Defence

India Commissions its First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier

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“Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the new Naval Ensign for Indian Navy at Kochi on 2 September 2022 on the sidelines of the commissioning of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant,” Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a statement.  

“The new Naval Ensign has done away with the Saint George’s Cross in centre which is symbolic of Indian Navy’s historic association with United Kingdom. The first change to the Indian Navy Ensign, post-independence was made in 1950, where in the Indian tri colour was inserted on the left top corner,” it added.

The statement further reads as follows;

It may be recalled the other aircraft carrier of Indian Navy INS Vikramaditya had visited Colombo in January 2016, generated huge interest amongst the locals and strengthened the bonds of friendship between the two countries. In continuation of India’s maritime cooperation with Sri Lanka, a Dornier Maritime aircraft was gifted to Sri Lanka Air Force on 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence on 15 August 2022. The Dornier will enhance endeavours of Sri Lanka for maritime security in the region.

The commissioning of the first indigenous 45,000 Tons Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant has showcased the quantum leap by India to design, build and operate an Aircraft Carrier, which is the most advanced and extremely complex platform operated at sea. The ship is 262m long and can cruise upto 28 knots. The ship can carry more than 30 aircraft and helicopters onboard including indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).

Indian Navy has been actively engaged with Sri Lanka Navy in facilitating engagements like Deck Landing Practice and Copilot experience on indigenous ALHand Sail Training Experience onboard INS Tarangini for SLAF/ SLN personnel in March 2022.In line with the Government of India’s ‘Neighbourhood  First Policy’ spares for SLNS Sagara, SLCG Suraksha and AN 32 are being, provided on grant basis byGovernment of India to ensure optimal operational availability of platform and thereby improve security in the region.

Supporting Sri Lanka’s fight against COVID-19, Indian Naval Ship Shakti arrived in Colombo on 22 August 2021 carrying100 tons of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) from Visakhapatnam.Further, Indian Naval Ship Gharial was specially tasked for expeditious delivery of medical supplies to Sri Lanka in April and June 2022. To commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence, an Artificial Limb Camp, sponsored by Government of India was conducted by Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), an Indian NGO for the disabled defence personnel of Sri Lanka Armed Forces in Colombo and Jaffna in February-March 2022.

Towards capability and capacity building measures for Sri Lankan Armed Forces, agreements were signed for provisioning of 4000T Floating Dock and installation of Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre for SL Navy in March 2022. The initiatives by Government of India would help in realisation of the vision ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’ (SAGAR).

Sri Lanka’s First Firm Steps at Economic Reforms

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe took tentative steps to bring a semblance of orderly governance during the month. He ended the month presenting an interim budget to stabilize economic growth with the aim to create a surplus by 2025. After the exit of the Rajapaksa’s, the hopes of Wickremesinghe restoring democratic governance were belied when the government used the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to rounded up the Aragalaya leaders, drawing severe criticism from civil society and the UNHRC. There is a sense of disappointment among the people to see parliamentarians reverting to riding their hobby horse – jockeying for power, tinkering with legislation in the name of curbing executive powers of the president and endlessly talk of the elusive “all party government”.

On the positive side, the young energy minister Kanchana Wijesekara seems to be making honest efforts to tame and rationalise energy pricing and distribution. The talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have progressed, though efforts to reschedule creditors is making halting progress, with China playing truant. President Wickremesinghe seems to have succeeded in his tightrope act in foreign policy so far, despite the India-China differences coming alive over China berthing its spy ship in Hambantota port in spite of India’s security concerns.

Interim budget and economic reforms

Presenting the Budget, President Wickremesinghe said the government’s aim is “to create a surplus in the primary budget by the year 2025.” The Daily FT listed six salient aspects of the budget. These included the announcement on billions of rupees-worth social safety measures, quit notices to public servants over 60, restructuring for key 50 state owned enterprises (SOE), measures to kickstart revival in agriculture, industry and tourism, write off default loan of farmers and announcement of wide-ranging revisions to many existing legislations. Every Sri Lankan would agree with his remark that the country “can no longer be a nation dependent on loan assistance, we can also no longer be used as a tool of interference by other countries with strong economies. All our collective vision should be to make our country strong and stable, in order to stand independently.”

