By Shree Pandey
Since the early 1990s, the economic growth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been nothing short of spectacular. The rise of the current Communist Party of China (CCP) leader, Xi Jinping, has however seen China’s growth take a strong military bend. In his address to the 19th National Congress of the CCP in October 2017, Xi Jinping had declared his vision to produce a “world-class force” that would dominate the Asia Pacific and “fight and win” global wars by 2049. And his determination can be seen by the expansion of the People’s Liberation Army’s maritime force, PLA(Navy). 18 ships were commissioned in 2016 and another 14 in 2017 by the PLA(Navy), while in comparison the US Navy commissioned 5 ships in 2016 and 8 ships in 2017.
China dreams to be a global superpower by 2049. However, the question remains, whether a military built only on money and new technology can stand and fight? While such discussions have been dismissed by Chinese state-controlled media as Western propaganda, the large casualties suffered by PLA, while fighting the unarmed Indian soldiers during Galwan crisis and the subsequent capture of the Kailash Heights, as a part of Operation Snow Leopard by the Indian Army, has surely caused alarm bells ringing in Beijing. The conduct of the PLA and CCP during this clash brought the fatal flaw in the Chinese Dream– the lack of astute military leadership. It took more than seven months for CCP to finally muster the courage to admit that many Chinese soldiers were killed in action as a result of this flaw.
The conduct of warfare reflects not in technological terms alone but in organisation and leadership styles. While technology has changed the way we fight but without systemic and well-coordinated doctrinal and organisational changes, no new technology can translate into actual military combat power. The current situation of the CCP Armed Forces, as laid bare in the Himalayas, is clear evidence of the same.
It is pertinent to note that while the CCP Armed Forces have evolved a new doctrine after every major conflict, there remain fundamental issues with regards to institutional reforms which can prevent them from achieving any significant changes. Technology aside, key elements of a modern fighting force remain largely unchanged. These include technically proficient soldiers with combat experience, led by professional and proactive officer cadre. These elements seamlessly organised in a mesh and nimble command and controlled architecture enable decisive action in dynamic situations. Areas where the Chinese lag.
The changing dynamics in Chinese society over the past two decades of “reform and opening up” has proven to be a double-edged sword for the CCP forces. The rising economy has provided stiff competition to the Armed forces in attracting the best of China’s youth. Though rural illiterate youth still consider military service as personal progression, the educated urban youth remain unwilling to conscription. Thus, while CCP forces ranks are being filled, their education standards are not likely to complement their ongoing modernisation program.
Although HR remains a problem for all militaries, the uniqueness of the Communist Chinese model takes the issue to a completely different level. China’s “one-child policy” has brought about a unique set of problems as 52 percent of the conscripts are “only – child soldiers”. While the loss of the only child creates unparalleled hardships to rural agriculture-based families, the much savvier urban parents find ways for their children to evade military service. Though better living standards have enhanced the life expectancy of the Chinese population, “greying China” has also led many of the educated military officers to jump ship to the private sector so as to financially support the emerging ‘4-2-1’ family structure (04 grandparents – 02 parents – 01 child). Thus, the personnel that are left behind are ‘child emperors and empresses’ who don’t always have the mettle required for the harsh realities of warfighting.
While publicly CCP has given a lot of emphasis on enhancing the quality of military leadership, below the surface, there remain endemic issues that Beijing has found difficult to overcome. The majority of the current senior military leadership, despite having one of the highest retirement ages, had their only exposure to combat during the 1979 Vietnam War whilst the middle/lower leadership have had no combat experience. Moreover, studies have also revealed that there are significant regional biases in the induction of officers which continue to reflect in promotions and postings.
The PLA is the de-facto ‘strong arm’ of the CCP and therefore political intrusion, rather than military threat, has defined its early development and duties. While generals in the post-Mao era were less inclined to get involved in the party functioning, this trend has seen a reversal in recent times. In the Xi Jinping era, there have been substantial efforts in making the military subservient to the party in all respects. Consequently, a culture of developing political-lineage-based coteries has set in and resulted in the promotion of political favourites rather than merit-based advancements. This, to an extent, may explain the complete lack of anticipation of the Indian military response to China’s unilateral and unprovoked aggression in the Galwan sector in mid-2020. It is quite possible that the highly centralised command and control organisation of PLA, populated with officers of dubious professional standing, were unable to take decisions on time to allow the army men on ground to react to Indian counter-action.
