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.

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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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India will protect its interests in disputed South China Sea

Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi

Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi

In the midst of the recent concern of China’s new boarding laws–which if looked at closely appear to be less threatening than all the media hype suggests–the Indian Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi has commented on India’s view on the South China Sea at a recent press conference. An excerpt of his speech and a link to the video are included in the jump.

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Taliban hits Jalalabad airbase

Geo Eye (02FEB11) Jalalabad AFLD

Satellite imagery of Jalalabad Airfield on 02 February 2011 (via Geo Eye)

After today’s news, it may be a good thing India decided to train Afghan troops on its own soil. Yesterday, it was reported that a suicide bomber attacked one of the entrances to the joint US-Afghan Jalalabad airbase for the second time this year.  The bombing comes after the US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, suggested the US leave about 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014, including 1,000 special operations forces.

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India to train Afghan troops

According to press reporting, the Indian Army will train 600 Afghan Army officer as well as 200 Afghan cadets every year. This training (announced on 08NOV12) grew out of the strategic partnership agreement signed on 04OCT11 between the two countries, taking just over a year to work out.

In addition, NDTV reports “a company level (100-strong) contingents of ANA will be trained for four weeks at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) located at Vairangte in Mizoram.” (Prior reporting had also suggested stints at the High Altitude Warfare School in Sonmarg, Kashmir)

The agreement was reported by the Indian press as a way to help build further avenues for India’s mining companies. (Back in 2011, Steel Authority of India Ltd led a consortium of top Indian firms in obtaining the rights for $1-trillion Hajigak iron ore mine in Afghanistan).

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.