Fortnightly Review & Analysis – Defense, National Security and Terrorism (Vol 1 Issue X)

(November 01-15, 2016)

Defense and National Security

This fortnight’s FRA on Defence & National Security covers the 8th China-India Defense and Security Consultation, establishment of a Sino-Pak Joint Counter Terror Command System, recent approvals accorded by the Defence Acquisition Council, visit of the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) of the Indian Navy to Myanmar and the Indian Navy’s support to PM Modi’s SAGAR initiative.

8th China-India Defense and Security Consultation

The 8th India-China Defense and Security Consultation was held in Delhi in the first week of November 2016.

The security dialogue was co-chaired by Admiral Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission and Indian Defense Secretary Shri G Mohan Kumar. This dialogue is held annually to work out the calendar of events for the coming year. The annual security dialogue aims at working out mechanisms for managing and controlling disputes and ensuring peace and tranquility on the border. In line with this aim, Admiral Sun expressed the Chinese Military’s willingness towards improving mechanisms of communication and strengthening border management. On his part, Secretary Kumar also highlighted a different but important aspect when he brought out that the exchange of visits between Chinese and Indian leaders has promoted the India-China strategic partnership and contributed towards the common prosperity of the two countries.

Admiral Sun Jianguo also called on the Indian Defense Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar during which both sides agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the border and the necessity of enhancing bilateral relations between the two nations.

A Sino-Pak Joint Counter Terror Command System

As per the state-run China Radio International (CRI), during the first fortnight of November 2016, Chinese Special Forces from the PLA's 21st Group Army and Pakistani SSG commandos held a joint military exercise in a bid to strengthen their cooperation in fighting terrorism. Without giving any specifics, it was only stated that the exercise was "carried out in a border region between the two sides". Though there is some speculation of the exercise being held in Pakistan's National Counter Terrorism Centre in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is largely believed that the same was actually held in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) bearing in mind the fact that this is the only border region between the two countries.

Speaking on the utility of the said exercise, Chinese sources have been quoted as saying that “The exercise helps strengthening the abilities of the two forces to fight terrorism through coordinated command systems, and further cement the friendship and counter-terrorism cooperation mechanism between the two forces.” More importantly, Chinese sources have also been quoted as having said that "The Chinese and Pakistani forces have conducted in-depth and detailed communication regarding the subject of the construction of a counter-terrorism command system and use of tactics.”

Post this exercise, some reports have construed this as the setting up of a “Sino-Pak Joint Counter Terror Command”. However, a perusal of concerned reports and an understanding of counter terror mechanisms suggest that in all probability a “Joint Counter Terror Command System” is being established rather than a “Joint Counter Terror Command” being set up. Though the exact utility of this “Joint Counter Terror Command System” is unknown, it is largely believed that the same is being put in place to handle a particular contingency rather than being a “One Size Fits All” system. Hence, it is felt that the said counter terror command system is being put in place to address the security concerns surrounding the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs through PoK. If so, such a ‘Joint Counter Terror Command System’ may not be in line with Indian interests. India’s reservations about the CPEC running through PoK have been well communicated to China in the past. India has also been concerned about China covering up Pakistan’s state policy of sponsoring terrorism. While such concerns have been unequivocally raised in the past too, they were reported to have been raised again by the Indian NSA Mr Doval during his recent talks with his Chinese counterpart.

Thus, while Sino-Pak joint military exercises are perfectly in order, China’s attempts at establishing a “Joint Counter Terror Command System” (primarily meant for a project passing through disputed territory) with a state known for sponsoring terror can be said to be questionable to say the least.

The Defence Acquisition Council Approves Significant Proposals

In its meeting on 07 November this month, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) gave Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) approvals to projects worth Rs 82,000 crores. A big chunk of the money, $7.5 billion will go into equipping the Indian Air Force with 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), simulators and ancillary equipment.