The popular Indian metaphor of the “elephant’s two sets of teeth” applies very well to the current state of the CCP Armed forces. While a large number of modern technologies, some even acquired through unscrupulous means, explains their efficacy in combat is largely speculative. Given the intrinsic infirmities in the socio-cultural build-up of China today, the quality of soldiers being used to operate this equipment is even more suspicious. Rampant corruption, political gamesmanship and obscuring truths, further undermine the efforts in developing a ‘world-class force’. Beijing could have seen the rotting underbelly of the PLA in the aftermath of Galwan, but choose to double down on its false narrative and ignore the realities that were laid bare.
In the quest to “win without fighting” propaganda and misinformation, Xi Jinping may need to take a moment and look closely at his “yes men” generals. After all, the popular folk tale of the “emperor’s new clothes” also finds its origins in the court of another totalitarian ruler of the middle kingdom.
About the Author:
The author is a freelance journalist and a research scholar of International Humanitarian Law.
Kamikaze Drones – Latest from Russia Ukraine War Front
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are aircraft that do not require a human pilot onboard. They can perform various functions such as reconnaissance, surveillance, communication, or combat support. However, there is a special type of drone that is designed to be used as a weapon itself. These are called Kamikaze drones or loitering munitions.
Kamikaze drones are aerial weapon systems that can loiter around the target area passively for a while before striking once a target is found. They explode when they contact the target and are loaded with explosives. Because their wings fold out as they are launched, they are also known as switchblades or suicide drones.
Various nations and actors have utilised kamikaze drones in an array of wars and crises. They have benefits like stealth, accuracy, cost-effectiveness, and drawbacks including vulnerability, moral dilemmas, and a finite range. They differ from UAVs in their use, functionality, and design. We shall examine the development, characteristics, uses, and implications of kamikaze drones in contemporary warfare in this article.
Evolution of Kamikaze Drones
The concept of kamikaze drones is not new. It dates back to World War II when Japan used manned aircraft loaded with explosives to conduct suicide attacks against Allied ships. These were called kamikaze (divine wind) missions, and they caused significant damage and casualties to the enemy. However, the modern version of kamikaze drones emerged in the late 20th century, with the advancement of technology and miniaturization.
The US was one of the first countries to develop and deploy loitering munitions, such as the Harpy anti-radar drone developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in the 1980s. The Harpy could detect and destroy enemy radar emitters autonomously. Since then, several countries have developed and acquired their versions of kamikaze drones, such as Israel’s Harop and Hero series, Turkey’s Kargu and Alpagu series, China’s CH-901 and WS-43 series, Iran’s Raad-85 and Ababil-3 series, etc. Some of these drones can be launched from ground vehicles, aircraft, ships, or even soldiers’ backpacks.
Kamikazes in the Russia-Ukraine War
In the Russia-Ukraine war, both sides have been using various types of drones and UAVs for surveillance, reconnaissance, communication, and combat support. However, since autumn 2022, Russia has been using a new type of drone that has caused significant damage and casualties to the Ukrainian forces. These are the Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drones.
What are Shahed-136 Kamikaze Drones?
The Shahed-136 kamikaze drones are loitering weapons that could fly independently or remotely to a target location and then detonate upon collision, destroying both the target and themselves. Russia refers to them as Geranium-2. They contain explosives in a warhead on their nose and are programmed to hover over a target until told to attack. The Shahed-136 has a wingspan of around 2.5m (8.2ft) and is difficult to detect on radar. It has a range of about 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) and an endurance of up to ten hours. It has a cargo capacity of up to 50kg (110lb) and a top speed of 250km/h (155mph). It can direct itself to its target using GPS or inertial navigation technologies.
How are Shahed-136 Kamikaze Drones Used by Russia?
Since October 2022, Russia has started utilising Shahed-136 kamikaze drones to target Ukrainian forces along the Donbas front line. Since then, Russia has launched over 300 drone strikes, killing over 200 soldiers and wounding over 500 more, according to Ukrainian sources. Russia has also targeted civilian infrastructure, including power plants, bridges, railroads, and factories. Russia frequently employs swarms of drones to overpower Ukrainian air defences and cause confusion and panic among troops. Drones are also used by Russia to offer real-time intelligence and guidance for artillery and missile attacks. Russia maintains that the drone operations are in response to provocations and violations of ceasefire agreements by Ukraine.