However, Wickremesinghe’s reiteration of the call to political parties to join the “All Party Government” probably has only some cosmetic value to the political discourse as the APG is a non-starter. While this may be the need of the hour, much will depend upon how the political cookie crumbles. As he said, if Sri Lanka “miss these opportunities, we will be marginalized globally.” But the credibility of his remarks is weakened as the same tainted political class is still calling the shots in the present government. There is talk of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa returning home on September 24 from his self-exile in Thailand. If that comes true, Wickremesinghe should get ready to handle the unsavoury task of yet another socio-political turbulence.

The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has welcomed the budget. SJB MP and economist Dr Harsha de Silva saw it as an attempt by the President to change the course of the country into a ‘modern productive enterprise’ by undertaking serious reforms to stabilise and restructure the economy. To achieve this, the President has proposed the introduction of new laws like the Public Finance Management Act to run the affairs of the government and amendments to the Monetary Law Act to reduce the pressure on the Central Bank from Treasury and reduce money printing. The introduction of the new laws will have a more disciplined system of governance.

Well entrenched political and trade union interests in SOE and among public servants, Wickremesinghe is likely to face a tough task at every step in fulfilling this part of the agenda. As Dr de Silva pointed out “They (SLPP) opposed every type and every time reforms were brought up for four decades. It is a quirk of circumstances and fate almost that is them who will have to do these reforms now.” The state-owned Sri Lankan airlines is a case in point. It has accumulated a staggering $ 1 billion debt and dues comprising of $ 175 million government guaranteed international bond, $ 380 million payable to state banks, BOC and Peoples Bank and $ 80 million loan taken from BOC by mortgaging shares of Sri Lankan Catering. The government can no longer fund the national carrier given the country’s financial, forex and economic crisis.

However, the privatisation of this white elephant is going to be an uphill task, as leftist trade unions rule the roost in most of the SOEs and see a red flag in any talk of privatisation. Already, there are protests voiced against the proposed privatisation of retail distribution of fuel. Ultimately, when IMF’s structural reforms come into full play, Sri Lankans will have no option but to corral and weed out 60 odd white elephants of SOE. As PM in the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government, Wickremesinghe had co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 adopted in 2015. To retain his international credibility, he will have to bring the issue to a logical conclusion by establishing a credible judicial process to bring to book alleged right abusers. This is a humongous task as the President is dependent upon the SLPP support.

The first step in improving the government’s accountability process would be to abolish the PTA “one of the key enablers of arbitrary detention for over decades” as described by a UN body. Unfortunately, the government has used it to arrest Aragalaya protestors. Instead of doing away with PTA, the government efforts are on subsume its provisions in a National Security Act (NSA). This could only bring international criticism to the government, when it is trying to maximise its economic support. Of course, the larger question of implementing 13th Amendment in full is still lingering and this is yet another pressure point.

China’s Wolf Warrior diplomacy in action

China’s “spy ship” Yuan Wang-5 docked in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port from August 16 to 22 disregarding the security concerns of both India and the US and turning down Sri Lanka’s request to defer the visit. The research ship belonging to the PLA’s 5th branch – the Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) – created in December 2015, can carry out space, cyber and electronic warfare. It also has the capability to assist PLA’s land-based stations in tracking satellite, rocket and ICBM launches within a range of 750 km. There is more to China’s insistence on docking Yuan Wang-5 in Hambantota port than refuelling and replenishment.

China was testing the depth of India-Sri Lanka relations which have become closer than ever before. It is also a strong affirmation of China’s influence on Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean Region. This was indicated in an op-ed the Chinese ambassador to Colombo Qi Zhenhong wrote in Sri Lanka media. Hinting at India, he warned “any infringement on the national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka shall not be tolerated” (obviously by China). He further added, “External obstruction based on the so-called ‘security concerns’ but without any evidence from certain forces is de facto a thorough interference into Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence.”

The Chinese ambassador also reminded Sri Lanka of the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council to be held in Geneva where human rights issues of Sri Lanka might be stirred up, where China could help. India took strong exception to the Chinese envoy’s article. The Indian High Commission in Colombo departing from the norm, let loose broadsides on the article saying, “His violation of basic diplomatic etiquette may be a personal trait or reflecting a larger national attitude.” It added, “His views of Sri Lanka’s northern neighbour may be coloured by how his own country behaves. India, we assure him, is different. His imputing a geopolitical context to the visit of a purported scientific research vessel is a giveaway.”

