Sour Grapes and Screw-ups

The long rumoured book by AS Dulat, head of RAW during the previous BJP government, has finally hit the bookshops. Haven’t bought the book yet, but from the available news reports on it, the author has avoided genuinely deconstructing many controversial events during his tenure and supposedly retailed in this book, in that blame has not been assigned to any particular person or agency for many of the fiascos. Certainly, there was no greater fiasco than the Indian Airlines hijacking to Kandahar which could have been preempted at the start when the plane, running low on fuel, landed in Amritsar. And this is where everything that could go wrong did. Because in any crisis the first thing that happens is that the Indian government loses its head — even as loss of nerve is the other predetermined response — the normal in such situations, everybody seemed engaged but no one person in authority seemed ready to take charge, impose order and discipline up and down the line, cut out all sorts of agencies who butt in further foul up matters. Dulat fails to ascribe the blame to the one person who should have been held responsible — the late Brajesh Mishra who, as NSA and PPS to the PM, actually could have brought rapid closure to this sordid drama being played out on the Amritsar airport, but did not. To blame cabsec Prabhat Kumar for vacillating as the estimable KPS Gill does — his Punjab Police commando unit was immediately deployed by him around the airport and could at any time have been ordered to shoot their way in or, at a minimum, to disable the aircraft — is to assume any bureaucrat placed in a similar situation would anything differently. Dulat mentions the then director, IB, for instance, fuming at orders from Delhi to puncture the aircraft tyres, wondering if he and his agency were some kind of cycle repair facility(!), thereby indicating the brahminical attitude to not getting one’s hands dirty, as if such a job is some menial task meant for lowlier persons or agencies. Was he punished for this attitude, cashiered on the spot? Of course not. This when the IB’s correct response should have been not to tarry, waste time questioning these orders, but for one of its personnel to run to the aircraft and shoot the damn tyres to smithereens with a service revolver or to call in the paramilitary to take potshots at the tyres if this was beyond the ken of IB officers (!) and thus terminate the hijack episode right there. Does this require great confabulation at the Delhi-end or even at the Amritsar-end or merely the exercise of some common sense at the level of a constable for God’s sake! That no one in Delhi, or in any of the numerous police and intelligence agencies on the scene in Amritsar, thought of pushing this option — asking the IB director to shut up and get on with the business of taking out the tyres, rather than waiting for the vaunted NSG to be airlifted from their Haryana base which seemed atrocious then and immeasurably silly some two decades later. What great skill is required to aim and fire a machine gun or even a 5.56mm INSAS rifle at the tyres of a stationary passenger plane in the interim period before the NSG got there? If the profoundly idiotic agencies of govt did not want to get that violent, they could have just parked fire-brigade trucks stationed at the airport in front of and in the rear of the aircraft, thus making it impossible for it to move. Worse, as was revealed in my previous writings — some of them on this blog — precisely these and other means for disabling hijacked aircraft, were practiced by an extended inter-agency and paramilitary exercise only the year before, codenamed, ironically, ‘SOUR GRAPES’!!! So, what happened? If even tested and practiced actions are NOT implemented when the foreseen crisis or emergency actually occurs, then what’s the point of preparing for any such contingency in the first place??? This quite extraordinary failure points up the basic flaw in the Indian govt’s working — when it comes to the crunch nobody from the lowest to the highest — wants to approve decisive action. The ex-post facto justification offered at the time, and revived now, that the likelihood of on-board passengers being hurt or killed is what deterred the govt is to continue to make excuses for a govt system that, plainly speaking, is institutionally not geared to handle any such crisis or emergency very well. This bodes ill for the future because all any terrorist group has to do to make its political mark, wrench concessions out of New Delhi, is to hold any vehicle or platform with civilians hostage for the govt to buckle under “public pressure” and accept terms detrimental to national interests. The Indian government has still not come out with a clear policy statement to the effect that any hijacking or hostage-taking by any means will not involve any negotiations of any kind with the terrorists, and that such episodes will end in only way — the death or capture of the terrorists involved, even if this means absorbing collateral civilian deaths and casualties. The print and television media that unctuously reports on Dulat’s conclusions, should also be mindful of their role and complicity in pressuring the Vajpayee govt at the time when TV cameras multiplied the public effect of affected families asking for the govt to give into the terrorists of the Kandahar-bound plane. Even so, there’s no excuse for the GOI to have done what it did — ease off and let the fueled-up aircraft leave.