How is Ukraine Trying to Combat Shahed-136 Kamikaze Drones?
Ukraine has been trying to counter the drone threat by using various means such as small arms fire, heavy machine guns, portable anti-air missiles, electronic jamming devices, and counter-drones. However, these methods have proven to be ineffective or insufficient when faced with large numbers or high speeds of drones. Ukraine has also sought international assistance and support to enhance its air defence capabilities and acquire more advanced drones and UAVs. The US has said it is supplying Ukraine with 700 of its Switchblade kamikaze drones, but it is unknown whether any have been used. The US has also provided Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles, radars, communications equipment, and training. Ukraine has also used its kamikaze drones to attack Russian targets in Crimea and inside Russian territory. In autumn 2022, Ukraine used kamikaze drones of some sort to attack a Russian military base in western Crimea, an airbase near Sevastopol, and ships in Sevastopol harbour. In December 2022, Ukraine used kamikaze drones for three separate attacks on airbases at Saratov and Ryazan – both hundreds of miles inside Russian territory.
Development of UAVs and Drones in the India-Pakistan Equation
India and Pakistan are two rival neighbours in South Asia who have been engaged in several wars and conflicts over the years. Both countries have been developing and acquiring UAVs and drone technologies for military and civilian purposes. However, there are some differences in their approaches and achievements in this domain. The following table summarizes the comparison of India and Pakistan in UAV and drone technology:
|Market size||Smaller and more focused on military applications||Larger and more diverse with potential use cases in various sectors|
|Talent pool||Smaller and more dependent on foreign partners||Larger and more independent with domestic innovation and development|
|Policy framework||Supportive but less transparent and consistent||Supportive and more liberal and progressive|
|Ecosystem||Vibrant but less mature and competitive||Vibrant and more mature and competitive|
|Strategic advantage||Higher due to geopolitical location and security interests||Lower due to geopolitical location and security interests|
|Import dependence||Higher for high-endurance and combat-capable platforms||Lower for high-endurance and combat-capable platforms|
|Cybersecurity threats||Higher due to hostile actors and weak systems||Lower due to hostile actors and strong systems|
|Ethical and legal issues||Higher due to autonomous targeting and accountability concerns||Lower due to autonomous targeting and accountability concerns|
India has a growing UAV and drone technology industry that is diverse and innovative in various domains and a supportive policy framework and a vibrant ecosystem of drone startups and companies. But with rapidly failing nations as neighbours, India must ensure all border security organizations are adept and capable of utilising these drones to maximum capability.
When Gorkha Regiment Roars: “JAI MAA KALI, AYO GORKHALI”
If a person says he is not afraid of death, he is either lying or he is a Gorkha
These were the words of Field Marshal Sam Bahadur Manekshaw, in admiration of the fierce Gorkha regiment of the Indian Army.
But who are these brave soldiers? And how much do we know about their sacrifices for our motherland?
Let’s dive deep into the history and accomplishments of the Gorkha Regiments.
Brief History of Gorkha Regiment
Recruited from the Gorkha community of Nepal, the Gorkha soldiers have a long and illustrious history of military prowess. The Britishers first encountered the Gorkhas during the Anglo-Nepalese War. Gorkha was a feudal hill village in western Nepal. During the Anglo-Nepalese war, the Britishers encountered the mighty soldiers of this city and its king Prithwi Narayan Shah for the first time. And they were so impressed that they started recruiting Gorkhalis in their army.
The British raised the first Gorkha regiment – the Nasiri Battalion in 1815, that later adopted the title of the 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment). The British continued to recruit Gorkhas and raise new regiments, until 1947. After India gained independence in 1947, the existing Gorkha regiments were split between the British and Indian armies.
The Indian army raised the 1 Gorkha Rifle and the 3 Gorkha Rifles. In 1962, in the aftermath of the Chinese aggression, the 7th and 10th Gorkha Rifles and the 8th Gorkha Rifles were raised. Over the years, the Gorkha rifles have established themselves as some of the most fearless regiments of the Indian army, participating in all major wars and conflicts that India has been involved in.
Today, the Indian army has 11 Gorkha regiments consisting of around 35,000 soldiers. They have fought in all major wars and counter-insurgencies that India has participated in since independence. Be it the 1948 Indo-Pak war, the 1962 China war, the four wars against Pakistan, or counterterrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir, the Gorkha soldiers have always upheld the highest traditions of bravery and sacrifice.
