GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

India joins The Hague Code of Conduct

India has joined The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC).

  • India’s joining the Code signals its readiness to further strengthen the global non-proliferation regimes.
  • The government has also made it clear that this joining will not have any impact on the national security as well as country’s missile programmes.

About HCoC:

HCoC is a global ballistic missile proliferation regime established in 2002. It is a voluntary legally non-binding multilateral body aimed at preventing the spread of ballistic missiles that can deliver weapons of mass destruction.

  • It is the only multilateral code in the area of disarmament which has been adopted over the last years. It is the only normative instrument to verify the spread of ballistic missiles.
  • The HCOC does not ban ballistic missiles, but it does call for restraint in their production, testing, and export. Presently, there are 137 signatories.
  • The Code is meant to supplement the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) but its membership is not restricted. Under the Code, States make politically binding commitments to curb the proliferation of WMD-capable ballistic missiles and to exercise maximum restraint in developing, testing, and deploying such missiles.
  • Given the similarities between the technologies used in ballistic missiles and civilian rockets, the Code also introduces transparency measures such as annual declarations and pre-launch notifications regarding ballistic missile and space launch programs.
  • Austria is the administrative Central Contact of the Code, coordinating the information exchange under HCOC.
GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

India, Singapore hold defence dialogue

The Hindu

News

  • Defence Minister visit to Singapore to attend the Shangri-La dialogue.

Key points:-

  • India and Singapore held the inaugural Singapore-India Defence Ministers’ Dialogue (DMD.
  • Last month, the two countries convened the first meeting of their Defence Industry Working Group in which both sides agreed to set up industry level working mechanisms to foster cooperation in aerospace, electronics and other areas of mutual interest.
  • Both countries significantly scaled up their military to military engagement with bilateral visits and joint exercises.
  • India and Singapore signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) in 2003 which was revised in 2015.
  • Defence cooperation had been identified as a key sector under the India-Singapore Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership signed during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Singapore in November 2015.
Editorials, Uncategorized

A licence to kill innovation

Article Link

The Ministry of Home Affairs recently released a draft of “The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016.” The draft Bill came under scathing criticism on social media and other online platforms for its draconian features. In the light of this, the government now has proposed to review this bill.

  • The Bill basically aims to regularize critical information on Maps services that affect “the security, sovereignty and integrity” of the country.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • According to the draft, it will be mandatory to take permission from a government authority before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information of India.
  • The draft Bill will ensure that online platforms like Google will have to apply for a licence to run Google Maps or Google Earth in India.
  • The bill also says that no person shall depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries through internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form.
  • Also, any addition or creation of anything that has to do with any geospatial information – or location – within the territory of India will need the permission of the government or, in this case, a Security Vetting Authority.
  • The bill also imposes hefty fines for illegal acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India.

What does Security Vetting Authority do?

It grants licenses to organisations/individuals who want to use geospatial data. It will check the content and data provided and make sure it is well within national policies, “with the sole objective of protecting national security, sovereignty, safety and integrity”

What does “geospatial information” mean?

According to the draft it means:

  • Geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • Graphical or digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth.
  • Any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps, terrestrial photos referenced to a co-ordinate system and having attributes.

Why this is a not so good move?

