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

(October 1-15, 2016)

Enhancing Indian Army’s Inter-operability with Foreign armies

In continuation of its ongoing efforts at enhancing its inter-operability with foreign armies, the Indian Army undertook separate joint exercises with the US and Russian armies over the last fortnight of September 2016.

The Indo-US joint exercise named 'Yudh Abhyas' was held at Chaubatia in Uttarakhand from 14 to 27 September 2016. This exercise was conducted with the aim of enabling the armies of both the nations to train together so as to gain from each other’s rich operational experiences. The focus of this exercise was on counter- terrorism. Hence, while simulating a counter terrorism environment, “raid, cordon and search” operations were conducted with an emphasis on using state of the art equipment for surveillance, tracking and identification of terrorists, sensing and neutralising IEDs and establishing effective communications.

The 'Indra' exercise between Russian soldiers and Indian Army was held at Vladivostok from 22 September to 02 October 2016. This was the eighth edition of the joint Indo-Russian military exercises. The focus of ‘Indra-2016’ exercise was also on counter-terror operations in semi mountainous and jungle terrain under United Nations Mandate’.

Both 'Yudh Abhyas' and ‘Indra’ were conducted with the aim of enhancing Indian Army’s interoperability with foreign armies. They were also held under the firm belief that the menace of terrorism can be successfully tackled by the world when it joins hands and stands as one to root out this global scourge.

Indo-Russian Inter-Government Agreement for S-400 Air Defence Systems

India has signed an Inter Government Agreement (IGA) for acquisition of S-400 Russian Air Defence Systems during the visit of President Putin to India last fortnight on the side-lines of the BRICS summit held in Goa.

The S-400 Air Defence System is one of the most modern and potent long range air defence system in the world and will enhance India’s defence preparedness significantly. The system has launchers, a Command and Control centre, powerful radar that can work on fully autonomous or semi-autonomous modes and missiles. The S-400 is highly flexible when it comes to engagement ranges and uses multiple types of missiles based on the targets range.

The S-400 is intended to engage aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles. It is capable of tracking 300 targets within a range of up to 400 kms. Even when placed a few kilometers inside the border to avoid itself becoming a prime target, the system pushes back the assets of the adversary significantly.

India will get five systems for a price of nearly Rs 39,000 crore which may be deployed in the western and eastern sectors. Once India signs the deal, it will become the second purchaser after China, which struck a deal with Russia last year. The S-400 has been in service in Russia since 2007. The system has been effectively deployed by it in Syria recently.

Purchase of Frigates from Russia

India and Russia have also signed an agreement to purchase or construct in India four additional Admiral Grigorovich class guided missile stealth frigates. While two frigates will come from Russia, two others will be constructed at an Indian shipyard with Russian cooperation. The frigates will be improved versions of Krivak or Talwar class stealth frigates, and the deal is likely to be worth more than $3 billion.

India had earlier acquired three Talwar class frigates from Russia between 2003- 2004 which were subsequently followed by another three Teg class in 2012 – 2013. These six ships are derived from the Russian Krivak class frigates. While the Teg class boasts a host of indigenous equipment, the Talwar class had a Russian fit. These ships form the cutting edge of the Indian Navy’s Western fleet and have been extensively deployed for various operations in the past decade and a half.

The Indian Navy is currently in the midst of a massive modernisation drive with nearly 45 ships and submarines on order. The bulk of this modernisation effort is being spearheaded by Indian shipyards who are constructing indigenously designed ships like the Kolkata, Bangalore and Visakhapatnam classes.

However, the Navy’s complete requirement cannot be met by Indian shipyards alone in the planned time period. Hence, trusted and reliable partners like the Russian shipyards have to be tapped to narrow the capacity shortfall. The extant agreement also addresses the requirements of the Make in India initiative since two of these frigates are to be constructed in India. Identification of a suitable partner, public or private, will have to be undertaken by the Government and the Russian shipyard to ensure delivery of these ships in the planned time frame. Another possible area of concern is the propulsion plant of the frigates. These frigates are powered by Ukrainian gas turbines whose supply to Russia was stopped due to the ongoing conflict between the two countries. It therefore remains to be seen whether Ukraine will provide these gas turbines to India or India will have to find alternatives through its own means to facilitate construction of these ships.