Identifying Gorkha Soldier
The Gorkha soldiers are characterized by their tilted hats and traditional Nepali kukris (knives) that they carry with themselves. Their war cry ‘Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali’ (Hail Goddess Mahakali, the Gorkhas are here) is known to strike terror in the hearts of their all enemies. Their loyalty, determination and fighting skills in high altitude and mountain terrain make them invaluable to the Indian army.
The Gorkha rifles have proven themselves as formidable fighters, upholding the highest traditions of courage and sacrifice. Their battle exploits are legendary and a source of pride and motivation for new soldiers. They remain an invaluable arm of the Indian army, protecting the nation’s freedom with unparalleled bravery and heroism. They have etched their names in golden letters through selfless and courageous service to the nation. They inspire valour and patriotism through their glorious history of battlefield heroics. The country is proud of its brave-hearted Gorkha regiments and their contribution to protecting India’s freedom and integrity.
Some Gorkha Battles & Gorkhalis that all Indians Must Know About
Battle of Naushera in Jammu and Kashmir in 1948
Major Kulbir Thapa of 2/1 Gorkha Rifles led his regiment to capture a crucial ridge from the enemy.
1962 War Against Chinese Aggression
1, 3 and 4 Gorkha Rifles were deployed in North-East India. Despite being outnumbered, they inflicted heavy casualties on the Chinese. Rifleman Ganju Lama of 1/1 Gorkha Rifles bravely took on Chinese troops and was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award.
Indo-Pak Wars of 1965 and 1971
Gorkha Regiments were deployed on both the Western and Eastern fronts and contributed to the victories in the war.
Kargil War, 1999
- Rifleman Sanjay Kumar displayed exceptional courage in climbing a steep snow-covered peak and neutralizing enemy bunkers. He was also awarded the Param Vir Chakra.
- Rifleman Thaman Bahadur Thapa of 1/2 Gorkha Rifles neutralized enemy bunkers at point-blank range and captured crucial peaks. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra.
- Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles led his men to recapture a crucial ridge from the enemy. Although wounded, he continued fighting and pushing the enemy back until he succumbed to his injuries. He was also awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumously.
2009, Operations against Naxalites in Chhattisgarh
Major Mohit Sharma of 1 Gorkha Rifles sustained grievous injuries while trying to ambush insurgents. But he continued leading his men and eliminated the target, before succumbing to his injuries. He was awarded the Kirti Chakra posthumously.
2012, Operations in Jammu and Kashmir
Naik Chandrakant Rana and Naik Rajendra Rawat of 2/8 Gorkha Rifles neutralized 3 hardcore terrorists in a fierce close-quarter battle. Both were awarded the Kirti Chakra for their exemplary courage.
2015, Terror Attack in Punjab
Rifleman Jagdish Chand of 3/3 Gorkha Rifles sustained bullet injuries evacuating civilians. Despite being grievously injured, he continued fighting the terrorists until reinforcements arrived. He was awarded the Kirti Chakra for his exceptional bravery.
2016, Counter – Insurgency Operations in Jammu and Kashmir
Havildar Hangpan Dada of 35 Rashtriya Rifles fought terrorists and sacrificed his life saving his comrades. He was awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest peacetime gallantry award.
Apart from these, the Gorkha Regiments have been engaged in continuous counter-insurgency duties in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir for decades. And these are just a few tales of extraordinary courage displayed by Gorkha soldiers in recent times.
Their fearlessness and bravery continue to motivate their comrades and inspire young soldiers to follow in their footsteps.
Chemical Warfare & Its Implications On Humanity
There are days when you wake up to news that leaves you in deep introspection. One such day was 3rd February – when a freight train derailed in Ohio. The incident did set off evacuation orders, a toxic chemical scare and a federal investigation; but it set my mind in a whirlpool of thoughts and emotions…all of which revolved around weaponizing chemicals as a future of war.
We can’t go on much longer morally. We can’t go on much longer scientifically. The technology that was supposed to save us is ready to destroy us.
– Billy Graham
What is Chemical Warfare? The use of toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons is called Chemical warfare.
When was Chemical Warfare First Used?
Fritz Haber, is considered the ‘father of chemical warfare’ for his work in developing and weaponizing chlorine and other poisonous gases during World War I.
