Thursday, 24 October 2019
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India

By George Friedman

The U.S. government issued a warning Oct. 3 advising Americans traveling to Europe to be "vigilant." U.S. intelligence apparently has acquired information indicating that al Qaeda is planning to carry out attacks in European cities similar to those carried out in Mumbai, India, in November 2008. In Mumbai, attackers armed with firearms, grenades and small, timed explosive devices targeted hotels frequented by Western tourists and other buildings in an attack that took three days to put down.

European security forces are far better trained and prepared than their Indian counterparts, and such an attack would be unlikely to last for hours, much less days, in a European country. Still, armed assaults conducted by suicide operatives could be expected to cause many casualties and certainly create a dramatic disruption to economic and social life.

The first question to ask about the Oct. 3 warning, which lacked specific and actionable intelligence, is how someone can be vigilant against such an attack. There are some specific steps that people can and should take to practice good situational awareness as well as some common-sense travel-security precautions. But if you find yourself sleeping in a hotel room as gunmen attack the building, rush to your floor and start entering rooms, a government warning simply to be vigilant would have very little meaning.

The world is awash in intelligence about terrorism. Most of it is meaningless speculation, a conversation intercepted between two Arabs about how they'd love to blow up London Bridge. The problem, of course, is how to distinguish between idle chatter and actual attack planning. There is no science involved in this, but there are obvious guidelines. Are the people known to be associated with radical Islamists? Do they have the intent and capability to conduct such an attack? Were any specific details mentioned in the conversation that can be vetted? Is there other intelligence to support the plot discussed in the conversation?

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By Deba R Mohanty

The Chief of the Indian Air Force ACM PV Naik has gone on record recently to admit that half of India's aerospace fighter arsenal is obsolete. The defence minister, AK Antony, subsequently tried to play this down by urging that the Indian defence industry must be encouraged by the state to improve the degree of self-reliance and fight obsolescence. If this was not enough, ACM Naik also warned that the security situation in and around India was like a 'volcano', which necessitated an extremely high level of preparedness by the air force, in particular, and the entire armed forces, in general. If unstable security conditions as well as strategic global aspirations require India to build a formidable military capability, 'obsolescence' is one problem that should not have affected the armed forces as badly as it has today.

Let's see how prepared the Indian armed forces are for any situation. Not only the Indian aerospace but also land and naval arsenals are fast becoming obsolete. Consider this: the IAF has a sanctioned strength of 39.5 combat squadrons, yet is barely 30 squadrons strong now, and aims to have a 45 squadron strength in the near future, if former ACM Fali Major is to be believed. If four to six squadrons of MiGs are to be phased out and the 126 MMRCA and LCAs are not replenished in time, India is likely to manage with about 26 fighter squadrons for the next six to seven years! Even acquisitions of Su-30s would not be able to compensate for some time and the joint development of the fifth generation fighter (with Russia) can only happen by the early 2020s, if everything goes according to plan. Transport, trainers, heavy lifts, medium and heavy choppers, mid-air refuellers and others are also in short supply, if the desirable level of Indian aerospace power is taken into consideration. The situation is worrisome.

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