China’s vision of having a world-class army by 2049 has been widely discussed and publicized. However, military experts have questioned this vision owing to several distinct weaknesses plaguing the Chinese PLA (People’s Liberation Army).
Chinese PLA is currently the world’s largest active military force. It traces its roots to the 1927 Nanchang Uprising of the communists against the Nationalists.
The People’s Liberation Army was formed as an armed wing to counter the Anti-Communist purges during the civil wars. Initially called the Red Army, it grew under Mao Zedong and Zhu De from 5,000 troops in 1929 to 200,000in 1933. Now it has 2.03 million active and 510,000 reserve personnel.
S. Desai, a research analyst for the China Studies Programme explains that PLA had two important turning points. First, the US use of advanced and sophisticated weaponry in the first Gulf War of the 1990s compelled PLA to pursue technological advancement.
Second, he says that the Central Military Commission (CMC) chairman, Xi Jinpings championing of the Chinese dream to make PLA a world-class force by 2049 led to its restructuring and rapid modernisation.
However, Desai argues that despite the technological advances and growing military might, PLA has several key weaknesses. “One, PLA is accused of being infected by the peace disease (Hpng bng), peacetime habits (Hpng jix)and peace problems (Hpng jib), as it has not participated in any war since 1979.
This is a condition where a soldiers casual peacetime approach while training could impact wartime combat readiness,” hewrites.
He further says that Xi Jinping knows about this weakness and has therefore introduced changes to PLAs regime to make it train under realistic combat conditions.
“My research also indicates that the number of PLAs bilateral-trilateral military exercises with the foreign armies has increased since 2014 to compensate for the lack of combat experience. But the impact of this change cannot be verified until PRC goes to war,” says the author.
The second weakness that Desai talks about is that PLA’s military modernisation doesn’t make up for the quality of personnel employed, especially in the technology-centric services such as the navy, air force, rocket force and the strategic support force.
China has one of the largest defence budgets and has allocated the most significant share of spending on capital expenditure. To overcome this, PLA improved its recruitment technique by focusing on employing better-qualified students from specialised and technical universities.
“It felt the need to rework its conscription model to achieve the informatisation goal for the armed forces by 2035, which was announced by Xi in the 2017 party congress,” says Desai. He added that it introduced several financial incentives to attract highly educated talent. However, despite positive inducements, recent reports suggest that the gap still exists and PLA is still facing a shortage of skilled expertise to drive its technology-centric services.
After widespread corruption in the PLA in the 1980s, the then chairman, Jiang Zemin introduced reforms that tried to address this problem by dissolving the military-business complex in 1998, but by then the problem had become pervasive.
After Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he launched more than 4000 anti-graft investigations that resulted in the sacking of high-level officers. To compensate for the loss of position of influential officials which could’ve led to resistance within the army, they were given appropriate positions throughout the rank and files of PLA.
“Although this has reduced the resistance, the effectiveness of the reforms, which were meant to reduce corruption, can be questioned,” says Desai.
Another weakness the Desai brings forward is the rising revenue expenditure of the PLA. “China also has the largest pool of 57 million PLA veterans, demanding post-retirement benefits and better retirement deals. These post-retirement wages, pensions and living subsidies are incurred from Chinas defence spending. Rising revenue bills, since 2018, will certainly impact capital expenditure in the near future,” he states.
Another revenue expenditure is the commissioning cost to maintain existing weaponry. Thus, the author concludes that the rising revenue bills and increasing maintenance cost will slow Chinas military modernisation drive.
He pointed out that other than these reasons, PLA has other weaknesses such as “limited strategic airlift and open-sea refuelling capabilities, limited overseas military bases, lack of joint operations capabilities and the lack of a rotational system within the lower-ranked officers of PLA”.
He concluded by saying that these limitations will not only impact the Chinese dream but also alter its capabilities to attain its strategic military guidelines in the future.
The Indian Navy has rejected the contract for Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Indian Navy believes that that Advanced Light Helicopters by HAL does not meet its requirement and that there is a dire need to establish alternative capability in the private sector to manufacture modern choppers.
A report by Economic Times states the naval version of the ALH that is being offered does not meet basic qualitative requirements and is unsuitable for the role required, including urgent Search and Rescue (SAR) missions at sea.
The ALH has a rigid rotor head and has been designed for high altitude operations. The problem is that the design limits it in terms of the blade folding capability. In missions such as SAR, every minute is precious and the ALH just takes too much time to be deployed,” a source said.
While the navy is already operating the ALH in a utility role, it requires 111 helicopters for deployment onboard ships to carry out multiple roles, including surveillance and ferrying supplies. The requirement is urgent and a specialised chopper is needed that can be quickly deployed and retrieved and can be stored in the space-constrained hangar on board all vessels.
The process to acquire the choppers is already in advanced stages with four Indian companies shortlisted who can partner with a foreign technology provider to make the helicopters domestically.
However, ever since HAL entered the fray, the final decision has been delayed. In the original tender document, it was specified that only private sector companies are eligible to take part in the contest.
ET quoting its sources said that there is a need to have the capacity in the private sector too for manufacturing modern aircraft and the Navy Utility Helicopter (NUH) programme will enable the identified winner to procure technology and skills.
Besides the navy requirement, the winning company will have a large domestic civilian market to tap, besides a robust export potential.The contract is worth 21,000 crore rupees and is line with the Make in India Initiative of the Narendra Modi government.
During the Operation Meghdoot in Siachen in 1984, the Indian Army kept a close watch on suppliers of Arctic gear in Europe, leading to a discovery that the Pakistanis had ordered 150 sets from a dealer in the UK.