But was it first used only during WW1?
- Some evidence of chemical warfare in western literature dates back to Ancient Greek myths, where Hercules uses poisoned arrows.
- In the Hindu epics Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’, chemical warfare is mentioned in some of the earliest surviving passages. Poison and fire arrows are forbidden in the “Laws of Manu,” (also called the Manava Dharma Shastra) a Hindu book on statecraft written around 400 BC.
History, Development and Use of Chemical Weapons in Warfare
According to ancient Greek historians, Alexander came into contact with poison arrows and fire incendiaries during his siege in India in the fourth century BC. There are also stories that Chinese were acquainted with arsenical smoke as far back as 1000 BC, and Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” (about 200 BC) recommends the usage of fire weapons. In the West, chemical warfare first appeared in writing in the fifth century BC, during the conflict between Sparta and Athens. During the Roman-Persian War, the oldest archaeological evidence of chemical warfare was discovered in the form of Bitumen and sulphur crystals. According to historian David Hume, quicklime, another name for calcium oxide, may have been employed in mediaeval naval battles, during the regime of Henry III in England.
Modern Era (World War I & II and in-between years)
Technically the French army first used toxic tear gas in WWI. In October 1914 Germany used dianisidine chlorosulfonate against British troops. Again, in January of 1915, it used xylyl bromide at Russian forces near Poland. On April 22, 1915, Germany orchestrated its most deadly gas attack in WWI. It released chlorine gas from canisters and with the help of wind the gas was carried into the trenches of French, Canadian and Algerian soldiers.
After WWI several countries started developing and stockpiling chemical weapons in the fear of chemical warfare.
- Allegedly in 1920, British troops used chemical gas in Mesopotamia against the Iraqi revolt, on the order of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Noam Chomsky, a historian, claimed that Winston Churchill at the time was keen on chemical weapons, suggesting they be used “against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment”, and that he stated to be “strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes”.
- The Soviet Union used poison gas against the Tambov rebellion in 1921 in the order of Lenin. Again, it used mustard gas in Central Asia against Basmachi Rebels. In 1934, during the invasion of Xinjiang province, the Soviet forces used mustard gas from the air at the battle of Dawn Chang.
- From 1921 to 1927 the Rif war was fought between Spain and Morocco. Spanish forces used phosgene, diphosgene, chloropicrin and mustard gas against the civilian population, markets and rivers, with the help of 127 bomber aircraft. These attacks marked the first widespread employment of gas warfare in the post-WWI era.
- In January 1928, Italy used several poison gases with mustard gas against Senussi forces in Libya. Under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, Italy fought the 2nd Italo-Abyssinian war from 1935 to 1939 with Ethiopia. In these years Italy used chemical weapons on a massive scale, ignoring every treaty and international pressure. In February and March of 1936 Italian forces launched the most devastating attack not only on Ethiopian troops but also on the civilians, rivers and crop fields.
- Germany in the years after WWI accelerated itself in chemical warfare. In the 1920s it collaborated with the USSR in developing chemical weapons. However, chemical warfare was revolutionized by Nazi Germany’s discovery of the nerve agents tabun (in 1937) and sarin (in 1939).
Nazi Germany & Transformation of Chemical Warfare
Nazi Germany did not use chemical gases frequently to attack the Axis power in the fear of retaliation. However, it extensively used them on its minority citizens to feed and sustain its propaganda of “supreme race theory”. During Holocaust (a genocide committed by Nazi Germany) millions of Jews, Slavs, and others were gassed with carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide included with Zyklon B. This remains to be the most devastating use of poison gas.
The Nazis experimented on prisoners from concentration camps extensively – and some of these tests included the study of the effects of the nerve gas, Tabun. Not only were these prisoners used as guinea pigs for chemical testing, but Hilter also used them as his labour force to manufacture the gas in secret.
The western allies did not use Chemical weapons on the battlefield, and also avidly against their uses, except Winston Churchill. He on several occasions promoted the use of it but failed due to the discouragement of his allies.
Post-modern Era – The problem right now!
After the war, Britain and the US started developing much more potent nerve agents than Nazi Germany. However, those were thankfully never used in a war.
The most extensive post-World War II use of chemical weapons occurred during the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), in which Iraq used nerve agents such as sarin and tabun, as well as riot-control agents and blister agents like sulphur mustard.
