’.

At the First Training Squadron, the IN also trains officers from friendly foreign countries. Presently four officers from Malaysia are undergoing various Ab-initio to advanced courses at SNC.

Indian Naval Ships visit Sasebo, Japan

In pursuance of India’s Act East Policy and demonstration of India’s commitment to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific Region, Indian Naval Ships INS Satpura and INS Kadmatt visited Sasebo, Japan from 12th to 15th October 2017. The visit of these ships is part the Indian Government’s initiatives to strengthen the long standing, mutually supportive and strong relationship between Japan and India. This historic relationship spans across the entire spectrum of engagement between both countries – cultural, spiritual, economic and security.

The visiting Indian Naval ships will engage with the JMSDF in formal calls, as also professional, social and sporting interactions. After completion of the harbour phase, the ships will take part in Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the Murusame Class destroyer, Japan Navy Ship Kirisame. The Indian Navy and JMSDF also have strong bilateral defence training cooperation. Further, in order to enhance interoperability and understanding, seminars and short term exchange programs are conducted regularly in both countries with participation from both navies. Both navies look forward to enhanced cooperation in the fields of military technology, white shipping, training, intelligence sharing, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and exchange of subject matter experts in various fields.

Fourth Edition of Dilli Seminar Concludes at the Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala

The fourth edition of the ‘Dilli Seminar’ on ‘India and Southeast Asia – Maritime Trade, Expedition and Civilisation Linkages’ concluded on 13 October 2017 at the Indian Naval Academy (INA). Ten papers were presented during the seminar, covering various topics like 'India and Southeast Asia: Echoes of Memories’, ‘Indian Shipping and Maritime Trade in 16thand 17th Century Southeast Asia and Tectonic Shifts in Geopolitics of Asia-Pacific’, ‘The Economic Background to India’s Early Maritime Trade’, ‘Socio-Cultural Exchanges between India and Southeast Asian Countries’, ‘Look and Act East policy of India in the Developing Geo-political Context’ and ‘Maritime Military Campaigns to and from Southeast Asia’.

Defence Minister Reviews Operational Preparedness in the North East

The visit which is part of her familiarisation with all the formations of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) comes close on the heels of her visit to Northern Command recently. The Defence Minister extended her good wishes to the Air Warriors on the occasion of 85th Air Force Day anniversary as she interacted with air warriors at the strategically important Eastern airbase of Tezpur. The Minister reiterated the Government’s resolve to give further impetus to development in the border areas. Smt Sitharaman further praised steadfast commitment and high morale of troops in facing the diverse challenges thrown up by the dynamic security environment.

“Integration of Services My Priority”: Raksha Mantri

Raksha Mantri Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman joined the Army Commanders’ Conference at the Manekshaw Centre, Delhi Cantt, on 10 October 17 for over 30 minutes and addressed the senior Army hierarchy including Army Chief and all Army Commanders. During her address, Raksha Mantri referred to her visits to the forward areas and meeting with troops as ‘eye-opening’. Listing her top priorities, she said that integration of the Armed Forces is essential particularly in the domain of training, communication, logistics and cyber, among others, to prepare for any future conflict. She called upon the Indian Army to continue leveraging its strength in diplomatic defence cooperation with neighbourhood and in the region, support the ‘Make in India’ dream and nation building during all times. Raksha Mantri confirmed that morale of forces will remain the highest among the priorities of the government.

Raksha Mantri also inaugurated the bi-annual IAF Commanders’ Conference at Air Headquarters (Vayu Bhavan). Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, welcomed the Raksha Mantri and Raksha Rajya Mantri and introduced the IAF Commanders to them. The CAS briefed on the current status of the IAF and the efforts that have been made in the recent past. The Minister said that the Air Force, along with Ordnance Factory Board and DRDO, should make an assessment about indigenisation under ‘Make-in-India’ programme. She said that the budgetary allocations should not be viewed as a constraint but should be looked at to acquire what is absolutely necessary. She further said that the Government is committed to fill the gaps which have arisen due to lack of timely decision making in the last decade.