It is evident, India is not prepared to tolerate any more needling from China. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar during his South American tour explained that the relationship (with China) cannot be a one-way street. “They are our neighbour, and everybody wants to get along with their neighbour…But everybody wants to get along with their neighbour on reasonable terms. I must respect you and you must respect me.” He stressed that each one will have their interests and we need to be sensitive to what the concerns are of the other party.

Tailpiece: Yuan Wang-5 is currently 400 nautical miles South-Southeast of Dondra Head at the southernmost tip of the island nation. It is a matter of detail that the vessel is mapping the ocean bed in an area close to the US military base in Diego Garcia.

This article is a part of Sri Lanka Guardian Syndication. This was originally published in Security Risks Asia, a Delhi-based Think Tank. Click here to visit the original source.

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Brussels: Hideaway of Espionage

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Conjure up a list of cities considered world capitals of espionage. Those featured in movies and television, with their romantic atmosphere and scenery, include Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, London, Cairo, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok, and Saigon.

Not to ignore the less romantic but important cities of Moscow, Beijing, and Washington, DC.
By comparison, Brussels seems overlooked by spy novelists and film directors, but its unusual concentration of diplomatic missions to the European Union, NATO, and to Belgium itself brings a high ratio per square kilometer of diplomats and lobbyists—as well as spies. “Washington and Brussels compete for the largest number of embassies and other representations on earth” remarked an ICT (information and communications technology) executive close to the Belgian authorities. He added that the spy agencies of numerous countries, including America, Russia, and China “do whatever they want here; there are so many [espionage] issues going on that Belgian authorities don’t know where to start.”
His view was not contradicted by other Belgians in the private sector and in government, including the police, who requested anonymity when interviewed in July, commenting only on background. Another frustrated business person asked, in relation to China’s efforts, “When will we wake up?”

The observation that Brussels is teeming with foreign agents is not new: several stories appeared during 2018 and 2019, with Politico calling the city a “prime target for spooks,” and Bloomberg, calling it a “gateway for China.” A September, 2019 article in the German daily Die Welt quoted EU sources saying that the streets of Brussels were swarmed by at least 250 Chinese and 200 Russian operatives. According to Die Welt, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Union intelligence arm, warned EU officials to avoid certain restaurants and bars in the “EU District.” Supposedly the lunchtime crowds include Chinese agents trying to listen in on conversations at adjoining tables.

“The Belgians are frankly overwhelmed,” said Nigel Inkster, former director of operations for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6), now the senior advisor for Cyber Security and China at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “They have neither the resources nor the political backing they need to deal with a challenge on this scale.”

Though this problem has been under discussion for years, it seems to be getting worse because there is little action by Belgian policy makers.

One problem, said the ICT executive, is political inertia in Belgium, a country long mired in existential crisis between its Flemish- and French-speaking halves. Due in part to this fragmented political scene, it can take months to assemble a government in Belgium’s parliamentary system after the votes are counted: the most recent example is a 400-day lag between the May, 2019 election and the seating of a government in September the following year. “During this sort of standstill security is not a topic (and) we lack a security mindset in general,” the executive added. “There is insufficient organization and fragmented decision making.”

China Rising

“The power of China is much more than those who are running around here” said another ICT executive. He pointed out that equipment from Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE is still being used in all three major Belgian mobile telephone networks. From an engineering perspective, he opined that the software in telecom switches and other equipment is almost certainly updated remotely with new releases from China. “That means the network could be shut down at will,” disabling communications for the EU, NATO, SHAPE, and Belgian authorities during an emergency. And with frequent software updates being a normal part of operations, “it is virtually impossible to monitor each of them up to the last feature.” [SHAPE, which stands for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, is a NATO command with its own building in Brussels.]

The effect of unreliable communications was painfully demonstrated during the March 2016 terrorist bombings in Brussels, when mobile networks became basically unusable for several hours—including the national emergency network—leaving first responders virtually in the dark. “Belgian policy is merely declarative,” added this ICT executive, “based on all the more studies and promises, but no implementation.” This begs the question, how real is the risk that EU and NATO will be unable to communicate during a crisis if telecommunications are crippled or lost.

The specter of foreign interference with Belgium’s infrastructure was underlined this week when a foreign hack against the prime minister’s office was exposed. The affected equipment housed there serves not only the PM’s chancellery, but also the federal and local police forces, whose officers lost access to their data either briefly or for extended periods.