International Terrorism and Radicalisation

Rumiyah, ISIS’s new English Magazine, Calls for More Lone Attacks

With the social media campaign of ISIS reportedly losing its significance, the outfit launched a new English magazine called Rumiyah during the first week of September 2016 to reach out to a wider audience. It is also published in Turkish, German, French, Indonesian, Russian, Arabic and Uyghur. However, Rumiyah did not receive much attention unlike the older publication, Dabiq. In its first issue, the ISIS announced their plans to attack iconic landmarks in Australia which is participating in the anti-ISIS coalition military campaign in Iraq. In the second issue released in early October, ISIS called on its operatives, supporters and fighters to kill the infidels and the disbelievers wherever and whenever possible. An important content of this issue is its emphasis on the 1 June-attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka by five Bangladeshi youths and also warned of more attacks in Bangladesh. Going a step further, the magazine gives a detailed explanation on the types of weapons or knives to be used by “jihadists” while conducting their operations. Furthermore, the magazine called on the lone actors to intensify their activities, particularly in “quiet neighborhoods, beaches, allays and forests”, and to “aim for a reasonable kill count”. The attacks need not necessarily come only from the ISIS-operatives or supporters, but also from those who are extremely self-radicalized or mentally disturbed people.

Losing Territories

After capturing vast swathes of lands in Syria and Iraq during mid-2014 and early 2015, ISIS is now losing most of its territories which were of immense strategic importance in establishing a Caliphate in the region (West Asia). The terror group could attract thousands of foreign fighters from all over the world. But the dream of a global caliphate is fast crumbling as the territory (in Syria and Iraq) under its control shrunk from 90,000 sq km to 65,000 sq km in the first nine months of this year. The losses appear to be “unprecedented in their strategic significance”, impacting the outfit’s recruitment of foreign fighters and also led decline in its financial resources. Several supply routes linking the two countries and with Turkey have been severed.

Owing to these setbacks, ISIS fighters are carrying out attacks in and around Baghdad, and are doing whatever they can possibly to prevent their stronghold—Mosul—from falling. On 15 October, an ISIS suicide bomber stormed inside a funeral tent of Shia Muslims in Baghdad and killed more than 41 people. As the operation for the liberation of Mosul is about to begin, similar attacks can be expected in the days ahead. Recapture of Mosul by the Iraqi forces, assisted by the US led coalition, will be a major blow to ISIS because it was from this city the self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the Caliphate in late June 2014.

Threats from Al-Qaeda

Amidst the intensifying military operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Al Qaeda is now getting renewed attention not only in West Asia but also in the US, Europe and South Asia. As ISIS has captured a considerable attention since the last couple of years, Al-Qaeda’s activities have received less coverage while threats from the latter are considered to be very potent by military-security experts/analysts.

Al-Qaeda’s activities are still going on and they are trying to stage a comeback. On 6 October, nine terrorists, including the chief of Al-Qaeda South Asia Faizur Rahman, who were planning attacks inside Pakistan, were arrested in Karachi. Along with them, second-in-command of the outfit’s South Asia wing and terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were also arrested. Simultaneously, threat perceptions from this group in Europe and the US have also increased in the recent months.

While confirming the resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, British Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, warned of a “very direct threat” to the UK and Europe. Reportedly, former leader Osama Bin Laden’s son, Hamza Bin Laden, who is just 25-years-old, is taking charge of the outfit’s terror activities. Even US President Barack Obama took seriously the threats to the homeland from both ISIS and Al Qaeda.

In Syria, too, a terror group founded by Al-Qaeda—Al Nusra Front—is believed to be gaining strength with the reputation “as the most ferocious force against Bashar Assad’s government". In July, however, this group announced its break up from Al-Qaeda and renamed itself as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. Given the gradual rise of Al-Qaeda, its affiliates and factions, equal importance should be given to monitoring their activities. Although they have not yet carried out any brazen attacks similar to those staged by ISIS, threats from them should not be under- estimated.


NIA arrests IS returnee in Kerala

India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has found that Tirunelveli resident Subahani Haja Moideen, who returned to India after having fought for the Islamic State (IS), had met with members of the Kerala module of the terror group outside Kerala. NIA arrested six members of the Kerala module at Kanakalamal near Kannur on October 2, 2016. Intelligence agencies suspect that Moideen was a common link with at least three IS inspired modules in Kerala. He was a conduit between the local contacts and his handlers. The module had targeted seven strategically important places, five prominent personalities’ two judges and an IPS officer as possible targets.

It had also planned a ‘Nice Style’ attack on a religion congregation by Jamaat-e-Islam in Kochi last month. Meanwhile, counter-terrorism expects see Moideen’s return from the IS war zone as a positive sign of ‘life in IS territory is not easy’.

Online Radicalisation

Forums and platforms have been created by ultra-outfits to identify & recruit cadres from grass-root level. Indian Intelligence agencies have tracked websites like with online crusaders using fake Facebook ID’s like ‘akbar k puram, sameer ali and almuhajiroon’. Aloloommalayalam is a website founded by young Kerala Muslims having pursued Islamic studies in Yamen. These social media platforms are gaining a toe-hold among a section of youth in Kerala. The Intelligence agencies are also keeping a tab on Keralites missing from the middle-east. The disappearance of 21 people from Kerala and the latest 15 modules being unearthed also from Kerala had key operatives who were reportedly in indoctrinated while they were working abroad. Agencies suspect that Indian Mujahideen members have also re-surfaced after lying low for some time.

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