The LCA will be supplied by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited which is already executing a contract for 40 LCAs. The Tejas is set to replace the aging MiG-21 fighters. As a part of this in July 2016, two Tejas LCA have already been inducted into the IAF. In addition to this in the next few months, two more LCAs will join the squadron being formed in Bengaluru. This notwithstanding, delivery of LCAs continues to remain a major challenge for the HAL due to its limited capacity of being able to produce only eight aircrafts in a year.

The DAC also cleared the buying of 464 T-90 Tanks which is a repeat order given to Heavy Vehicles Factory, Chennai. The new tanks would be an improved version of the existing variant and should address the concerns of the slow pace of mechanised modernization in the Indian Army.

It is also reported that there would be a procurement of six additional regiments of Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers to complement the existing arsenal of area weapons. The ministry has also given its approval for the purchase of 15 indigenously built light combat helicopters along with 598 mini unmanned aerial vehicles. The UAVs are aimed at improving the situational awareness of the infantry battalions.

While the government has approved defence projects worth billions it remains to be seen how as to how many of them will eventually materialise. The DAC’s approval is merely the first step towards acquiring these platforms. The Defence Ministry also has cleared a new blacklisting policy which is expected to do away with blanket bans on companies indulging in corrupt practices. This new policy focuses on graded blacklisting which ensures that while companies are dealt with harshly, the modernisation process itself is not affected.

Visit of Chief of the Naval Staff, Indian Navy, to Myanmar

Admiral Sunil Lanba, CNS, Indian Navy, visited Myanmar from 01 to 04 November 2016. The visit was intended to consolidate and enhance the bilateral maritime relations between India and Myanmar. During his visit the CNS held bilateral discussions with the First Vice President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Deputy Commander-in-Chief (Defence Forces) and Commander-in-Chief, Myanmar Army and Commander-in-Chief, Myanmar Navy. The Admiral also addressed the students at the National Defence College visited the Defence Services Academy, Naval Training Command and the indigenously built Myanmar Navy Frigate UMS Aung Zeya. The visit of the CNS also coincided with a visit of ships of the First Training Squadron of the Indian Navy to Myanmar. Officers from the Myanmar Navy were also embarked on the Indian Naval ships for the first time as part of the international training exchange programme.

Myanmar has been a lynchpin in India’s ‘Act East’ policy as also as a strategic land bridge to the ASEAN community. India places great importance on this strategically located country where the Chinese influence is palpably visible, especially in the defence forces and strategic infrastructure projects. India, therefore, has to increase the momentum of its engagement with Myanmar if it has to mitigate any inimical effects of the Chinese influence. Such visits are a good beginning but have to be backed up by perceptible initiatives which will enable enhancement of capabilities and capacities as desired by Myanmar. It is also important to enhance mutual trust and increase the transparency in our dealings with Myanmar, especially as we are faced with common challenges of trans-border crime and maritime security. Myanmar is also in need of defence equipment, some of which can be met by Indian industry, if legacy procedures can be ironed out and hurdles removed. Much therefore needs to be done to raise the level of interaction between the two countries where defence relations can provide a good beginning.

The Indian Navy in Support of PM Modi’s SAGAR Initiative

INS Shardul, an amphibious ship of the Indian Navy, is currently on a month long deployment in the Southern Indian Ocean in keeping with the vision of SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region. Accordingly, the Indian Navy will be progressing maritime security cooperation with Mauritius National Coast Guard (NCG) towards ensuring a secure and stable regional maritime environment for unhindered economic development in the region. INS Shardul’s visit is part of its mission to carry out surveillance in the Mauritius EEZ with NCG personnel embarked onboard.

The Indian Navy has been an important component of the articulation of the Prime Minister’s vision of SAGAR, postulated in March 2015, for the development of the IOR. The Indian Navy has had a continuous engagement with many of the island nations of the IOR and has provided support in the enhancement of their maritime capabilities and capacities through training of personnel and facilitation in acquisition of equipment. However, the effectiveness of implementation of the Prime Minister’s vision, while revolving around the Navy, will require a more comprehensive involvement of the other organs of state including the Ministries of Finance, Economic Affairs, Fisheries, Industries, etc. Synergising the efforts of this multitude of agencies is pivotal to our strategy for the IOR and will necessitate monitoring and implementation of planned activities at the highest levels of government if India is to maintain its centrality in the IOR and provide leadership in this globally significant region.