Iraq’s chemical weapons strikes claimed the lives of about 100,000 Iranian soldiers. Mustard gas struck many people. The children and relatives of soldiers, many of whom have experienced blood, lung, and skin ailments, as well as the civilian population poisoned in neighbouring towns are not included in the official estimate. According to the Organization for Veterans, 20,000 Iranian soldiers were instantly killed by nerve gas, according to official reports. Out of the 80,000 survivors, 5,000 consistently needed medical attention, and 1,000 still required hospitalisation for serious, chronic illnesses.
Prevention & Hope for a Safer Future
The first action taken to address this issue was a proposal that was passed Hague Conference in 1899. This proposal was followed by the Second Hague Convention, which forbids the use of “poison or poisoned weapons” in combat, become operative on January 26, 1910. Then came the Geneva Convention of 1925, which put forth and established severe prohibitions against the use of chemical weapons in war.
But the most significant decision came in April 1997, with the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)—the world’s first multilateral disarmament agreement. Under CWC, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was formed as an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body. With 193 members, this organisation pledges to destroy and prevent the manufacturing of their chemical weapons.
India was the only country to meet its deadline for the destruction of chemical weapons and the OPCW inspection of its facilities by the year 2005 out of the six countries that had revealed their possession of chemical weapons. India was given an extension to destroy all of its chemical weapons and material stockpile by April 2009 after having already destroyed more than 75% of them by 2006. India informed the UN on May 14, 2009, that its chemical weapons stockpile had been eliminated.
There are still massive amounts of chemical weapons present at disposal of several countries. Though we see less and less use of chemical weapons in warfare nowadays, living in this volatile time, we still have a long way to go for a world free of Chemical warfare.
When a Chinese Spy Balloon Made UFOs, a Matter of Grave Concern
A year back, if someone told you that they spotted a “mysterious looking, white, balloon-shaped object” in the sky…you would have probably rubbished it, right? But what about today…how would you react to a news of ‘mysterious balloons in the sky’? With a lot of concern, I presume…and rightly so! In this article we have discussed the incident of Chinese Spy Balloon aka Unidentified Flying Object.
From January 28 to February 4 this year, a giant white balloon was sighted across various parts of the North American airspace. This balloon, that was said to have traveled across South Korea, Japan, Alaska, Canada, and the contiguous United States, was later accepted by the Chinese government to be one of theirs – a Chinese ‘Meteorological’ Balloon that had drifted off-course due to the westerlies.
“The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.”
– Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson’s Remarks on the Spy Balloon on 03 Feb 2023
But the American and Canadian intelligence services had different opinions – they claimed that the balloon was an instrument of surveillance which were endangering peace and security of these nations. On February 3, USA’s Department of Defense reported that a second Chinese balloon was flying over Latin America, which China also claimed as its own. Following orders from U.S. President Joe Biden, the US Air Force shot down the balloon on February 4 in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.
But peace was not restored. The spy balloon incident has opened the pandora’s box and the intelligence agencies now find themselves thinking on many fronts.
Before we dive into this, let’s talk about China’s “Civil-Military Fusion” program, under with such emerging technology is being developed.
China’s National Strategy of Civil-Military Fusion (CMF)
“China encourages joint building and utilization of military and civilian infrastructure, joint exploration of the sea, outer space and air, and shared use of such resources as surveying and mapping, navigation, meteorology and frequency spectra. Accordingly, military and civilian resources can be more compatible, complementary and mutually accessible.”
– China’s Military Strategy, May 2015
To fulfill the Chinese goal of becoming a “world class military” by 2049, the Chinese government accelerated its program of CMF in 2015. Under this program, advanced technologies like Quantum Computing, AI, Big Data, nuclear, space and near-space technologies would be developed by exploiting both civilian and military capabilities. The importance of this Military Civilian Development Program can be identified by the fact that the President of the country, Xi Jinping, himself controls and oversees its progress.
But why has the CCP government opted for this civilian-owned militarily empowered program? The reason is quite simple –
If Caught – The government has the option to claim innocence by citing civilian–error and proving that there is no relation to the government or military.
If Successful – The government successfully has access to the sensitive data of adversary and may weaponize this information as and when required for their benefit.
Now let’s take another look at the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson’s Remarks on the Spy Balloon –
“The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes.”