Belgian cybersecurity officials were uncertain of the origin. Though the sophistication of the hack suggested a major power, “the truth is we don’t know. The investigation has just begun,” said Michel Rignanese of Belgium’s Center for Cybersecurity.

A Belgian executive, speaking confidentially, expressed the similiar uncertainty about about solar modules imported from China—which make up an increasing share of the Belgian power grid that supplies Brussels. He opined that embedded semiconductors could in theory be used from afar to shut off or significantly reduce power to Brussels if desired by the manufacturer during a dispute between NATO and a hostile power.

Ralph Ahlgren, the President and CTO of the Silicon Valley solar company Soleeva, confirmed manipulation of solar technology is a technically feasible. “Megawatt-scale solar installations should always be carefully examined” to measure the risk that “backdoor channels could be used to disable or disrupt” a power network, Ahlgren said, adding that a large percentage of solar inverters used in utilities could be vulnerable in this way, with semiconductors that have a secret purpose. “For that reason, we don’t use products sourced entirely from China.”

“In Belgium there is no safety and security culture,” stated Dr. Kenneth Lasoen, a Belgian Research Fellow specializing in intelligence and defense at Clingendael, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. “The Americans do urge the Belgians to rectify the security situation from time to time,” in particular after the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, which were planned and executed from Belgium. “But then, nothing happens.”

Unfortunately, American counterintelligence training for its personnel in Brussels may not be as robust as one would expect in this target-rich environment: besides the EU and NATO, there is also SHAPE. One experienced American service member commented that they had received no security training since arrival months before, and was surprised to hear that EEAS warned of spies listening in at certain eateries. “It does seem like the Americans may need additional OPSEC training for this environment,” observed Dr. Lasoen.

The Belgian National Security Strategy of 2021 signaled the intent to make the nation a “hostile environment for espionage,” added Lasoen, “but if we also came down hard on the Americans, they might retaliate.”

Another ICT executive also wondered if Washington itself might be behind the lack of action in Brussels. “Why do the Americans let this continue? Are they part of it? Do they actually benefit from it?”

By contrast, in neighboring Holland the Americans “don’t do anything …without notifying Dutch authorities,” said Lasoen, whose work has brought him into regular contact with both Dutch and Belgian intelligence. “Dutch counterintelligence is sufficiently performative to catch operations on their soil.”

Low-Key Response

For its own reasons, Washington may not have chosen to cultivate such a close relationship with Brussels—perhaps because of the plethora of agencies on the Belgian side and the difficult political culture of a small divided country.

Belgium has had it successes, such as the 2016 arrest of militants linked to the 2015 Paris attacks and more recent operations against European drug traffickers. But perhaps its most revealing success was, in retrospect, a stress test for its government: the April 2018 arrest and instantaneous extradition to the U.S. of Xu Yanjun.

Xu is the Chinese Ministry of State Security officer arrested in Brussels during his hitherto successful operation to steal jet engine technology from various sources including General Electric. Xu took one operational risk too many and was nabbed in Brussels, noted an experienced expert on the MSS, based in the U.S.

In spite of Xu’s unprecedented arrest in a Western capital, Beijing made little fuss over his case, with a few statements in English but seemingly none in its state-approved Chinese language media. A web search on the Chinese characters for Xu Yanjun, the Ministry of State Security, and Belgium (徐延军, 国安, 比利时) reveals zero coverage in mainland China’s media of Xu’s extradition to America, presumably to avoid a loss of face amongst the Chinese populace. By contrast, at the time there was wall-to-wall coverage, mug shots and all, from non-communist Chinese language sources outside of the PRC.

The low-key response contrasted sharply with Beijing’s apoplectic reaction in December that same year to the detention in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei, which led the Chinese Communist Party to arrest two Canadians living in China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. They were only released when Meng was allowed to return to China almost three years later. Given that hostage-taking is a longstanding Chinese practice, this was an alarming but unsurprising development.

It may seem odd that Beijing chose not to punish Belgium over Xu’s arrest as they did with Canada over Ms. Meng’s detention. But with an apparently robust and valuable Chinese espionage network on Belgian soil–that may have attracted the Xu operation in the first place–Beijing might logically have decided that squeezing Brussels too hard might blow back, instigate counterintelligence action spoiling the favorable, laisse faire espionage environment there.