International Terrorism

Mosul Liberation Campaign

Military operation for the liberation of Mosul intensified as the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and its coalitions partners inched closer to this second largest city. For the first time in two year since the militants took over Mosul, the ISF entered into the city’s eastern and southern neighborhoods between Novembers 1-3, 2016. On the way, they recaptured a few villages from the terror outfit. This notwithstanding, there was no strong signal yet, of the Islamic State (IS) fighters retreating from the ground. On November 6, ISIS carried out attacks in various locations, including Tikrit and Samarra, killing 25 people. Similarly, on November 14, a suicide bomb attack in the city of Karbala took six lives. In both these incidents, the victims belonged to Shiite community. In a defensive move, ISIS fighters set fire to oil trenches in early November with a view to distracting the coalition airstrikes and preventing the forces from advancing towards Mosul.

Meanwhile, in what could be considered as a partial breakthrough, the ancient city of Nimrud was liberated from IS on 13 November. Losing of such important territories along with continuing elimination of top-level leaderships are major setback for IS. This was reflected even in the tone of the message released by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in early November, calling upon fighters to “wreck havoc” and to take the fight to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, giving an impression that he had sensed hard times ahead.

According to a report, more than 1,000 IS fighters have been killed since the beginning of the campaign. Notwithstanding the determined resistance from IS using various tactics, the ISF and its partners are putting a commendable fight against all odds. That said, concerns over looming humanitarian crisis continue to mounted as reports surfaced about of ISIS fighters torturing civilians in and around Mosul. Most of the executions carried out by IS during the last fortnight were on charges of “treason and conspiracy”. In the days to come, IS will exploit all the possible means that will stymie the operation while it will also try creating more fissures between Shia and Sunni by attacking more Shiite population not only in Mosul but also in other parts of the country.

IS Fighter Reveals Presence of Indian Woman in Mosul

According to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), during the interrogation of an IS supporter, (Tamil Nadu based Subahani Haja Moideen, who was arrested in October 2016 for attempting to arrange for explosives from Sivakasi) who had fought in Mosul, it was revealed that another Indian woman was present in the conflict zone. Moideen had interacted extensively with an Indian couple from Maharashtra during his five month stint in Mosul, Iraq. The National Investigating Agency (NIA) is trying to determine further details on whether the couple had travelled from India directly or made transit to Iraq through any other country.

International Out-Reach of IS

With more territories recaptured by the Iraqi and coalition forces, and military operations getting intensified in Iraq and Syria, ISIS leaderships are calling on its fighters and supporters to carry the battle abroad in other countries, whenever possible. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s statement in early November specifically targeted the monarchical kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Turkey, particularly for their fight against IS. In the very recent times, both these countries came under some brazen attacks from IS. Likewise, the European Union (EU) countries, particularly Belgium and France also witnessed brutal carnages. Currently, with the ongoing Mosul campaign, several foreign fighters have reportedly fled towards their home countries. According to a German intelligence report released in mid-November, IS militants have been trained in “methods of infiltrating Europe as refugees while not attracting attention from law enforcement agencies”. The potential danger from the returning foreign fighters was also expressed by Belgium’s Interior Minister Jan Jambon on 12 November, who estimated the strength of European IS fighters at 3,000 to 5,000 in Syria and Iraq. The issue of illegal immigrants, some of whom are highly radicalized, was also given due attention by him as this has happened at a juncture. It may be mentioned that IS supporters, are ‘celebrating’ the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 United States (US) elections “as the beginning of the end of the United States”. There is a widely discussed facet that IS and other jihadist groups will use Trump’s campaign rhetoric (against Muslims and immigrants) as a tool to radicalize and recruit people in the US and elsewhere. The international community, therefore, should not ignore or underplay the threats from IS or its affiliates in any part of the world. In order to prove their resoluteness against the ongoing campaign in Syria and Iraq, they might strike back elsewhere. This possibility should not be ruled out.