  • The proposed bill brings back licence raj. For each map of India or its regions created by any company will have to be vetted by a committee. There will a fee that will have to be paid and the licence will have to be sought.
  • The proposed bill makes “every person” associated with the business offering map service an accessory to a crime in case of any violation, intended or unintended.
  • The proposed bill effectively ends crowd-sourcing. This means when you see your area in Google Maps and want to fix a mistake, you won’t be able to do that. The proposed bill also affects the real-time gathering of geo data. This too will make the map services almost useless.
  • Companies such as Google, Microsoft and Apple, which have millions of Indians using their maps, would be hit directly by the legislation if it is pushed through. Firms that depend on these maps to provide their services, such as Uber, Zomato and Ola, too would be affected.
  • The security vetting authority removes sensitive zones from the data and takes about two-three months or even more to respond, which is an unrealistic timeline for people working with digital data. There is also apprehension that the Bill will undermine rescue and humanitarian efforts, such as during disasters like the Nepal earthquake.
  • Also of concern is the lack of court’s jurisdiction in matters related to the proposed legislation.
  • It’s not just app developers that will require a license. As per the current draft, every end user of these apps who does things like shares their location with a friend, posts a status update, or uploads a photo with meta-data, is effectively creating mapping information and will have to get one too.
  • It’s also likely to do little to stop terrorist attacks. Since the rules in the bill only apply within India and to Indians outside the country, it won’t restrict foreign military forces and terrorists beyond India’s borders from sourcing map data from elsewhere.
  • What is worrisome is that it provides for stringent punishment ranging from a fine of up to 100 crore rupees to a 7-year jail term, for as much as publishing a wrong map of India. Since the print, electronic and digital media use a lot of easily available data, the new regulations could spell doom for the industry as it would push up the costs of acquiring such basic information and also make media liable for heavy fines and imprisonment in case of even an oversight.
  • The new law also conflicts with the provisions of the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000, because both it and the earlier IT Act deal with not just physical but also digital data. Furthermore, the IT Act is a special law and states that in case of conflict between it and any other law, then it will prevail. However, the draft geospatial bill has also been given special status under Section 33, stating that its provisions will have effect over inconsistencies in other laws. In other words, the interplay between the new law and the IT Act has not been properly worked out.

What can be done?

  • An alternative modality that can serve national security purposes would involve switching to a simple registration-based system that doesn’t make the acquisition of a licence a precondition to using data. However, such a registration-based system is also fraught with danger in a framework that insists on scrutinising the credentials of every end user.
  • A clear distinction must be made between the producers and consumers of geospatial data. In order to not constrict the innovation ecosystem, the definition of consumers must be as wide as possible.
  • It may be okay to require all publishers of geospatial data to register with the security-vetting authority and provide an online window through which the authority can conduct an audit of their data. The vetting authority can go through the data and raise an objection if it finds anything objectionable, and it can do this in its own time. In the meantime the data can be used by end users and updated by the publisher as required.

Conclusion:

Hence, the government now has to strike a balance between the protection of its national interest and ensuring that the data gets used for the propagation of e-commerce and m-commerce.

GS-2, Public Admin 2, Uncategorized

Rs.100-cr. fine proposed for wrong India map

The Hindu

What happened?

  • The government has proposed a law where wrong depiction of the map of India could land the violators in jail with a maximum term of seven years and fine up to Rs. 100 crore.

Why this measure has been proposed?

  • This measure has been envisaged by the government against the backdrop of instances where certain social networking sites showed Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as part of Pakistan and China respectively.

Key provisions in the The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016,’

  • According to the draft,  it will be mandatory to take permission from a government authority before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information of India.
  • The draft Bill will ensure that online platforms like Google will have to apply for a licence to run Google Maps or Google Earth in India.
  • “No person shall depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries through internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form.
  • “Whoever acquired any geospatial information of India in contravention of the law shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 100 crore and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years,” according to the draft Bill.
GS-2, GS-3, Internal security, International Relations, Uncategorized

India, Japan, U.S. to hold naval exercises

The Hindu

What happened?

  • In a move that is sure to raise eyebrows in Beijing, four Indian warships will join the navies of the United States and Japan in the second half of June for the next edition of Malabar exercises east of Okinawa, a Japanese island.

Exercise Malabar

  • Exercise Malabar is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners.
  • Originally only a bilateral exercise between India and the U.S., Japan became a permanent partner of the exercise in 2015.
  • Past non-permanent participants are Australia and Singapore.
  • The annual Malabar series began in 1992, and includes diverse activities, ranging from fighter combat operations from aircraft carriers, through Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercises

Australia wants to join too

  • Australia has repeatedly expressed interest in joining Malabar on a permanent basis and the United States had been pushing its inclusion, but India has so far resisted the move so as not to antagonise China.
Big Picture, GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

India US defence cooperation and Make in India Initiative

US defence secretary Aston Carter visited India last week  and discussed ways of enhancing previous  defence initiatives,and  signed new agreements like logistical exchange of memorandum of agreement which  entails the militaries of two nations to share facilities for refuelling, supplies and spares. Various agreements which also promote Make in India initiative were also proposed.

Make in India initiative which aims to transform  India in to a manufacturing hub has identified sectors which needs to be promoted. Defence is one among them. Efforts have been made  on this front through earlier initiatives with US like DTTI  ( Defence technology transfer initiatives) etc. But nothing seem to have taken off the board. There needs to have clarity on this front as to what exactly India wants from such initiatives.