Despite several rounds of meeting, India and China have not been able to defuse border tensions in the Ladakh region and it is unlikely that Chinese PLA soldiers will pull-out from the positions they are holding.
The Indian Army has started preparing itself to be stationed along the Line of Actual Control during the harsh winters as New Delhi fears further transgression by China and a possible repeat of Siachen conflict that erupted between India and Pakistan in 1984.
HindustanTimes citing Indian government officials claims the Indian Army has asked its defence attaches posted in embassies in the US, Russia and Europe to explore warm clothes and snow tent manufacturers in case there is a need for emergency buying due to ongoing India-China conflict.
During the Operation Meghdoot in Siachen in 1984, the Indian Army kept a close watch on suppliers of Arctic gear in Europe, leading to a discovery that the Pakistanis had ordered 150 sets from a dealer in the UK. India also acquired the Arctic gear and launched a full-fledged operation in the summer of 1984 to pre-empt the Pakistanis and take full control of the Siachen Glacier.
The HT report says that the Indian Army is clear that they will have to defend critical points along the LAC in specific areas to prevent any Chinese PLA hostility next year. After the PLA aggression, we dont trust the Chinese and fear that they will come back again north of Pangong Tso as summer arrives in 2021, said a military commander.
Although the Chinese soldiers have disengaged from patrolling points 14 (Galwan), 15-16 (Hot Springs), the PLA soldiers are still on forward location at patrolling point 17 A (Gogra) and withdrawal from all disputed finger features is a distance away at the Pangong Tso.
With the harsh and arid climate of Ladakh, not much snow is anticipated in the general area of patrolling points 15, 16 or 17, but at Chang La which is over 17,000 feet, gets draped in snow and lies en route to Pangong Tso.
To cater for winter clothing needs, we have not only placed orders with domestic suppliers but also directed soldiers other than those stationed on Saltoro ridge and Siachen glacier to give up extreme snow clothing, HT quoted a commander saying.
Anil Ambani and Rafale Jets: In 2016, India and France signed a purchase agreement for the supply of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a value of 7.87 billion, or about Rs 60,000 crore. Under the agreement, the 36 Rafale procurement offset proposal supports the ‘Make In India’ initiative.
India recently received five Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jets from France. The touchdown of Rafale jets has resurrected the controversies surrounding the French origin aircraft, one of which had roped in business tycoon Anil Ambani.
Several opposition leaders and critics had raised the question about the joint venture of Dassault Aviation with Ambani’s Reliance group.
Anil Ambani’s several group companies have declared bankruptcy and numerous assets have been taken over by banks.The latest one in the list is Yes Bank’s takeover of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group headquarters at Santacruz and two other offices in south Mumbai over the recovery of Rs. 2892 crore loan to Reliance Infrastructure.
In 2016, India and France signed a purchase agreement for the supply of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a value of 7.87 billion, or about Rs 60,000 crore. Under the agreement, the 36 Rafale procurement offset proposal supports the ‘Make In India’ initiative. It means that the French side will facilitate the implementation of ‘Make In India’ by the industrial supplier through offsets for 50% value of the supply protocol.
Merely two weeks later, Dassault and Reliance announced their joint-venture Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL). It was reported in 2019 that Dassault Aviation is likely to start manufacturing components of the Rafale fighter jets at the Nagpur facility of DRAL, with the wares destined for global customers.
Opposition parties and netizens raised the question that despite no experience in aircraft production, why Ambani’s sinking company was awarded the contract instead of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. It was alleged that the deal was made because of Ambani’s closeness to the top government officials. The opposition leaders also alleged that the deal as “promoted corruption”.
Meanwhile, former French president Francois Hollande, who negotiated the Rafale deal with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, declared that it was the Indian government who proposed Reliance — “we had no choice”, he said. However, Dassault had responded saying it was not influenced to pick Anil Ambani’s company.
Later, it was reported by the French media that the French government gave a tax exemption of about 1100 crores to a company of Anil Ambani between February and October 2015. According to the report, a few months before this tax relief, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his plans to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft with French company Dassault Aviation.
Congress party’s election campaign for 2019 Lok Sabha elections focused on the Rafale deal alleging that an overpriced deal has been signed as an offset contract for Anil Ambani’s inexperienced defence company. The government rubbished such claims.
Following a Congress petition, the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the government and confirmed its earlier order that no irregularities or corruption were found in the deal.
Anil Ambani’s Downfall
In the last two decades, after the partition of the Reliance empire due to the founder’s death, Dhirubhai Ambani, the two heirs Mukesh and Anil have followed an opposite trajectory. While Mukesh Ambani became the 6th richest person in the world, Anil Ambani has reportedly admitted in a London court that his net worth is zero and he “doesn’t hold any meaningful assets”.
From being the 6th richest man in 2008, Anil Ambani explored several lines of business but things started to go downhill after losing a Supreme court case in 2010 against his brother, Mukesh Ambani.
Soon after, the share price of Reliance Power plummeted, it compelled Anil Ambani to take loans from banks and foreign institutions. Economic affairs analysts believe that till some time ago corporate houses belonging to powerful and political parties were able to delay repayment despite heavy debts, but after NPA (Non-Performing Asset) become a political matter, it became difficult to do so.
Experts also argue that the change in laws has impacted such practices. Now debtors can declare companies as insolvent through National Company Law Tribunal and drag them to court to repay the creditor. In the last decade, Anil Ambani’s debt has increased which eventually led him to declare bankruptcy or sell the stake of his companies.
Netizens have wondered with the arrival of ‘much anticipated’ Rafale jets, will the fortunes of Anil Ambani change for good?