There should be no doubt that China’s recent ‘meteorological’ balloons are a by-product of it’s Civilian-Military Fusion program. The claim that the balloon’s purpose was to spy on military installations in the Pacific region, cannot and should not be swiftly rejected.
In the past few weeks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has shot down four objects, and there are rumors of another balloon floating over the Middle East. What was once claimed to be a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes”, is now recognized as a component of a vast surveillance program.
Regardless of the quantity or caliber of the balloon’s data gathered while flying over the United States, the controversy surrounding it has grown into an international incident, with multiple claims of similar “UFO” sightings all over the world – Japan, India, Taiwan, Colombia and list goes on.
What damage could the China’s Spy Balloon inflict on the countries? Should we be bothered?
Let’s answer the 2nd question first, should the spying balloon matter to us?
YES, it definitely should.
It is no surprise that most members of Generation Z are unconcerned about data privacy, since they are so accustomed to being watched. In fact, a prevailing thought during a discussion about the balloon was, “Oh, the U.S. probably has comparable programs in China.” The idea of a foreign competitor power gathering surveillance data on them therefore doesn’t seem that terrifying to young people since.
But, let’s not forget this balloon was flying over the country’s military areas, significant bases and important sites.
Now let’s come to the first question, what is the extent of damage that this balloon could cause? – Well, for this we leave you with two opinions to deliberate and make your own judgement.
First, the chances of electronic surveillance to identify and possibly disrupt sensitive military communications cannot be ruled out at all. Second, is the possibility of cyber espionage or sabotage. With the cyber-skills and hacker army available with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), it is a possible that this ‘balloon-voyage’ was a mere precursor to a full-fledged hybrid war. Third, the spy balloon could be a test, aimed to establish the reaction ability and potential of intelligence agencies worldwide.
Human brain is wired in a way to look at a shocking event with fear and assume that worst has happened. Therefore, had the Chinese diplomat in USA immediately met POTUS to explain China’s position and taken strict (and public) against the civilian owners of this balloon, the matter would have been resolved peacefully without USAF interference. Diplomatic dialogue, should have been China’s response, and not escalating the situation with threats – let’s be clear ‘cold-war’ scenario, does more damage than good.
What’s Next For China & USA Relations?
Chinese spy balloon illegal intrusion into USA’s airspace has further deteriorated relations between the two countries. With Secretary of State Antony Blinken indefinitely postponing his trip to China, all prospects for a detente between the two superpowers seems to be eliminated.
The incident has also heightened tensions and has accelerated alliance formation, not very different from the pre-Cold war era of USA and USSR!
“I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”
The Story of Operation Vijay: India’s Triumph in Kargil
In the summer of 1999, oxygen-starved heights of the Srinagar – Kargil – Leh highway, echoed with the sound of gunfire as India and Pakistan engaged in one of their most significant military confrontations. After militants and the Pakistan army infiltrated Kashmir, the Indian army launched Operation Vijay to retake its territory, which is how the ‘Kargil War’ came to be known.
Indo-Pak Relations in the Late 90s and Development From Pakistan
During the late 1990s, the relationship between India and Pakistan was moving towards a belligerent atmosphere due to the separatist activities in Kashmir, backed by Pakistan and the nuclear testing of both countries in 1998. Then the late Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed the Lahore Doctrine in February 1999 with Pak PM Nawaz Sharif, hoping it will usher in an era of peace and tranquillity.
However, in the Army HQ at Rawalpindi, Gen Pervez Musharaff with General Ehsan Ul Haq, General Aziz Khan, Mahmood Ahmad and Shahid Aziz were planning to stealthily capture the NH 1A in Kargil, chocking the communication to Leh and Siachin and break them apart from mainland India, in an operation named as Operation Badr.
On the Indian front due to extreme weather and in line with the directives of the Shimla Agreement, Indian troops were forced to vacate their post. And that’s exactly what Pakistan army was waiting for!!
Unbeknown to the Indian Army, the General Musharaff’s Army had made plans to violate the Shimla Agreement and unilaterally break the momentary peace that had been established by diplomacy. Musharraf had ensured that his professional soldiers and sponsored mercenaries were ready for a sly attack on India.