It is time Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a standing order to all police and intelligence agencies at the centre and in the states that there will be no negotiating with terrorists in such situations for any reason at any time, and that they are instructed to at the first instance and opportunity disable the vehicle/platform by any and all means, thus preventing the escape of the outlaws. He should use his “man ki baat” radio programme and also propagate on TV that his govt will not allow people to protest or put pressure on the govt in such emergencies, and if such pressure is nevertheless somehow imposed he was free to ignore it in the larger national interest of dealing with terrorists and eradicating terrorism. There’s no other way to signal GOI’s resolve to terrorists everywhere to finish them.

Posted in Afghanistan, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Culture, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian para-military forces, Indian Politics, Internal Security, society, South Asia, Special Forces, Terrorism | 1 Comment

Incomparable indigenous RLGs — French no match; see!!

Going to France for ring laser gyros as navaid for the Brahmos cruise missile is a ridiculous thing the Indian govt has done. Whether the Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh even understood what he was actually asking for when he requested the French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for technology assistance with the ring laser gyro as guidance system on the Brahmos is doubtful. He would have merely learnt by rote from a note given him by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) before regurgitating it to the Frenchman.

Minister Inderjit was in Paris for the Air Show where the Pakistan Air Force flew its JF-17, the 4- gen aircraft and managed to snag several customers — at a time when the Indian govt is sitting on the sidelines confused and baffled about the best way to proceed on the 4.5 generation Tejas LCA which only needs a determined govt push to get it into IAF squadrons and for it to draw interest from a whole host of states that would be keen to buy it. Incidentally, the states that have shown definite interest in the Sino-Pak JF-17 include Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

Is this junior minister or, for that matter, the Union minister for defence Manohar Parrikar aware that (1) the Agni-prgramme head GV Sekaran-produced ring laser gyro (RLG) the technology base for the country’s Mangalayan Mars probe? If this RLG can get the Indian space vehicle on a “slingshot”course to the distant red planet on the first try, you think it will face problems getting the Brahmos dead on a terrestrial target? (2) the Indian-made RLG outfits both the Agni ballistic missiles and the Shourya and the K-15 boost-glide missiles. (3) the RLGs on ballistic missiles, as experts will tell you, have to have very high axial accelerations capability. On the other hand, cruise missiles (CMs)/boost glide vehicles (BGVs) require a very high lateral accelerations capability in order to pull-off maneuvers by the vehicle. More specifically, for violent maneuvers, the RLG needs to have a very high tolerance which translates into low % error as a function of G’s pulled. Further, in CM’s and BGV’s, the RLG is usually the primary navigation unit, especially in an intense ECM environment such as GPS jamming, spoofing, etc. Equipped thus on the Shaurya and K-15 (both BGV’s), the RLG works just fine. BGV’s are what scares everybody. This is because they are virtually impossible to intercept by any ABM system.

The stories rife in certain GOI/MOD circles that the Indian RLGs have greater axial tolerance but lack sufficient lateral tolerance are, therefore, so much motivated poppycock!

There is visual record of the RLG helping Brahmos prosecute the impossibly difficult S maneuver and punch a hole through a small triangular metal plate on a wall (and the wall itself). The exercise was to simulate an attack on a hypothetical chemical weapons plant on enemy territory. This does not seem like a RLG with an inferior lateral performance. And this video was circa: 2010. The Indian RLGs have been improved since then and ECM jamming might very well have be factored into them. The guys at the Sekaran outfit are damned good. See the video clip and judge for yourself Mr Parrikar and other doubting Thomases! Watch it at


The French item, say, Sagem RLG in contention looks like this:

It is unlikely the Indian RLG performance can be bettered in any flight envelope and is definitely miles better than the French item. In the event, going to France for this technology when a far better and proven technology is available at home seems like suppression of an already developed indigenous capability and wasting national wealth.
P.S.: The person who designed the algorithm for the “Kalman filters” to help the BGVs pull very violent maneuvers and to detect incorrect sensor inputs is a desi who once worked in an Indian R&D dept, was hounded out of it, and is now sought by and works on contract basis with top scientific R&D orgs in Asia and elsewhere. So much for the Indian govt nursing Indian talent for national good!

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Culture, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West | 1 Comment

Ladies bringing down a Manmohan-itis-infected PM?

