The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has offered to develop a new twin-engine deck-based fighter aircraft for the Navy based on the experience of the naval light combat aircraft (LCA) and it should be ready by 2026, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Karambir Singh, said on Tuesday. He said the Navy expected to have the first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-I) Vikrant operational by 2022.
“The Qualitative Requirements [QR] are being made. They said they should be able to push it [the fighter aircraft] out by 2026. If it meets our time and QR requirements, we will definitely take it,” he said at the annual press conference ahead of the Navy Day.
The naval LCA recently successfully completed the take-off and landing trials on the shore-based test facility (SBTF) in Goa.
Adm. Singh said the current LCA Mk-1 was a technology demonstrator and it would further be put to carrier compatibility tests. And if it worked, whatever lessons they had learnt would be ploughed back by the DRDO into the new fighter to be developed.
On the need for a third aircraft carrier, Adm. Singh said, “As the Navy chief, I am convinced the country requires three aircraft carriers so that two are operational at any given time.”
New aircraft carrier
He said they were preparing the case for IAC-2 and finalising the requirements. After this, they would go to the government for Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) and it would be followed by design consultancy to decide the exact contours.
On the IAC-I, which is under an advanced stage of construction in Kochi, Adm. Singh said all ship-build issues “are over” and trials would begin now. “We are almost certain that we will take delivery by February-March 2021, he stated and added that aviation trials would take a year after that. “We should have a fully operational carrier by 2022.”
The Navy is scheduled to host its largest multilateral exercise, MILAN off the coast of Visakhapatnam in March 2020, for which 41 countries have been invited. So far, over 15 countries have confirmed their participation. However, China has not been invited.
Asked as to why China has been left out, Adm Singh said they invited “like-minded” countries with whom they have interacted earlier.
INS Vikrant, also known as Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1 (IAC-1), is an aircraft carrier under construction by Cochin Shipyard in Kochi, Kerala for the Indian Navy.
It is the first aircraft carrier to be built in India. The name Vikrant (Sanskrit vikrānta, literally "stepping beyond") means "courageous".
The motto of the ship is Jayema Sam Yudhi Sprdhah, which is taken from Rigveda 1.8.3 and can be translated as "I defeat those who fight against me".
Work on the ship's design began in 1999, and the keel was laid in February 2009. The carrier was floated out of its dry dock on 29 December 2011 and was launched on 12 August 2013.
As of 2019, the ship is expected to start sea trials in February 2021 and enter into service in early 2023. The project cost has escalated to ₹19,341 crore (US$2.8 billion) as of 2014
Waiting for change
The BCCI is subtly pushing for a rollback of its reworked constitution
Indian cricket operates at two levels as its heroics on the field are often juxtaposed with a state of limbo off the turf. Virat Kohli’s men have relished a scalding hot winning streak and it is a contrast to the slow wheels of change that coursed through the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over the last few years. The introspective bout started with the spot-fixing scandal that rocked the IPL’s 2013 edition. A few players and officials came under the scanner for under-performance and betting. The Supreme Court stepped in and appointed the Lodha Committee to devise corrective measures besides unveiling a set of administrative reforms within the BCCI. The Committee of Administrators helmed by Vinod Rai, oversaw the implementation of reforms that evoked dogged resistance from the BCCI’s old guard. Eventually, a new dispensation led by president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah took shape. And the much-delayed BCCI annual general meeting held at Mumbai, after a gap of three years, on Sunday, was expected to take the sporting behemoth forward. It partially did that by backing enhanced subsidies for State associations and a higher pay-scale for senior domestic cricketers. Yet, it turned out to be a sluggish exercise as the BCCI sought clarity from the Supreme Court on some constitutional amendments that the former seeks to make.
The powers of its office-bearers, the tenure of its president and secretary, a relaxation of the age-cap of 70 specific to its representative at the International Cricket Council and an exemption from seeking the Supreme Court’s approval for every amendment to its constitution are the various factors about which the board has requested a second gaze from the law. These issues were seemingly sorted through the Lodha Committee’s reworked constitution but in seeking the court’s clarification, the BCCI is pushing for a rollback without trying to be seen as confrontational. The Lodha reforms were aimed at removing the veil of bias that often blinds any old boys’ club.
