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

(September 1-15, 2016)

Defence & National Security

This fortnights FRA on Defence & National Security covers Russia’s role in India’s quest for defence modernisation and the Navy’s Western Fleets’ overseas Deployment (OSD) to the Southern Indian Ocean.

Russia: an Integral Part of India’s Defence Modernisation

Over the last fortnight, Russia’s role in India’s defence modernisation was evident from a range of top-level bilateral meetings which were held. These included the 16th India-Russia Military Technical Cooperation Working Group meeting that took place on 07th&08th September 2016 in New Delhi. During the meetings, besides other issues, a joint protocol was inked and important defense projects such as the joint development of the futuristic fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and Kamov Ka-226T light utility helicopters were discussed.

It is believed that India is lining up several big-ticket defense projects for discussion between its Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit meeting to be held in Goa next month. These include, purchase of S-400 air defense systems worth $6 billion; finalization of the long-pending joint development of fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) worth more than $20 billion; leasing of a second nuclear-powered submarine worth more than $1 billion; and acquisition of $4 billion worth of stealth frigates to replace the Indian Navy’s Russian-built Rajput-class warships.It is also possible though not confirmed as of yet thatsome of these projects could get the "Green Light" during the Modi-Putin meeting.

It is thus evident that, Russia was and would in future continue to remain an integral part of India’s quest for defence modernisation.

Western Fleet’s OSD in Southern Indian Ocean

Ships of the Western Fleet of the Indian Navy, namely ‘Kolkata’, ‘Trikand’ and the tanker ‘Aditya’ are on OSD to the Southern Indian Ocean. The ships have visited a number of countries including Seychelles, Madagascar, Tanzania, Mauritius and Kenya during the ongoing deployment. The ships have carried out various bilateral exercises with the navies and coast guards of these countries with the emphasis on maritime security cooperation. The deployment is intended to enhance co-operation and share the nuances of naval operations, including disaster management and combating maritime threats of terrorism and piracy with these countries. The deployment also includes calls on senior Government authorities, training and technical cooperation measures with the concerned agencies, sporting and cultural interactions, so as to strengthen ties and mutual understanding with the navies and coast guards of these countries.

The operations of the Indian Navy and its cooperation with maritime agencies of the countries of the Southern Indian Ocean are in consonance with the vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) enunciated by the Prime Minister last year in Mauritius. The Indian Navy has traditionally played an important role in the Indian Government’s outreach to the nations of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). It has undertaken training of a large number of personnel from these countries in addition to providing assets to the maritime security agencies in these countries. It has also undertaken various tasks and missions for strengthening the maritime security in the region. A case in point is the continuing patrols in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Seychelles and Mauritius. The ongoing deployment represents a continuation of these tasks which should be maintained in the future and strengthened with further initiatives towards the fulfillment of the vision of SAGAR.

International Terrorism

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Iraq (ISIS)

Despite military operations conducted by the coalition and Iraqi security forces, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) managed to carry out attacks in the capital, Baghdad. A car-bomb attack on 5 September killed more than seven people in the Shia-dominated area of Karrada. Continuous attacks on such spots clearly signaled the sectarian overtone of this outfit in a country already deeply divided irreparably on ethno-sectarian lines. Under the present circumstances when there are heavy military campaigns against the outfit, ISIS militias are likely to lie low and stage attacks as and when right opportunity comes before them.

The main ISIS objective now in Iraq remains the protection of Mosul, from where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his “caliphate” two years ago and its last stronghold in the country. Owing to the significant loss of territories, depleting financial resources and dwindling foreign fighters, the Iraqi forces, with back-up support from the US, are hopeful of recapturing this vital piece of territory from ISIS. The battle for Mosul is likely to happen soon and undoubtedly, it is going to be the “toughest test yet for Iraqi soldiers and the coalition”. As a matter of fact, an operation to liberate this city has been in the planning since several months but no concrete steps were taken. Finally, related military and humanitarian preparations are reportedly in full swing and the US is believed to be establishing “logistical hubs” in the southern part of this city.
As a major blow to ISIS, on 13 September, US-led coalition planes destroyed a factory near Mosul which was allegedly manufacturing chemical weapons. This could be considered as one of the indications of how the coalition forces are inching closer to ISIS militias in and around Mosul.

ISIS-related Issues in Germany and France

Taking its battle to a another region, ISIS fighters, returnees and supporters are making their presence felt on the European soil. Almost every month, ISIS-connected activities are being reported from countries such as France, Belgium and Germany. On 13 September, three Syrian nationals, suspected members of this outfit, were arrested in Germany. An investigation on their possible role in the November-2015 Paris attacks has started. During investigation, one of the arrestees revealed his links with a network of people connected with a thwarted attack on a Paris-bound train in August 2015. These suspects, according to reports, came to Europe with the same “organization of smugglers that imported the Paris attackers”. This particular arrest is considered an important development in the endeavors of the European security officials in hunting down people in last year’s Paris carnage. It is estimated that 30 to 40 such terrorists are still at large.

Equally worrisome is the alleged presence of women’s cells, constituted, inspired or directed by ISIS, in France, who have been instructed to carry out attacks in Paris and wherever else possible. During the first week of September, a leader of a four-member woman cell was arrested in connection to the discovery of an explosives-laden car near Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This 29-year-old mother-of-three said that her cell wanted to target the Eiffel Tower and not the cathedral. The deployment of young children and women for terror-related activities is likely to be the new trend at this juncture when ISIS fighters are coming under intense pressures in Syria/Iraq.

Turkey and its Fight against ISIS

Since the last several months, Turkey has emerged as a soft target not only for its own separatist groups such as PKK but also for ISIS which has been successful in carrying out attacks in different parts of the country, including the Istanbul airport. Turkey was fighting a limited US backed war against ISIS outside its border until the last week of August when President Erdogan sent planes, tanks and special operations forces into northern Syria. This was considered “as a significant escalation of Turkey’s role in the fight against” the outfit. However, analyst view this move as Ankara getting into the “Syrian quagmire”, as a step towards targeting the Kurdish armed groups operating along the Turkish-Syrian borders. Meanwhile earlier this month, Turkey claimed success in eradicating ISIS from its border regions. In a statement to an international media, a military spokesman said, “The Jarablus-Azaz Line is totally under the control of FSA (Free Syrian Army) backed by coalition forces". The take over of this border city is undoubtedly a major setback for the outfit as it served as a supply route.

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