Delay in expediting the initiatives which are already taken is another issue which needs close coordination. We need a focused  approach and consistent follow up action which helps to keep the various initiatives intact. In this aspect US has more role to play than India, who’s procedures are much simpler than US.

India invested nearly 14 billion dollars in last few years as part of is defence procurements, most of which is imported. With new scheme like Make in India we  need  to relook about establishing close synergies among the private players and defence manufacturers who engage in defence production on either side. This is a serious challenge which should not be ignored.

Also India’s  defence manufacturing capabilities need to leap frog from what where we are  right now. Initiatives like DTTI simply manifest the fact that india does not have the kind of technology that it requires. However on a long run efforts should be made to ramp up R and D and improve the situation on this front.

The discourse of india’s defence story should move from Defence co production to production and codevelopment to development. Every possible effort should be made to make  India self reliant. . What is necessary  is a more focused policy on defence issues and efforts to  make a realistic progress on this front. However India should also have all the technology at its disposal in difficult times by what so ever means at the same time it should never be complacent about collaborating on strategic issue like defence.

Editorials, Internal security, Uncategorized

Defence preparedness: the way forward

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India spends a significant amount of resources on its national defence. Hence, efficiency in utilisation of resources is not only an economic imperative but vital for defence preparedness. Also, a successful foreign policy is predicated to a large measure on a country’s defence posturing. A robust defence posturing in turn is not possible without motivated men complemented by requisite arms and equipment.

  • In the last decade or so, India’s defence preparedness suffered not only on account of lack of material wherewithal but subversion of the military leadership from external and internal vested interests. However, things changed with the new government at the centre.

Recent developments:

  • The government accepted many of the suggestions of the Dhirendra Singh Committee set up to make recommendations to revamp the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). The introduction of a new category of Buy Indian (or IDDM, Indigenous Design Development and Manufacture), the graded acceptance of better quality through the introduction of an “enhanced” performance parameter clause, and the sudden energisation of private players in defence manufacturing are some cause for cheer.
  • Many of the rules that hitherto put the private industry at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU) have been modified or removed. Thus, nomination of a DPSU for absorbing transfer of technology has been done away with and the tax exemptions withdrawn, which effectively makes pricing more competitive.
  • There is also visible incentivisation of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in many spheres. Their energetic response to the government’s initiatives is seen in their setting up of a Defence Innovators and Industry Association to interact with Government decision-makers to ensure a policy that encourages design and development of defence equipment with IP [Intellectual Property] ownership in Indian companies. This bodes well for the future since MSMEs, which are the Tier-II and -III suppliers, are the crucibles of innovation and the true determinants of indigenisation.
  • There has also been a surge in the number of defence licences being issued by the MoD.

What else needs to be done?

  1. Creation of a Procurement Executive (PE) outside the government:

As per the recommendation made by the Dhirendra Singh committee, Steps should be initiated without further ado to set up a specialised structure outside the formal structure of the Ministry of Defence. PE should be made autonomous.

  1. Choose strategic partners from the private sector:

Select private sector companies as strategic partners in six technology areas: aircraft/helicopters, warships/submarines, armoured vehicles, missiles, command & control systems, and critical materials. This is good but this idea would require diligent implementation. Government’s role should be limited in this and private players who have the capability and capacity to deliver should be selected. The overall selection process has to be transparent.

  1. Empower the private sector:

The private sector should be empowered by letting them lead in large ‘Make in India’ projects, with support from the DRDO. Here, weightage must be given to quality by following the L1T1 concept (selecting better technology, not necessarily at the lowest price) in the techno-commercial bid evaluation. This would also result in true R&D generation.

  1. Set up a dedicated professional procurement team:

It is necessary to set up a dedicated professional procurement team with relevant experience.

  1. Make procurement election proof:

The procurement process should be election-proof as national security cannot be held hostage to ineffective functioning of personnel who constitute the MoD and the political system. The state of preparedness of the defence forces has to be an activity in continuum, with or without bipartisan support.