More than one Belgian wondered if Washington has made the same calculation: that intelligence collection in Belgium is more important than helping improve the counterintelligence capabilities of an ally. Whether or not this is true, without a significant change of minds in several capitals, including Washington, it seems that Brussels, packed with assets vital to the West, will continue to be a city “pwned” by hostile spies for the foreseeable future.

This article is a part of our syndication and republished with the permission of Spy Talks, where this piece first appeared. Click here to read the original

Hunting Down al-Zawahiri – A Step towards Peace or a Move towards War?

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As two raging hellfire missiles fired from a US military drone slammed into the balcony of a compound in Kabul, the world grew less dark – another terrorist was slain. The death of al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri rang alarm bells across the world and the shock waves from this incident will be heard for time to come.

Al-Zawahiri rose to become the supreme leader of al-Qaeda after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Even during the life of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri was seen as his ‘right hand’ in terror attacks against the US and the world at large. Being one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks alongside Khalid Sheik Mohammed and bin Laden, al-Zawahiri was placed on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’listand suffered a $25 million bounty on his head. After 9/11, al-Zawahiri operated underground hiding in tribal Pakistan and Afghan hideouts.

The US security apparatus tracked him for decades as he was seen as the only 9/11 leader who had not yet been brought to justice. The US was desperate to hunt down al-Zawahiri as this would give (some) solace to the families of the victims of 9/11. US President Joe Biden announced after the strike that ‘justice has been delivered’ and that this was ‘one more measure of closure’ – something that must be answered by the very fragments of victimhood from the devastating attacks and not by someone reading a pre-written script off the teleprompter – but that’s a story for another day.

Like Anton Balasingham was the ideologue behind the LTTE, al-Zawahiri was the ideologue and theoretician that drove the al-Qaeda terror machine to wage international operational capabilities. While bin Laden was considered the ‘cave man’ leader, it was al-Zawahiri that pushed for international militancy and global jihad. Before and after the death of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri continued to function as one of the most influential leaders of al-Qaeda – or any terror group for that matter.

Al-Zawahiri hailed from a prosperous family in Egypt but fell into the ideological trappings of religious extremism – a haunting similarity to the stories of almost all Islamist suicide bombers who spilt innocent blood on that sad Sri Lankan Easter morning. Al-Zawahiri walked into the trap and then functioned as the trap by baiting tens of thousands of Islamists to fight for a rugged ideology of hate and destruction – including founding leader of the Islamic State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Portrait of the Terrorist as a Young Man: Egyptian-born Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, shown here in an undated photo published by London’s Al-Hayat on Oct. 10, 2001

Prior to becoming fixated on the Afghan-Pakistani window of war, al-Zawahiri functioned as the head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a terror cell in North Africa that also aimed to assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in the early 1980s. Having served briefly in the Egyptian military, al-Zawahiri rivalled against Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, who was a theoretician and advocate for defensive jihad in attracting the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets. After Azzam was assassinated in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1989, al-Zawahiri joined bin Laden as his physician and ideologue.

Al-Qaeda has always been a close ally of the Taliban. For years, the members of both groups have worked collectively against their ‘outsiders’, starting with the Soviets and then the Americans. Al-Qaeda was the primary bone of contention between the Taliban and the US which ultimately led the US to fight its longest war in Afghanistan. After bin Laden launched the 9/11 attacks, America made sure that the Taliban paid the price for harbouring the group. History seems to repeat itself as once again the US is hunting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, while its Taliban rulers are oblivious to international pressures.

From the perspective of geopolitical power play, the slaying of al-Zawahiri in Taliban-controlled territory questioned not just the legitimacy of the Taliban government but also the commitments of the US to establishing peace in Afghanistan. This incident has revealed a deepening gulf between the key stakeholders of the Afghan war. As per the Doha Agreement signed between the US and the Taliban, the Taliban provided assurances that Afghan territory would not be used as a launch pad for al-Qaeda – but who trusts the terrorist?

The simple fact that the leader of al-Qaeda was relaxing in the capital of the Taliban underpins how the Taliban continues to function as a state sponsor of terror. The Taliban government has repeatedly denied knowledge of al-Zawahiri’s presence. But who doesn’t realise a top-notch jihadist sitting in your living room? Can the international community ever trust terror groups or their proxies? Of course not. While the LTTE international network banks on widespread misinformation and falsehoods, the Taliban leadership attempts a fabrication strategy of their own, in hopes of taking a step closer to international acceptance. The Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance remains vigorous in the face of their Western adversaries and antagonist terror factions.