Opening Ceremony: EX Mitra Shakti 2017

The fifth India-Sri Lanka Joint Training Exercise MITRA SHAKTI 2017 started with a grand Opening Ceremony conducted at the Aundh Military Station, Pune. The exercise is based on Counter-Terrorist Operations and one infantry company from both the countries are participating. The exercise will send a strong signal to the world that both India and Sri Lanka understand the emerging threat of terrorism and stand shoulder to shoulder in countering this menace. The exercise will be conducted for 14 days up to 26 Oct 17 and will involve sharing and learning from each other’s experiences.

PLA's new Light Tank is Unveiled

China has confirmed the deployment of a new light tank, which observers say will suit combat operations on the plateaus. This is the first time the Chinese military has officially published a picture of the tank. At a Defense Ministry news briefing in late June, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, the ministry spokesman, confirmed that the light tank was being tested at that time on the plateaus in Tibet autonomous region. Developed by China North Industries Group Corp, the country's biggest maker of land armaments, the light tank is equipped with a hydro pneumatic suspension system that ensures good maneuverability and survivability in mountainous regions. Its main weapon is a 105-mm gun that is able to fire both shells and guided missiles, according to weapons observers, who said the tank's main task is to fight on plateaus even at very low temperatures and that its weight ranges from 25 to 35 metric tons.

International Terrorism

Anti-Daesh Operations in Raqqa and Hawija

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) re-captured the city of Hawija, which was a final urban stronghold under the control of Daesh in Iraq. Having started the swift and decisive operation on September 21, victory was declared by the Iraqi government on October 04, 2017. The ISF campaign to liberate the city of Mosul had taken nine months until July 2017; while the city of Tal Afar was liberated in mere 11 days of operation. The ISF is now fighting the Daesh militants along the Euphrates in the northern part of Anbar Province. In this military campaign, the ISF with US military has already re-captured several towns.

Daesh still holds substantial territory across the border in Syria along the Euphrates. The assertive military campaign by the ISF with the US military has long affected the moral of the Daesh militants is deteriorating rapidly. Surrender of nearly 600 Daesh militants in Dibis in Kirkuk province stands testimony to it (according to latest reports even Kirkul has since fallen to government forces).

Having recaptured Hawija, Iraqi troops still have to liberate western Anbar’s towns of Rawa and Qaim remaining under the militant’s control. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered to halt military advancement towards areas evacuated by Kurdish Peshmerga troops in Kirkuk on October 13, 2017, hours after he denied intentions for an invasion of the province.

Raqqa

The military campaign to recapture the city of Raqqa is drawing to an end. The city was captured by Daesh militants and had used it as it's headquartered in Syria since 2014. The assertive military campaign by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has diminished the Daesh presence along the Euphrates river valley. The military campaign to liberate Raqqa began in November 2016 and is now in its final stage (according to latest reports Raqqa has since been liberated). The SDF confirmed that after the recapture of the Raqqa it will hand over the administration to the political allies who have set up a Raqqa Civil Council (RCC), a council made up of the people nominated from the city. Apart from the US-led coalition represented by the SDF, Russia and Iran have also launched their own campaigns against Daesh militants in eastern Syria. The Raqqa military campaign has stirred a tension between the US and its NATO ally Turkey. It is due to the Turkish efforts to get the control of Raqqa by utilising the potential Kurdish influence. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is backed in the war by Russia, Iran and Shi'ite militias including Lebanon's Hezbollah, and its campaign against Islamic State has mostly been on the west bank of the river.

USA-Las Vegas Shooting
A 64-year gunman opened indiscriminate fire on a large gathering of people at the Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on the night of October 01, 2017. The attacker, who later killed himself, was identified by the US Federal Agencies as Stephen Paddock, a resident of Mesquite, Nevada. He fired hundreds of rifle rounds from his suite located on the 32nd floor of the hotel Mandalay Bay situated in the immediate neighbourhood of Harvest Festival site. In this wild gunfire, 58 people were killed and 489 were injured.