For a supposedly strong, no-nonsense guy, with a streak of ruthlessness in him — a necessary accoutrement of any successful politician, incidentally — Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems infected by Manmohan-itis. His indecisiveness is a revelation and harks back to when his predecessor occupied 7, Race Course Road, and constantly looked over his shoulder to see the signals from Sonia G at 10 Janpath. Except, the PM is the puppet-master and has no need to seek external guidance or direction. It is surprising that he did not at the first hint of trouble with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, and HRD minister Smriti Irani immediately dismiss all the three with no promises about these ladies being hoisted back into their old posts, but a definite warning that they’d have to be declared clean by the courts before they had a chance at political revival. The
(mis)deeds of these three ladies was surely known to the PM — through intelligence and police reports — before they were appointed (and Raje before she was permitted to lead the BJP at the hustings in Rajasthan). Or, is there no vetting by law enforcement/police agencies before potential appointees are announced for high political positions, no scrutiny of precisely the kind of malfeasance and ethical shortfalls that can quickly turn government claims of incorruptibility and high values to dust?

Even so, what prevented the PM from acting promptly to preempt the cloudburst of corrupt behavior? He could have called Raje over, instructed her to resign on the pain of the IB, RAW, and the Enforcement Directorate digging full throttle into her past to unearth God knows what! After all, the Scindias are a canny erstwhile royal family that ensured it was on the right side of whatever dispensation was in power with a neat division of political loyalty between the left-of-centre Congress party and the right-of-centre Bharatiya Janata Party to ensure the Family interests are preserved and protected. One can imagine in the process a dumpster-load of skeletons that could be unearthed to write finis to Raje’s career and her extended “royal” family for good. Besides, after the sidelining of LK Advani — a sore loser if there’s one –she has insubstantial support within the ruling party.

Likewise, Sushma Swaraj — another of Advani’s protégés — could have been dumped without compunction. It is a bit incomprehensible that she has been a BJP fixture for so long, considering she actively opposed Narendra Modi’s ascent and contested for the PM’s post without having anything like comparable popular support. For an outsider with no IOUs in Delhi, the reasons Modi included her in his cabinet remain a bit of mystery. It is not as if Narendra Modi needed to install a cabinet of rivals — as he had no opposition within the party, and still doesn’t. She could have likewise been told, at the first hint of trouble, to stand down, and seek to clear the charges of ethical wrongdoing by going to the Court.

And then there’s the serpent, Lalit Modi, who has tempted these two matronly Eves into flagrant indiscretions. Sure, as finance minister Arun Jaitley has hinted, the govt is going to go after him, let the ED loose on him, and he is bound to be corralled. But the former IPL boss has already warned he has ammunition that can fell Jaitley as well, who as head of the Delhi cricket board or whatever it is called, has to worry.

A more niggling problem for the PM with his namesake is their shared moniker — MODI. In a country where Indira exploited her Gandhi surname and was believed by masses of voters to be some relation of the Mahatma which misperception, in the early part of her political career she did nothing to upend, the name sticks and can hurt or benefit. Lalit Modi’s legal troubles here and abroad will no doubt be sought by opposition parties to be propagated as related in some central way to the Gujarati Modi and PM. It’ll be damned difficult for Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo to work their out of this perceptional mess at election time.

Smriti Irani — she is a comely, gritty-gutsy political infighter, for sure. But handing her the HRD ministry was like giving a child a box of matches and placing it near a powder keg, and hoping she won’t blow up the house! Plainly, bright though she may be, she simply does not have the intellect — a capacity for facile eloquence in English and Hindi is surely not the only qualification for a minister tasked with turning the unleavened demographic mass into gold, as driver of the country’s future. She lacks the intellectual width, depth, and heft and it is doubtful she even understands the import of educational arcana such as the importance of independent functioning of the IITs and IIMs, which she means to chain down with God-awful govt regulations, transforming them into another genus of non-functioning agencies. But the PM has a soft corner for her fighting qualities and her readiness to take-on the Gandhi family in Amethi and elsewhere. She nevertheless has to clear her name — her “Yale degree” notwithstanding! Here again, the PM failed by not instantly distancing her from his govt.

Irani is, like Raje and Swaraj, a millstone round the PM’s neck, making the life of this govt more difficult than it needs to be. The coming Monsoon session of Parliament threatens to be only the curtain-raiser. So the question is: Why would Narendra Modi want to endanger the credibility and respect the BJP govt continues to enjoy merely to provide political cover for a bunch of ladies who have proved too clever by half and had their comeuppance coming.

Posted in Culture, domestic politics, Europe, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, society, South Asia | 1 Comment

Why satnav and French RLG on Brahmos?