Experts claim that the killing of the al-Qaeda leader on Afghan soil will not bode well for the Taliban government, which is already struggling to stay afloat on multiple fronts. The potential failure to gain international ratification and an almost non-functional economic functionality places the Taliban in an even tighter position. However, it could be opined that the al-Zawahiri problem could actually benefit the Taliban. The assassination of al-Zawahiri, whilst punishing the Taliban, would also equip and strengthen its pragmatists who seek to move away from fundamentalist jihad and return to its original Pashtun roots. The negative international reaction that emanates from this incident will favour the sectionalisation and sidelining of hardcore al-Qaeda defenders within the Taliban ranks. The killing of al-Zawahiri thus presents a dual benefit of dismantling current al-Qaeda leadership, as well as providing a rude awakening for the Taliban to step back and move again – a blessing in disguise with a splash of terror.

Ayman al-Zawahiri led a life of malice, hatred and utter belligerence. His death could serve as an unclimactic end to the highly influential al-Qaeda network if proper leadership fails to ascend to the thrones of terror. However, the favourable situation in Afghanistan and shifting global focus away from the Middle East and towards the Indo-Pacific allows al-Qaeda and its allied cells to be nurtured, harboured and sustained.

The level of influence and intensification contributed by al-Zawahiri to the contemporary wave of terrorism that continues to plague the world remains unmatched. Although al-Zawahiri is assassinated and the world is a much better place without that epitome of terror, his teachings, writings and speeches will continue to radicalise and convert innocents into extremists and extremists into terrorists across the globe.

Like the attack on Pearl Harbour catapulted the US into the forefront of the Second World War, the September 11 attacks propelled America to launch its global War on Terror. However, the re-emergence of the Taliban in Central Asia under props the feared possibility of al-Qaeda’s return to its tyrannical despotic rule of Islamist fundamentalism. The killing of al-Zawahiri remains one of Biden’s few successful trophies to date, but it is the next moves of the intelligence and security communities that will actually determine the future of the global Islamist threat. The threat will not cease but its operational capabilities could be greatly dismantled by much-need intelligence sharing mechanisms in the Indo-Pacific and Central Asia.

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The China-Lanka Conundrum

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The controversial visit of China’s “spy ship” Yuan Wang-5 to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port from August 16 to 22 is perhaps Sri Lanka’s most commented news story, next only to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s escape in stealth from the island-nation a few weeks earlier. The reason is not far to seek; the research ship belongs to the PLA’s 5th branch – the Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) created in December 2015 to carry out space, cyber and electronic warfare. The ship is equipped with advanced electronic equipment, sensors and antennae to assist PLA’s land-based stations in tracking satellite, rocket and ICBM launches within a range of 750 km.

Sri Lanka’s foreign affairs originally allowed the vessel to dock in Hambantota from August 11 to 17. India expressed its security concerns over berthing the ship in Hambantota as soon as reports indicated that the ship was heading to the Sri Lankan port. The US also had expressed its security concerns. Perhaps in deference to India’s concerns, the ministry in a message to the Chinese embassy asked the visit be delayed until further consultations. The Chinese embassy clarified that the maritime research vessel’s visit was for replenishment and refuelling and did not pose a threat to any security or economic interests. It eventually succeeded in pressuring Sri Lanka’s defence ministry to allow the research vessel to berth in Hambantota port from August 16 to 22, after laying down conditions that it would switch off its tracking equipment.

There was much consternation in India over the Chinese spy ship docking in Sri Lanka. India expressed its security concerns over berthing the ship at the Hambantota port. The truth is that symbolism triumphed over substance

The media pundits in India went to town with analyses of how the ship’s berthing in Hambantota would compromise the security of our naval bases and satellite launch sites and missile launches. The plain truth is Yuan Wang-5 is capable of carrying out all these actions even without docking in Hambantota port. Many analyses across global media had been cautioning the US of China overtaking it as a strategic power. These analyses were basically revisiting the bogey of China’s growing military prowess in the Indo-Pacific.

Social media castigated Sri Lanka for its “ungratefulness” to India, which had gone all out to lend a helping hand in times of Sri Lanka’s economic distress, unlike China. Some critics called it a violation of the India-Sri Lanka Accord 1987, though the Accord has no specific clause forbidding the berthing of warships of other countries in Sri Lanka ports in peacetime. Moreover, Sri Lanka had been repeatedly reassuring India at various levels that it would not allow the use of its soil to pose a security threat to India.