Conclusion:

Procurement for defence can be as cruel as it gets, as there is no place for sentiment, just the brute successes in R&D and finished products. The energies generated following DefExpo and the new DPP-2016, if converted to actual, professional R&D, would be true indicators of the government being on the right track in enabling defence indigenisation and regaining its strategic autonomy. India, with its huge talent pool of engineers, scientists and competitive manpower, should harness this resource lucratively to make it a R&D hub and emerge as a largest exporter rather than being the largest importer of defence equipment in the world.

Editorials, GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

Four corners of a good deal

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The U.S.-Japan-India trilateral has gained momentum in recent years, with regular meetings and a variety of collective exercises. This proves that India has begun to exert its leadership in the Asia-Pacific region.

  • But, it is not possible for India to be a world leader or an Asian leader without first being a South Asian leader. For this to happen, the support of Australia is also necessary.
  • Few experts have been pitching for a greater cooperation between the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia. But, often this quadrilateral relationship is depicted only in defence terms. The four-way arrangement has made much less progress and has largely been limited to some meetings and naval exercises several years back.
  • But, a closer relationship between these four key democracies is necessary for India’s overall growth and can also boost India’s tenuous energy security in a big way.

India’s energy dependency:

India’s energy deficiency and ever increasing needs are well-known. It is also true that for Indian economic growth to return to double digits, energy supplies must increase by three to four times over the next few decades.

  • Deficits, however, are immense — including, for electricity alone, peak demand deficits of 25% in some southern States. This has made India largely depend on other countries to meet its demands.

Key facts:

  • 80% of India’s oil is imported.
  • Coal imports have also increased by as much as 56% in a single year.
  • India also imports 40% of its uranium.
  • Import of natural gas is also increasing.

Concerns:

India’s dependency on other countries is always fraught with risk.

  • Many, if not most, of its hydrocarbon imports come from unstable or faraway regions.
  • Two thirds of its oil comes from West Asia, and distant Venezuela is also a key source of oil. Additionally, India sees great potential in gas-rich Central Asia. However, because Pakistan denies India transit rights to Afghanistan, India lacks direct access to the region.
  • India is now planning to enhance its access to Central Asia by developing the Chabahar port in southern Iran. However, so long as Afghanistan remains unstable, access to Central Asia via Chabahar will be difficult.
  • TAPI pipeline project is a good move. But, Afghanistan’s security problems make this gas pipeline an unlikely prospect.
  • Meanwhile, the lifting of sanctions on Iran following its nuclear deal with the U.S. opens up energy possibilities for India, which has reduced its imports from Iran in recent years. However, New Delhi faces serious competition from other importers rushing to cash in.
  • India has also lost out many opportunities in this sector, while China has seized them.

How can Australia be a game-changer?

Australia can provide immense energy benefits to India. It already provides sizeable quantities of coal and uranium cooperation between the two countries has also been explored.

  • Australia is a top global producer of LNG. And in recent times, India has shown a strong desire to capitalise on Australia’s gas riches. With LNG prices having fallen by 75% since 2014, the timing could not be more ripe to explore deeper energy cooperation — particularly given the volatile location of Qatar, the top current source of India’s LNG imports.
  • Additionally, India could leverage a closer relationship with Australia to engage more deeply with the latter’s neighbour, Indonesia, which provides India more than 60% of its current coal imports. This would also help advance India’s “Act East” policy.
  • A closer relationship with Australia and Indonesia would further ease the burden on India’s naval forces of protecting energy assets in areas more far-flung than Southeast Asia.
  • Additionally, Indonesia and Australia — despite their proximity to the South China Sea and their susceptibility to Islamist militancy, including attacks by the Islamic State — are far more stable than West Asia, which would ease concerns about the security of Indian energy assets and imports originating in these two countries.

Way ahead:

The time is ripe for India to explore ways to increase cooperation with Australia. One way to achieve this is by reviving the quadrilateral relationship. This could also enhance energy engagement with the U.S. and Japan.

  • Besides, all four countries have an interest in energy infrastructure development. Japan, US and Australia have all signed on to the India-led International Solar Alliance. Japan and India are also offtakers for U.S. LNG projects.

Conclusion:

In recent years, a major roadblock to the quadrilateral relationship was Australia, which withdrew from the arrangement in 2013, citing concerns about China’s reaction. But, now with the new government the country has expressed renewed support for resurrecting it. For India, reviving the quadrilateral relationship may not make much sense from a national security perspective. However, viewed through the lens of energy security, it arguably makes very good sense.

