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  • BRICS comes of age at Durban

    BRICS is not challenging the existing world order. It is seeking a place in the sun for developing countries. It is looking at alternative approaches but there is no desire to seek confrontation with the West.

    April 01, 2013

    Operational Lessons of the Wars of 21st Century

    Operational Lessons of the Wars of 21st Century

    Military capabilities matter. Countries and regions where wars have taken place have one important attribute- battle and operational experience. The monograph examines 21st century wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Georgia and Libya. New trend of cyber war is also included. Key highlights have been extracted and distilled into lessons to be learnt.


    Pravimal Abhishek: What are the fundamental principles behind the stand taken by Russia, China and India on the Syrian crisis?

    Rajeev Agarwal replies: Russia, China and India have taken respective principled stand on the crisis in Syria based on their core national interests, and not only in Syria but the region as a whole. Also, the upheavals in the Arab World in 2011-12 and the international reaction to help usher in new regimes too has been a contributing factor towards their stand. The most striking example is that of Libya where the UN resolution to enforce 'No Fly Zone' and 'Protection of Population' was used as a pretext to launch aerial strikes.

    The position of each of the three countries towards the Syrian crisis is as:

    Russia - For Russia, Syria is one of the most trusted and strategic allies in the region. Syria is a huge market for Russian weapon systems including the latest air defence systems like S-300 and S-400. The port in Tartus in Syria is the only naval base of Russia in the Mediterranean and is therefore of strategic importance.

    China - China has strong economic ties with Syria. It has vetoed all UNSC resolutions on Syria, fearing a repeat of Libya type of situation. China is monitoring the situation in Syria closely, and may re-assess its stand on Syria.

    India - India does not have any major strategic interests in Syria. Neither does it have any major trade linkages or diaspora. The factors that could be influencing India's stand on Syria are its opposition to external intervention in a country and may be partly by the fact that Syria is Iran's key ally. India obviously wants to move forward with Iran, key to many of India's core interests in the region, i.e. energy, transit to Central Asia, etc. It has strongly expressed deep concerns on the continuing and unabated violence, and has called upon all sides in Syria to abjure violence and resolve all issues peacefully. In this regard, India has supported the 6-Point Plan of Kofi Annan.

    For a detailed insight into the Syrian crisis, refer to my comment on IDSA website titled, “Signs of Change in Syria”, dated December 24, 2012, at

    Sambit Patra asked: Is the lease of the Russian Nerpa class submarine, with its non-combat clause, justified? Should India have gone for either a Borie or Typhoon class?

    S.S. Parmar replies: To understand the rationale behind the leasing of the Russian Nerpa class submarine (renamed INS Chakra), a look at the time line of India’s nuclear submarine programme and some treaties like Non Proliferation and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is essential.

    India had earlier leased and operated a Charlie class Russian nuclear submarine from 1988 to 1992 for training its personnel on nuclear powered submarines. This submarine was also called INS Chakra. Construction of the Nerpa class submarine commenced in 1993 and it was scheduled for delivery in 2007 on lease to India. However, various reports indicate that issues related to equipment and an accident at sea resulted in the delay. The Typhoon class submarines have been in service since 1981 and are due to be decommissioned (removed from service) reportedly due to restrictions imposed on Russia by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. However, as per reports, no such decision to remove from service has been made and the submarines would remain with the Russian Navy. Given this situation, taking the Typhoon class on lease would not have been beneficial to India. The Typhoon class is scheduled to be replaced by the Borei class. Construction of the Borei class began in 1996. By that time, in all probability, the deal between India and Russia for the Nerpa would have been concluded.

    It is surmised that no matter which submarine India would have taken on lease, the non combat clause would have been applied. As per reports, the Russian submarine (Nerpa) can carry strategic weapons but they are not being transferred to India because of the MTCR. Out of the 10 tubes, four are blank, while six are open. The MTCR prevents the transfer of missiles above the range of 50 nautical miles, and Russia has never flouted the MTCR. The four blanked-out tubes are for bigger weapons with a wider diameter.

    Apart from the international treaties the cost factor of acquiring, maintaining and operating a nuclear powered submarine is also a consideration. Admiral Arun Prakash, India’ former Chief of Naval Staff, had remarked, “The problems with acquiring a foreign nuclear submarine on lease are obvious: the current sources are limited (until the Nuclear Suppliers Group looks more benignly at us), it will carry a conventional weapon load, and it will come at a huge cost.”

    Therefore, the taking on lease of the Nerpa class submarine by India is mainly to gain expertise and experience before India develops its indigenous nuclear powered submarines. In this respect, the deal for the Nerpa, given the circumstances and time line mentioned above, could be considered optimal.

    Russia’s Destiny is now in Putin’s Hands

    Although Russia plays a weak hand due to structural problems in the economy and several deficiencies in the political and social order, Putin will try and leverage Russia’ substantial advantages—energy being one of them—to Russia’s advantage.

    May 21, 2012

    BRICS: In Search of Unity?

    While their growing economic clout has brought Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa together, translating the hand holding gestures at the end of each summit into real unity is likely to remain a daunting task.

    April 03, 2012

    Russian Presidential Elections: Domestic Realities and Foreign Policy Initiatives

    Although Putin's return to the presidency will probably ensure an element of continuity in the system when looked through the prism of managed democracy, bureaucratic capitalism, and widespread corruption, political and economic reforms are the need of the hour in Russia.

    March 30, 2012

    Popular Demonstrations in Russia and Putin’s Return to the Presidency

    Putin is likely to overcome ongoing protests and return as President in the March elections, although his popularity could fall further if he fails to respond to the growing signs of discontent on significant issues relating to transparency and accountability.

    January 23, 2012

    Russia Post March 2012: A Prognosis

    With Putin expected to assume the Presidency in March 2012, one can expect a more assertive Russia in its dealings with the West though there may not be any major changes in current policies.

    November 29, 2011

    Ukraine's Flirtation with China and Russia's Quest for a Eurasian Union

    Ukraine has resisted Russian attempts to draw it into a closer political and economic embrace and has instead explored a closer association with the EU, NATO and even China. Recent developments indicate a turnaround in the Ukrainian attitude and may portend a closer relationship with Russia and the CIS states.

    November 04, 2011