Category Archives: international border

Xi-Modi @ Wuhan: (Perhaps) We won’t know what happens but still there is a lot we do. My piece.

Even as the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) ‘lay the groundwork for the Qingdao Summit’ to be held in June when the top leadership of SCO nations travel to China, in some ways, something very distinct has already occurred.

On Sunday, following discussions with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, China’s Foreign Minister and recently-appointed State Councilor Wang Yi declared that the Chinese President Xi Jinping will be holding an ‘informal meeting’ with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Wuhan as early as the next weekend.

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India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Wang Yi, her Chinese counterpart who is also now the State Councilor making him China’s foremost voice on foreign affairs. Pic courtesy: @IndianDiplomacy

“Xi and Modi will have strategic communication on the world’s profound changes, and exchange, in an in-depth manner, views on overall, long-term and strategic issues regarding China-India relations, Wang was quoted as saying by the Chinese news agency Xinhua. (

How should this be seen?

In the words of India’s recently-retired Foreign Secretary and long-time China hand S Jaishankar to news agency ANI, “It is certainly a very bold step. They will be meeting in a casual environment. The agenda will be open. This will be much more personal and interactive”.

For Sino-Indian ties, if 2017 was the year of friction, marked by the Doklam stand-off and the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, 2018 has seen more than a mere reset.

New Delhi struck the right conciliatory notes with Beijing when it came to dealing with the constitutional crisis in Maldives and the ‘Thank You India’ initiative of the Central Tibetan Administration. On its part, Beijing did not stand with Pakistan in February when the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) moved to squeeze Islamabad over its support to extremist groups.

Dust has also settled on two matters considered important for New Delhi but which saw a unilateral suspension from Beijing’s end –re-opening the Nathu La route for Mansarovar yatra and sharing hydrological data on Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers.

Yet divergence remains.

For India, Beijing’s multi-faceted involvement with Islamabad remains the biggest red flag. Irritants like blocking India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and increasing its foothold in the Indian Ocean region have remained unresolved.

Though trade between the two nations has increased exponentially, so has the trade deficit in favour of China.

Indian Naval Ship (stealth frigate) INS Shivalik steams past the US Carrier during the ongoing Exercise Malabar-2015. Pic courtesy: Indian Navy

China views India’s embrace of US, Japan and entities on its periphery with suspicion. India’s pro-active role whether in engaging with nations in the Indo-Pacific littoral or in the military build-up along the border has been entirely unprecedented.

Seen from Beijing, the neighbourhood isn’t exactly welcoming at present. It has enjoyed better ties with Japan, Vietnam and Australia  in the past.  In addition, there is a resurgent United States which is willing to call its bluff whether in the economic sphere or in the strategic one.

What now?

History offers an interesting even if not entirely relevant lesson.

The year was 1989. The month was June.

In the heart of the Chinese capital, the country’s military had been used against its citizens. Thereafter unfolded the trauma at Tiananmen Square.

Not too long after, China’s competitor communist nation the Soviet Union too vanished.

India wondered if the Chinese would be interested in settling the boundary dispute over which the nations fought a bitter war only three decades before.

Former National Security Adviser (NSA) and foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, a junior diplomat in 1992 told the then Foreign Secretary JN Dixit, ‘Fears (from the Tiananamen Square and Soviet Union’s collapse) should make the Chinese leadership willing to ensure peace along the border with India, freeing the Chinese government to deal with more pressing concerns’.

Turned out, the Chinese were receptive.

In his book, ‘Choices – Inside the making of India’s Foreign Policy’, Menon notes that by September of 1993, the first agreement of its kind on the border between India and China had been inked.

What is important to note however is this – China today has a President who has secured a mandate ‘for life’ whereas Modi, almost at the end of his term, has to seek one next year.

POSTSCRIPT: As Sushma Swaraj boarded the aircraft to take her to Beijing on April 21, investigating agencies confirmed the location of the wanted diamond merchant Nirav Modi – Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.



SINO-INDIAN BORDER: After years of escalation, the unmarked line is cooling down. I report.

Story appeared in MAIL TODAY on December 30, 2016

2 MINUTE VIDEO explaining the story:




It is early morning in Handwara town in north Kashmir

LONG STORY (30 minutes) AIRED ON INDIA TODAY TV ON OCT 1 & 2, 2016:


Youth in the village of Naogam Patwari assembled when they saw us, the ‘Indian media’.
Condition of the village road left a lot to be desired. People told us that barring the army, they simply had no one to rely on.


Somewhere along the Line of Control, Border Security Force personnel stand guard

Self-made Light Combat Helo’s 1st rocket firing – All about it here

LCH Rocket firing

After successful completion of basic performance flight testing and outstation trials for cold weather, hot weather and hot & high altitude testing in the year 2015, the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) has achieved yet another milestone by satisfactory firing of Rockets (70 mm) from its prototype, TD-3 in weaponized configuration.


“The initial rocket firing trials have been carried out at Jaisalmer, establishing satisfactory integration of hardware and software, structural integrity and safe separation of rocket ammunition. Integration of weapons such as Rocket, Turret Gun (20 mm) and Air to Air Missile on LCH will further continue”, says Mr. T. Suvarna Raju, CMD, HAL. “These trials give us confidence for carrying out certification firing trials planned during Apr-May 2016”, he adds. LCH will participate in IAF’s `Iron Fist 2016’ exercise on March 18, 2016.