Big Picture, GS-3, Uncategorized

Defence Sector stock

Watch debate here

Summary:

India has a land frontier, a coastline and an exclusive economic zone, as well as island territories, vital offshore installations and airspace to defend. The Indian forces, therefore, have to be kept well prepared and well equipped to repel any external threat. India’s defence spending has grown manifold since the country announced its first defence budget in 1950. Approximately 40% of the budget release to the capital expenditure is currently driven by equipment modernization programmes in each of the three services- the army, the airforce and the navy. The country procures approximately 70% of its equipment needs from abroad. But, with ‘Make In India’ the government aims to reverse this trend and manufacture 70% or more of its defence equipments in India. This provides an immense opportunity for both domestic and foreign players in the defence sector.

Basically, defence expenditure is divided into two categories:

  1. Revenue: Includes expenditure on pay and allowances, maintenance, transportation and all stores expenditure on utilities.
  2. Capital: includes creation of assets and expenditure on procurement of new equipment.

India’s defence expenditure has always been in the range of 2% – 3% of the GDP. This is in line with other major developed nations. It signifies a fairly steady focus on defence within the economy. The new government’s manifesto explicitly envisages India as an exporter of defence equipment over the next decade. The government has done away with the requirement of licences for defence manufacturing for 16 items. FDI in defence sector has also been increased.

Currently, defence manufacturing is dominated by defence PSUs and ordnance factory boards (OFB), which together have 90% share in total defence manufacturing. The opening of the strategic defence sector for private sector participation will help foreign original equipment manufacturers to enter into strategic partnerships with Indian companies and leverage the domestic markets and also aim at global business. Besides helping build domestic capabilities, this will bolster exports in the long term- the country’s extensive modernization plans, an increased focus on homeland security and India’s growing attractiveness as a defence sourcing hub.

The defence procurement is governed by the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). The Government has now decided to revise the DPP every year. The key objectives of the defence offset policy are to leverage capital acquisitions to develop the Indian defence industry. The initial validity period of industrial licenses has been increased to three years from the present two years.

There is now need to acknowledge at every level of government that the private sector in India can be trusted to play as important a role in the modernisation of India’s defence capabilities as the public sector. A common framework for defence procurement across research establishments, ordnance factories, defence Public Sector Units (PSU) and the private sector is the need of the hour. Decision making needs to be simpler, faster and transparent. There’s also an urgent need to address and improve the ease-of-doing-business. The Ministry of Defence is the sole customer for the defence industry in the country. Without long-term contracts, certainty of volumes, a quick selection process, transparency and fair payment terms, there will be little incentive for private players to invest the huge resources required for defence production.

There is a compelling case for creating a single window for defence licensing and FDI approvals. Any large-scale involvement of the private sector in defence would require a clear road map for engagement, with clearly identified thrust areas. New modalities of public-private partnership (PPP) should also be thought of. The need has now arisen to accord infrastructure industry status to the defence sector, thereby paving the way for easier credit and a greater role and opportunity for the private sector. India’s confidence in FDI draws a facile equation between foreign investment, local manufacturing and technology inflow. The key, however, is not money but technology. Technology transfer is elusive. It requires not just a clause in a contract, but in the recipient taking determined measures to ensure acquisition and absorption of technology.

The most significant development of 2015 was the scrapping of the $20-billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal for the purchase of 126 French Dassault Rafale fighter jets. To boost squadron strength, the government cleared the off-the-shelf purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft in fly-away condition from Dassault’s factories in France at an estimated cost of $8-9 billion. 2015 has been a good year for India’s helicopter fleet with three major deals: The purchase of 15 Chinook heavy lift helicopters and 22 Apache attack helicopters from the US’ Boeing company at a cost of $3 billion and $1-billion deal for 200 Kamov 226 T utility helicopters, a replacement for the air force’s vintage Chetak and Cheetah helicopters.

Another notable development in 2015 was the announcement of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme for defence personnel. The scheme will require an additional expenditure of Rs. 8,000 crore ($1.2 billion) every year and is expected to provide equal pension payments for personnel having served in the same rank for the same length of service. However, a significant section of veterans continued to protest against the government, saying they have been cheated.