After the incidence, law enforcement officials recovered at least 20 AR-style assault rifles from the suite along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, including two rifles outfitted with scopes and set up on tripods. His motive for the killing remained unknown. Though Daesh has claimed the responsibility for these shooting by sending back to back claims through its Amaq news agency, identifying Paddock as Abu Abd Abullbar al-Amriki. However, F.B.I. denied any evidence of Paddock’s links with IS or any international terrorist organization. His relatives said that Paddock had also not displayed strong political or ideological beliefs in their interactions with him.

Africa

Twin Blast at Mogadishu Kills 276 People, more than 300 Injured

Somalian capital Mogadishu was, on the night of October 14, 2017, hit by two powerful blasts that killed 276 people and severely injured 300. Though no group has yet claimed responsibility for the incident, suspicion immediately fell on Al Shabab which has significant presence in Mogadishu. As the death toll grew, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of national mourning. Though the US has conducted counter-terror military operations in this region, due to continuous political instability for more than 25 years, threat posed by al Shabab remains very high. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands injured in terror strikes in 2017 alone. The recent attacks by Al Shabab are considered to be in retaliation against the terror group’s loss of territory to African Union Forces and increasing drone attacks by the US. It is suspected that Al Shabab might have received logistic support from its parent organisation, Yemen based al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula.

US and Nigerian Soldiers killed in Niger

The US and Nigerian joint patrol troops came under hostile fire from Boko Haram in Southwest Niger on October 04, 2017. In this ambush, five soldiers from Niger and three US Army Special forces troops were killed and two wounded. In this backdrop, the African security forces are stepping up efforts to counter jihadist groups forming a regional insurgency outlet in the least developed and sparsely populated deserts of the Sahel.

Domestic Terrorism

Jammu and Kashmir

Notorious Militants Killed in Encounters

Security forces in Kashmir continued their intelligence driven operation against militants group in Pulwama, Shopian and Baramullah areas. In an encounter in Pulwama, on October 14, 2017, forces killed district commander of Lashkar-e Toiba (LeT), Ahmad Shah alias Abu Usama Bhai and his associate Nisar Ahmad Mir at Litter Village of Pulwama District. As in the past large number of people gathered for the funeral of these two militants with markets remaining closed. As a proactive measure, the administration suspended mobile internet facility in the district.

Similarly, in a joint operation, Rashtriya Rifles (RR), Special Operations Group of J&K Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Shopian on October 09, three militants were killed at Gatipora area of Kellar village. Slain terrorists included district commander of Hizb-ul Mujahideen, Zahid Malik alias Zahid Mir, Irfan Abdullah Ganie and Asif Ahmad Paul. After the operation, three AK-47 rifles and ammunition cartridges were recovered.

In another encounter in Lodora Village of Baramulla on October 09, 2017 one of the most wanted operational commanders of Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM), Khalid Ahmad alias Khalid Bhai alias Shahid Showkat was killed after he opened fire on a Patrol team. Khalid was wanted in several terror attack cases including the October 03, suicide attack near the Srinagar in which a soldier was killed. In a statement, J&K Police confirmed that Khalid was trained in Pakistan and was commander of a group of 12 terrorists that had crossed over recently and was mainly active in Sopore in North Kashmir.

Infiltration Bids Foiled

The Army foiled two major infiltration attempts in two different sectors in J&K on October 02, 2017. In the first, a major infiltration attempt in Tanghdar sector of Kupwara districts, three terrorists were killed and three weapons and ammunition were recovered. In the second bid on the same day, the Army killed two militants along the Line of Control in Torna area of Rampur sector of Baramulla District. Bodies of two militants were recovered along with two AK-47 rifles

AFSPA purview Reduced in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya

Based on security analysis, in view of improvement in law and order situation in the two states of Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, Union Home Ministry on October 01, 2017, decided to reduce the operational purview of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) of 1958 in certain parts of the two from the states. The Ministry clarified that with this reduction, both the states cannot be considered as a ‘disturbed area’ in their entirety anymore. In Meghalaya, the disturbed area jurisdiction has been reduced to 10 kilometres from the previous 20 kilometres invoked under Section 3, of AFSPA up till March 2018. In Arunachal Pradesh, eight districts bordering Assam will remain disturbed area till March 2018.