Transparency was its byword but some of its suggested rules were constricting. For instance the insistence that an office-bearer who has served two terms of three years each, be it at the State or board level, has to compulsorily take a three-year cooling-off period can go against the grain of cumulative wisdom acquired over the years.
It is a rule that would mean the current president and secretary will have to relinquish office within a year as both Ganguly and Shah have already served five years in their respective State associations — Bengal and Gujarat. The Supreme Court may reshape some rules and its last word is essential to lubricate Indian cricket’s conveyor belt
Managing Hong Kong
This outcome is a strong show of support for the protesters in a first real test of sentiment in the territory since protests began early in 2019 over the introduction of a bill authorising extraditions to mainland China. In her statement, the embattled leader of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, said her government respected the results and would “listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect”.
It is not clear, however, if the voices of the Hong Kong street protests would be heard in Beijing where there is little incentive for Xi Jinping to change his approach. Instead he might just double down on his hardline approach as his options shrink faster than he would have anticipated when the crisis started earlier this year.
This is particularly problematic for Mr. Xi as he held the Hong Kong portfolio on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee before he became China’s de facto emperor. He seems to have an implicit faith in his unyielding tough stance, and as he has centralised power to an unprecedented level, there is no one else to share any blame for the policies enunciated by Mr. Xi. Not surprisingly, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has reiterated that “no matter what happens, Hong Kong is a part of China” and warned that “any attempt to mess up Hong Kong, or even damage its prosperity and stability, will not succeed.”
Yet the inability of the Xi regime to exercise control came into sharp relief when a massive trove of classified Chinese government documents was leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, showcasing a much more granular narrative of how China is carrying out the mass detention of Muslim Uighurs and other minorities in its northwest Xinjiang province. These documents belie repeated Chinese claims that it is sending the estimated million or more people to vocational training schools with the notional goal of combating terrorism. What is even more of an eye-opener is that Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide had been instrumental in facilitating the mass detention. Every time such details emerge, they diminish China’s global credibility. It might not seem much on the surface but China’s global stature does take a beating.
For Mr. Xi, this growing global backlash has enormous costs back home. There are no good options for him in Hong Kong. If he continues his hard-line approach, he will make the ground situation worse in Hong Kong but making concessions also is not a very viable option for him as it is not readily evident how far the demands might go. Though the extradition bill has been withdrawn, the demands of protesters in Hong Kong have grown to include genuine universal suffrage and an inquiry into allegations of police brutality. From Hong Kong to Taiwan where there are elections in January, there is only a short distance.
Effect on party dynamics
Mr. Xi’s reputation as a leader who will lead China’s emergence as a major power in the 21st century might also come under a cloud in so far as mainland Chinese is concerned. The delicate balance that the Communist Party has managed to evolve in the politics of China can be frayed if ordinary Chinese believe their leadership is incapable of managing turmoil.
There is also a chance of internecine rivalries within the Communist Party flaring up as Mr. Xi’s policies take a hit. He has made a lot of enemies in his drive to emerge as the supreme leader and he has been ruthless with his opponents. Some of them would be waiting in the wings to respond in kind. The Chinese economy is not doing well. There is growing internal criticism of Mr. Xi’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative and the costs China is having to bear for a grandiose project, driven more by Mr. Xi’s vanity than by sound economic logic. China’s aggressive influence operations in other countries are also generating strong backlash, with new revelations coming out every few months. Most recently, the Australian media has reported on an alleged Chinese plot to plant a spy in the Australian Parliament which has been termed as “deeply disturbing” by the Australian Prime Minister and is being investigated now by the nation’s domestic spy agency. This along with reports that a Chinese spy has applied for asylum in Australia after providing information about Chinese operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia and suggesting that he was “personally involved” in espionage work has damaged an already battered Chinese global image.
As pressures mount on Xi Jinping and the Communist Party, there are dangers that Beijing might want to divert attention from its own internal failures by lashing out at the world. New Delhi should guard against any Chinese misadventures even as it prepares itself to deal with negative externalities emerging out of the multiple crises brewing in Beijing.