If as is being bandied about the French were approached for the ring laser gyro (RLG) as navigation aid on the Brahmos, the story makes even less sense! The VG Sekaran-led Advanced Systems Laboratory, Hyderabad, also produced the RLG for the advanced and highly accurate Agni-5 IRBM — of course, did I write A-6 originally? Oops! — which missile is comparable to the best in the world. If this indigenous RLG is good enough for the A-5 why is it not good enough for the Brahmos? Further, for cruise missile guidance there are more spoof-proof means available than satellite navigation. Such as terrain-mapping, etc. Hence the story gets curiouser! France is apparently GOI’s go-to country for high-tech. Except a more commercial-minded supplier who has time and again pocketed Indian money but not delivered the technology contracted for (for example, accelerometers) cannot be imagined, and this is the country India is going to trust????? And worse, the relationship with France is to be at the expense of Russia??? The more one thinks of how things are going wrong strategically the more one worries about the direction national security policies are headed.

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, Cyber & Space, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, Russia, russian assistance, satellites, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, Weapons | 3 Comments

Going to the French for Brahmos guidance?!!!

An extraordinary development has come to my notice: French electronics/avionics companies, possibly Safran [not Thales], has been approached by some Indian government agency for the guidance system for the supersonic Brahmos cruise missile. This is perfectly ridiculous, considering the Block 3 version of this missile has an indigenously-produced guidance system that enables it to execute a “slashing attack” angled on to the sides of large surface combatants that simply cannot be defended. Three of these missiles, each with with 1,000kg chemical high explosive warhead, can sink a Nimitz-class CVN. The Blk 2 variant of the Brahmos (equipping two artillery regiments deployed against China) can be fired vertically over the Himalayan mountains which then hurtles down vertically before leveling out for the final kill-run to target. With Indian software permitting such maneuvers in Blk 2 and Blk 3 Brahmos, what the hell can the French teach us, leave alone better us in the guidance software sphere? In fact, no French missile has anything remotely comparable.

Now consider what the ramifications of going to the French with the Brahmos are: It will be construed as breach of contract by the Russian company NPO Machinostroeyenia because it will open up design specifications of the missile to France (and then the rest of the West). This is bad because Russia has decided to field the Brahmos as well (which means more custom for the JV, the Brahmos Aerospace company). It will also immediately imperil the transactions to (1) obtain for immediate use the Kashalot SSN and the Iribis — 40% complete, as the third Akula nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarine, (2) finalise the collaborative agreement for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, (3) the Su-30 and MiG-29 upgrade programmes, (4) the underway improved spares and servicing support/supply chain for all Russian-sourced military hardware with all three armed services, and (5) sensitive, high-technology, cooperation.

The thought arises that this development, assuming the Indian government is foolish enough to go through with it, could not be better designed to sever the Indian military’s Russian connection. This is something China has been pressuring Moscow on, especially re: FGFA. There are lots of damnfool things the Indian government has done and is embarked on doing, but this takes the cake! While all those wishing to diminish India’s Russian connection will be gleeful, the nationalists in the country concerned about the national interest and this nation’s security now have good reason to tremble at how India is going deeper and deeper into hock of Western countries with no counterbalancing moves in sight. Hope to God this is just one of those rumours that do the rounds in Delhi, and is without any real substance.

Posted in Indian Army, Strategic Relations with the US & West, India's strategic thinking and policy, Great Power imperatives, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, Relations with Russia, Military Acquisitions, Defence Industry, Technology transfer, Geopolitics, Asian geopolitics, Missiles, China, United States, DRDO, China military, US., Western militaries, South Asia, Europe, Russia, russian military, russian assistance, Weapons, arms exports, domestic politics | 4 Comments

Is the Naval air force better, more nationalistic than IAF?

There are curious goings-on in IAF when it comes to its dealing with indigenous and Russian aircraft. Is the Indian Air Force so institutionally set against the Tejas aircraft that it will go to any extent to delay its clearances and thus derail the programme, and to show up Russian aircraft as unworthy of India’s custom? Consider the evidence.

Cobham Aviation Services of UK was contracted to supply the quartz radome for the LCA radar. It is four months overdue, but the penalty clause has not been invoked. Why? Because an authoritative source says, the IAF has let it be informally known to the supplier that it doesn’t want an accelerated progress of the Mk-I lest it be ordered by the Govt to buy larger numbers of this aircraft, and so delays would be countenanced.

Further, considering the IAF’s attitude Cobham has also turned down ADA/DRDO’s request for 3-4 internal fueling probes to enable this aircraft to get an FOC (final operational clearance) for the Mk-I. No probes, delayed FOC.