The LCH TD-3 is integrated with Electo-Optical (EO) System, Solid State Digital Video Recording System (SSDVR) and 70mm Rocket system in conjunction with an updated Glass Cockpit software to cater for rocket firing.


Light Combat Helicopter (LCH)


LCH is a 5.5-ton class, combat helicopter designed and developed by HAL. It is powered by two Shakti engines and inherits many technical features of the Advanced Light Helicopter. The features that are unique to LCH are sleek and narrow fuselage, tri-cycle crashworthy landing gear, crashworthy and self sealing fuel tanks, armor protection, nuclear and low visibility features which makes the LCH lethal, agile and survivable.


The helicopter would have day/night targeting systems for the crew including the Helmet Pointed Sight and Electro-Optical Pod consisting of CCD camera/FLIR/Laser Range Finder (LRF)/Laser Designator (LD). The LCH is fitted with Self Protection Suite consisting of Radar/Laser Missile warning systems and Counter Measures Dispensing System (CMDS).


The first prototype helicopter had its inaugural flight on Mar 23, 2010. The second and third prototype had their first flight on June 28, 2011 and Nov 12, 2014. LCH TD4 completed its maiden flight on December 1, 2015.  LCH has completed performance trials paving way for certification of basic configuration and a letter to this effect was handed over to HAL by CEMILAC in the presence of Defence Minister on Oct 16, 2015.


(Text and images courtesy HAL, Bengaluru)

BSF: Never let ground realities come in the way of boss’s farewell parade

Story appeared in MAIL TODAY on February 28, 2016


NOTES FROM COVERING GURDASPUR: Forget proactive, we aren’t reacting enough

My queries began a few hours after the attack did. I didn’t want to irk people with questions when they would have been busy coordinating, attending meetings etc. From the moment the operations ended till date, the common cry I hear from those who were to be in the know was ‘we didn’t expect it there, in Punjab’. From a government which likes to project a muscular demeanour on security matters, and don’t cry that it is unfair, expectation was of a better performance.

Did the Punjab Police know about it? Answer was no. Was the Punjab Police made aware by the centre? Answer was no. Were the army and Border Security Force (BSF) aware of such an attack? They were aware of ‘Fidayeen’ (suicide) missions but they expected action in Jammu, not in Punjab. They told me they had fortified themselves in Jammu and were ‘lying in wait’. But what told them that Punjab was untouchable especially in the wake of Indo-Pak Prime Ministerial meeting in Ufa where the momentum for normalization of ties received a fillip – meaty and obvious bait for terrorist organizations to lunge at?

Has Punjab been so quiet post 1993 and devoid of anti-national activities that you overlook the fact that it borders Jammu and that since September 2013, terrorists have struck five times in an arc which brings them closer to Punjab? I am afraid not. Read data collated by South Asia Terrorism Portal (www.satp.prg) on the activities of banned, Pakistan-based, ISI-aided networks like Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) and it tells you of the busy existence that they have been leading while staying away from the headlines. Sustained expressions of pro-Khalistan sentiments, continued presence of a wanted terrorist like BKI chief Wadhwa Singh on the Pakistani soil, recent reports of intentions to use the border to smuggle in explosives to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi, successful smuggling of drugs from across the border, sharing of office space at Nankana Sahib by BKI and Lashkar E Toiba (LeT) are indicators of what, decide for yourself.           

Let us now move to the situation along the 462.45 km International Border (IB) that India and Pakistan share and which runs through Punjab. The Director General of Police (DGP), Punjab police clearly spelt out the route of infiltration using data decoded from the GPS sets the terrorists were carrying. It puts the Border Security Force (BSF) which guards the IB on the mat. Top sources from the force said that it was their Paharipur Border Out Post (BOP) – 20km from Dinanagar police station – where the breach leading to the infiltration occurred. Did the fence show any breach? No. AN underground tunnel found? No. The suspicion is that the terrorists used the rivulets – where there can be no fence – to infiltrate. Were they guarded? Yes, but not as well as they now do them in Jammu. Why so? Because, we did not expect it in Punjab.

Fences and BOPs alone are hardly the issues to worry over. Along the border villages, a few of which I visited, there is unemployment, unbelievable lack of connectivity in terms of communication and physical access and indifference of the local administration. The locals had no good to speak of the BSF which means it does not enjoy the civilian support as it should. Why shouldn’t the BSF embark on civic action programs? Anyway, existing situation implies that the villagers are living in isolation. How will the adversary exploit what I believe are easy pickings is for all to understand. Situation warrants immediate action.

How could ISI ensure smuggling of hundreds of kilograms of explosives and assault rifles to Mumbai via the sea to perpetrate the 1993 blasts? Because, we did not expect that. How could Tiger Memon and his cohorts assemble RDX-laden Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the parking lot of Al Husseini building in Mumbai’s Mahim suburb, a stone’s throw away from the Mahim police station, undetected? Because we did not expect that. How could the ISI ensure that ten trained commandos could sail into Mumbai and execute the 26 November 2008 attacks? Because we didn’t expect them to hijack an Indian fishing boat and kept looking out for a ‘suspicious Pakistani boat’. The number of occasions when our expectations were belied by our adversary are numerous. But the winds do tell when they blow and it is for the wise to pick up the scent.

Are we up for it?