From Abstention to Support

French pilots flying the Mirage 2000D and F1 prepare to take off at Mali's Bamako airport.

French pilots flying the Mirage 2000D and Mirage F1 prepare to conduct a strike mission from their currently deployed position at Mali’s Bamako airport.

From abstentia to then later criticism of 2011’s Libya intervention, India has shifted its traditional stance and come out in favor of France’s Mali intervention. As reported by the TOI on 11FEB13:

There appear to be three broad reasons. First, Indian support to the French operation in Mali is predicated on it being a primarily counter-terror operation… Second, India’s impetus to rush to the aid of Mali was also influenced by reports from the UN that some of the al-Qaida fighters may be from the Af-Pak region…Third, the lead role in the Mali intervention has been played by France. Indian officials said they have been “kept in the loop” by Paris from the beginning. In December 2012, during its last month at the UN Security Council, India co-sponsored a French resolution UNSCR 2085 that supported an African Union-ECOWAS military force in Mali. [Ergo] [t]he French military intervention in Mali has not prompted the expected negative reaction from New Delhi.

And, the target this time around is al-Qaida and its affiliated groups in that region, where India, like others, is developing economic interests. India’s reaction to the France-led operation in Libya in 2011 was much more negative. In fact, many in the Indian government believe that the Mali crisis was a natural blowback of the Libya conflict.

India beefs up its strategic aircraft capability

AIR_C-17_India_1st_Flight_Boeing_lg

After much hullabaloo over last month’s pictures of China’s Y-20 strategic transport aircraft, Boeing announced the delivery of India’s first C-17A Globemaster III aircraft for flight testing at Edwards AFB in Palmdale, California.

The January 23rd press release indicates Boeing is on track to deliver an additional four C-17A before year’s end. The remaining five will have a 2014 delivery date, completing the $5.8 billion contract signed in June 2011.

The contract—which follows the arrival of the sixth and last C-130J Hercules from Lockheed Martin in December 2011–will see India become the second largest operator of the C-17 heavy lift aircraft only after the United States.

As such, many defense analysts continue to point to these contracts, inter alia, as key drivers for deepened US-Indo relations despite inherently complicated US export controls, and what are often viewed by Indian defense observers as diluted offset agreements for technology transfer.

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Drop in Somali Piracy But Rise in Gulf of Guinea

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre released a brief at the end of October providing worldwide piracy statistics for the year. The report showed substantive decreases in Somali piracy as international efforts–including those from India among other nations–helped curb maritime attacks.

The report comes on top of a recent talk with US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Andrew Shapiro. His remarks at the Atlantic Council suggest that India may be at greater risk due to the Pirates’ increased use of motherships, something the press has been reporting for some time.

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The Coming Indo-Japan Security Alliance

There’s been much speculation around PM Singh’s visit to Japan between 15-18NOV12. The Times of India on 05NOV12 mirrored a piece from the Asahi Shimbun speaking of a closer security alliance between the two indicating that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy will hold joint exercises in the Indian Ocean as well as around Japan. (India and Japan only recently  conducted their first bilateral naval exercise in June 2012.) This outcome will reportedly be part of a new bilateral forum on security matters to be announced during the visit.

According to the AS piece, the aim as we’ve often heard before is to counter China’s rising military capabilities in the region. Although that may be so, this move wasn’t hard to foresee as the US recently concluded the trilateral forum between India and Japan during a time when the issues over the Senkakus have been brought into the spotlight.

Like many have speculated, the US may be helping push Japan and India closer together in the hopes India and the US will develop a better relationship despite (what India may see as) diverging national interests.

PLA Lieutenant-General Ren Haiquin Speech at Aussie Army Conference

James Brown on the Lowy Institute’s blog posted visiting PLA Lieutenant-General Ren Haiquin’s speech to the Australian Chief of Army’s annual conference at Melbourne’s Crown Casino. Lieutenant General Ren warned against Cold War notions of Containment having this to say:

Due to historical as well as realistic reasons, current security situation in Asia is not very satisfying and there are still factors destabilizing and uncertain…Asia is now in a transition towards a new type of security order, and external countries involvement complicate the process. Some countries pursue strategies such as “rebalance the Asia-Pacific” and “Looking East” and are increasing their strategic investment.

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Iran’s IRGCN opens new base in Gulf while India increases oil imports

General Ali Fadavi

The Associated Press on 04NOV12 reports Iran’s new IRGCN naval base near Iran’s southern port of Bandar-e Lengeh. (On the same day, Iran announced a new VTOL drone that will reportedly be shown sometime next year). The Guards’ navy chief Gen. Ali Fadavi was reported as saying that “missile and marine units have been deployed” at the new base, which will be able to reach the traffic in the strait.

This development comes as India has increased oil imports from Iran in September by 53%, according to Iran’s PressTV. Accordingly, India’s Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited resumed purchasing normal volumes from Tehran following a two-month gap in transactions due to shipping issues bringing levels to 294,400 barrels per day. (The shipping issues are probably now resolved as the Indian government requested state-run insurance companies provide coverage at a premium in August).

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Raytheon seeks more Indian opportunities

Jane’s reports on 01NOV12 that Raytheon is now looking to supply air traffic management systems for the growing secondary airport sector. Having built 15 ground stations for India’s GPS-aided Geosynchronous Augmented Navigation System (GAGAN) and provided AutoTrac III (AT3) at military air bases and large civilian airports, Raytheon may be well positioned to obtain more of Indian airport business. According to Jane’s projections, air traffic in India is forecast to grow at an average of at least 10 per cent up to 2020, with domestic traffic expected to rise to 150 million.