Pakistan: Terror Attack in Baluchistan:

On November 12, 2016, a Sufi shrine in Baluchistan province of Pakistan was attacked in which 52 people were killed and over 100 wounded. In a incident last month, a combined group of Laskar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and IS activists had attacked the police training academy in Quetta. Sources suspect the involvement of the same two groups in this incident as well. While it is still premature to talk of a strong ISIS foothold in Pakistan, the expansion of IS-directed or inspired activities inside Pakistan have become a worrisome development over the past one year.

It is likely that IS recruiters in Pakistan are increasingly looking for disgruntled Taliban fighters and other local outfits to team up with them. Their intention to spark sectarian tension is also visible from the targets they chose for this attack. The mentioned shrine was reportedly visited by both Shias and Sunnis. Further, there have already been reports indicating the presence of Pakistani fighters in the ranks of IS in Afghanistan and Central Asia, particularly Uzbekistan. Considering the deteriorating security scenario in Pakistan, a gradual accretion in IS’s influence and operational capabilities acting along with other local terror outfits, is likely to pose a major security challenge for the region. As a result, the activities of groups like LeJ, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and that of IS supporters need to be monitored closely.

Impact of De-monetization on FICN and Terror Financing

Government’s decision to demonetize 1000 and 500 rupee currency notes has had the intended impact on terror financing through induction of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN). FICN is smuggled into India via land, Sea and air routes with majority of funds coming in from Pakistan to West Asian countries and the Bangladesh route. Authorities estimate the value of FICN in circulation in the country to be nearly Rs 400 crore with FICN worth Rs 70 crore finding its way into the Indian economy annually, of which only about one third is seized. The detection rate of fake Rs 100 and Rs 500 notes was around the same, and higher than the detection of Rs 1,000 notes by around 10 percent. India is proactively working with Bangladesh since last year when the NIA arrested FICN kingpin Mozzamel Haque, who has been confirmed as the king pin of this racket. Demonetization of the higher denomination currency notes has, in one sweep, wiped out a huge chunk of terror finance, not only of the FICN variety but also the genuine notes coming to the terror groups from other internal and external sources.

Agencies estimate that nearly Rs 300/- crore worth of currency was in circulation in the Kashmir valley. This figure includes hawala money delivered to the separatists and militants operating in the valley. Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is estimated to fuel nearly 800-1000 crore annually for the separatist, 300-500 crore to terror groups like Hizbul Mujahedeen and others. Indian investigation agencies maintain that most of the illegal money enters Kashmir through hawala transactions, transfers coming in from other Islamic countries, trans-border inductions by Pakistan through Punjab and Rajasthan, the traders’ network in major towns like Delhi and Kolkata, use of open and porous borders with Nepal and Bangladesh. The arrest of 37 persons since 2013 in 17 terrorism funding cases in J&K stands testimony to the huge role of FICN and high denomination currency notes in promoting and sustaining terror in the Valley. The massive restrain on use of higher value currency note is expected impact the anti-national activities sponsored and promoted by the ISI, which will be compelled to shift to organised crime networks like the notorious Dawood Ibrahim’s ‘D-Company’ for logistics support to procure funds for terror funding in Jammu and Kashmir.

The move to demonetize the currency will also be a major blow for the Naxalites. The Naxals have traditionally stockpiled 500-1000 rupee currency which will now difficult for them to dispose off. Their cash holding is estimated to be of the order of hundreds of crores. Chhattisgarh Police have confirmed that nearly Rs 70 billion were stashed away by the Naxals in their dumps in the Bastar region. The Naxals collect crores of rupees through levy and extortion and keep the cash with them or in their dumps in dense forests of Chhattisgarh to facilitate their activities. The same should be true of the other LWE affected states like Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha etc.

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