Retaliation by the Indian Army: Operation Vijay
On 3rd May a local shepherd witnessed suspicious activities and reported them to the authorities. On further reconnaissance, the suspicion was confirmed and several rangers were sent to look into the matter. On the 5th of May, five of the army rangers were captured by the enemy. They were tortured, mutilated and later killed by the Pak army subsequently breaking the Geneva rules for war prisoners. Heavy shelling by the Pakistani army on 9th May destroyed the ammunition depots in Kargil, resulting in the loss of estimated 173 crores on a single day. The enemies captured and established a stronghold on four prominent stations of the Kargil district, i.e., Mushkoh, Dras, Kaksar and Batalik sub-sector. From then on Indian Army moved its troop from Kashmir and other places to the Kargil district and officially started ‘Operation Vijay’ on 19th May. This operation was assisted by ‘Operation Safed Sagar’ from the Indian Air force and ‘Operation Talwar’ Indian Navy.
On June 1 Pakistani Army began heavy shelling operations on the NH 1 of Srinagar to Leh. This was also the day when USA and France declared Pakistan responsible for the military conflict in India. On the 5th of June India released a dossier revealing the Pakistan army’s involvement backed by documents recovered from the captured and dead soldiers. On June 6 the Indian army began offensive ground operations. On 9th June Indian Army recaptured a key position in the Batalik sector.
India released intercepts of conversations between Gen. Pervez Musharraf (on a visit to China) and Aziz Khan (in Rawalpindi) as proof of the Pakistan Army’s involvement in the infiltrations on June 11. After two days on the 13th Indian PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Kargil. On the same day, the army secured Tololing in Dras after a fierce battle with Mujahedeen militias. US President Bill Clinton urged then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif to immediately pull all Pakistani troops and irregulars out from Kargil on 15th June. Two days later on the 17th of June the task of capturing Point 5140, a strategically important mountain peak in the Dras sector, was assigned to 13 JAK Rifle.
After a fierce 3 days battle on the early morning of 20th Point 5140 was recaptured by Lieutenant Colonel Yogesh Kumar Joshi with Bravo Company, under the command of Lieutenant Sanjeev Singh Jamwal, and Delta Company, under the command of Lieutenant Vikram Batra. The Delta company was tasked with taking control of Point 4700 in the Drass sector on June 28, which could only be accomplished if the enemy observation post on the cliff could be destroyed. Captain Sumeet Roy, the second in command, led a section out during the night via a covered approach. He arrived just below the observation station and continued to track enemy activities until 2:00 am on June 29. Then, with complete disregard for his safety, he got into a violent hand-to-hand fight with the enemy and took control of the observatory, taking control of Point 4700.
On 4th July three Indian regiments (Sikh, Grenadiers and Naga) engaged elements of the remaining Pakistani Northern Light Infantry regiment in the Battle of Tiger Hill. The Indian forces used unexpected, and therefore difficult, avenues of approach, maintaining the element of surprise and recaptured the region after more than 12 hours of fighting.
By this time the Pakistani side which had already suffered huge losses under the might of Indian military , now also had to face a massive loss and growing international pressure. On 5th July after the Indian Army had taken control of the Dras sector, Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Shariff announced the withdrawal of forces from Indian regions. However, some rouge forces along with several militants were still engaging in the war and atrocities against locals….and so the war continued.
‘Operation Vijay’ was a great success.
The Aftermath of the Kargil War
The official death toll of the war on the Indian side was 527. Meanwhile, the casualty figure on the Pakistani side is said to be 453. Pakistan refused to claim the dead bodies of its soldiers, which were later buried as per rituals respectfully by the Indian Army.
Pakistan was heavily criticised by other countries as well as its allies. Ex President of USA Clinton wrote in his biography that “Sharif’s moves were perplexing” since the Indian Prime Minister had travelled to Lahore to promote bilateral talks aimed at resolving the Kashmir problem and “by crossing the Line of Control, Pakistan had wrecked the [bilateral] talks”. Pakistan also tried to internationalise the Kashmir issue by linking it to Kargil conflict, however it found few backer in global stages in later years. The Indian Army was given a political directive that the line of control will not be crossed. The G8 nations supported India due to this and condemned Pakistan for crossing the LoC.
On the 14th of July Indian PM Vajpayee finally declared ‘Operation Vijay’ a success and conditions for talk with Pakistan were set by Indian Government. The Kargil war saw the most contribution from the young soldiers. And therefore to commemorate the ones who lost their lives in this war, every year India celebrates 26th July as Kargil Vijay Divas.
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