The IAF is mortally afraid that buying into the Tejas will mean jettisoning the possibility of getting Rafales beyond the 36 mooted by the PM in G2G mode, which the IAF has its heart set on. It doesn’t want anything to come between the service and a big Rafale fleet in its inventory, especially as Vayu Bhavan is not certain that the def minister Parrikar will even realize the 36 aircraft buy from France.

Another piece of evidence: How come the IAF has so much trouble with its MiG-29 fleet (and its Su-30MKI fleet also), when the two squadrons of MiG-29Ks with the Navy have experienced very few problems, considering the maintenance regimes are virtually the same for the IAF’s version and the naval MiG-29K?

So, the niggling question arises: Is the Indian Navy’s air force simply better than the IAF in servicing, upkeeping, and operating advanced combat aircraft, meaning is it just a better operational force? Training regime-wise, the navy relies on the basic Indian-made HPT-32, a basic jet trainer,before the trainee pilots are tasked to conversion units before deploying to operational squadrons. Meanwhile, IAF has besides the Indian-made trainer aircraft, repeatedly shown its disregard and disrespect for the indigenous HPT-40 trainer project on the anvil by buying a series of trainers — the Swiss Pilatus, the British Hawk, and it is said, has even expressed interest in yet another advanced trainer, the American Textron Scorpion (with most such buys justified also in terms of their use in counter-insurgency jobs, which of course, it is never called on to perform)!!! May be the IAF is an air force perpetually stuck in the trainer mode — a tendency visible since the stewardship of the service by ACM (retd) “Charlie”Browne, now enjoying the Norwegian fjords as our ambassador there, rather than being a serious and meaningful air force our adversaries fear. How else to explain the greater proficiency of naval pilots flying and readying to fight over a more difficult medium — the sea, when the trainee pilots are sourced from the same manpower pool? There must be something the Navy is doing right the IAF isn’t.

And, in the light of the Navy’s enthusiastic financial support for the LCA and its taking ownership of developing the naval version of the Tejas, whether it is also not the more nationalistic service, eager to promote indigenous products and defence industry in contrast to the IAF which, when not whining about Indian products and always finding fault with the LCA, does everything possible, in cahoots with vested interests in the Defence Ministry and other parts of the govt, to undermine indigenous efforts?

In the event, perhaps, the Indian Navy’s aviation wing is in line for an expanded mission and role in the extended Indian Ocean region.

Posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Culture, Defence Industry, domestic politics, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Military Acquisitions, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., Weapons | 31 Comments

Fair again!

Christine Fair of Georgetown University, Washington, DC, is proving to be a far more trenchant critic of Pakistan’s strategy of asymmetric warfare — terrorism under the nuclear overhang policies, and more persuasive than any Indian analyst, and more convincing to the US policy establishment than the Indian Embassy working on the margins can ever be. See her piece of clear writing available at:
Her larger case is that the “false equivalency” between India and Pakistan assumed by US policymakers when assessing the situation in South Asia ends up unfairly dividing the responsibility for bad things happening in this part of the world equally between the two countries. Fair argues that at the bottom of Islamabad’s risk-acceptant policy of constantly needling India is its confidence that the US will always come to its rescue. If Washington corrects its posture by warning that it would not intervene in any crisis initiated by terrorism perpetrated by Pakistani supported outlaws, the problem would end because then there would be no one to save Pakistan if Delhi decides to retaliate and Islamabad would be forced to jettison its confrontationist policy. Christine’s case is built around the UN Resolution 47 of 1948, the fact that its conditions have never been met by Islamabad, and the false cultural history (of Muslims mistreated under Hindu majority rule and constituting a separate nation) and flawed Muslim demographics in the subcontinent at the core of the Two Nation Theory, which is the ideological undergirding of the Pakistani state.

In my writings over the last thirty years, I have analyzed the “false equivalence” aspects of America’s South Asia policy (and Western policy, generally) and its deleterious outcomes but from the perspective of the manifest inequality in every respect and the sheer disparity in the size, potential, and capabilities of the two countries which, in realpolitik terms, should have been decisive in influencing Washington’s thinking but wasn’t because short-term benefits and Pakistan’s utility as a “frontline” state ( in the Cold War, and in anti-Islamic terror and Afghanistan military campaigns since) over-rode strategic good sense.

Posted in Asian geopolitics, Culture, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Pakistan nuclear forces, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Terrorism, United States, US. | 6 Comments