The controversy over Yuan Wang-5’s visit is timed to draw attention away from growing India-Sri Lanka relations, which are on the apogee. Probably it is also aimed at reminding Sri Lanka that it cannot afford to ignore China’s interests, now embedded in the body politic of the island-nation. Moreover, for some time now, Sri Lanka is in talks with India at multiple levels to upgrade its transactional relations into a strategic relationship. These efforts have encouraged India to extend all out support to the people of Sri Lanka to meet their essential economic and energy requirements after the country went bankrupt. India’s support has continued, in spite of political uncertainties in the country after the unceremonious exit of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the ascent of Ranil Wickremesinghe as president.

It is worthwhile to examine the Yuan Wang-5 issue in the larger context of the strategic dynamics of the Indo-Pacific. Alfred North Whitehead, mathematician and process philosopher considers “symbolism as no mere idle fantasy or corrupt degeneration. It is inherent in the very texture of human life.” His words: “there is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us” have great relevance in understanding the substance behind China’s acts of symbolism.

India celebrated Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav—75 years of India’s independence—on August 15. On that day, the Xinjiang command conducted live-fire drills near the LAC with a “new type of surface-to-air missile” at an altitude of more than 4,500 metres (14,760 feet). A report in the South China Morning Post quoted military observers to say the weapons appeared to be HQ-17A air defence missiles, part of an integrated system that can fit in a single vehicle. Yuan Wang-5 steaming into Hambantota a day after India’s Independence Day is also symbolic of China enforcing its writ in Sri Lanka despite India’s security concerns.

More than all this, Yuan Wang-5 is a demonstration of PLASSF capability as part of China’s power projection in space and cyberspace. The SSF is also designed to coordinate intelligence sharing and operations in the informatized battlefields in real time. Informatization has been the mantra of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ever since PLA thinkers drew many lessons from their observations of the US Gulf War (1991) and Iraq War (2003). In their assessment, the US used effective coordinated employment of global media, international law, and other psychological warfare techniques. The use of these techniques collectively referred to as “three warfares” could enhance results as military operations became more and more dependent on information technology tools.

The concept of “three warfares” was incorporated in the PLA Political Work Regulations for future conflicts in 2003. This has resulted in increased coordination of civil and military organs of state since then to get the best results of “three warfares”.

The timing of the Yuan Wang-5 controversy is uncanny. On June 6, India successfully carried out the training launch of the intermediate range ballistic missile Agni-4 from APJ Abdul Kalam Island off Orissa under the aegis of the Strategic Forces Command. The visit of Yuan Wang-5 is perhaps China’s way of flaunting its capability to track India’s ICBM launches. A month later, PLA tested an advanced PHL Multiple Lau­nch Rocket System (MLRS) at an altitude of more than 5,300 metres in the Xinjiang Region.

India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has been on a mission for some time to lay bare China’s double speak on matters related to India in many international forums. Only a month earlier, the 16th round of border talks between Corps Commanders of India and China ended in yet another stalemate. Last week in Bangkok, Jaishankar said the relationship between India and China is going through an “extremely difficult phase” after the Galwan incident in the Ladakh border in 2020. He emphasised that the Asian Century will not happen if the two neighbours could not join hands. “We very much hope that wisdom dawns on the Chinese side,” he said while replying to a question in Bangkok.

Now on a six-day tour of South America, Jaishankar said China has cast a shadow on bilateral ties by disregarding border pacts with India. He said the relationship cannot be a one-way street. “They are our neighbour and everybody wants to get along with their neighbour…But everybody wants to get along with their neighbour on reasonable terms. I must respect you and you must respect me,” he added. The EAM said “from our point of view, we’ve been very clear that if you have to build a relationship, then there has to be mutual respect. Each one will have their interests and we need to be sensitive to what the concerns are, of the other party.”

Sri Lanka is caught not only in the midst of muscle flexing between India and China in the Indian Ocean region, but it is also facing the flak of the strategic maelstrom blowing across the Indo-Pacific, after the visit of the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan on August 2. President Xi Jinping had spoken to POTUS Joe Biden, a month earlier to prevent the visit. According to media reports, President Biden not only told Xi that he “could not oblige” as the US Congress was an independent body, but also warned the Chinese president against taking any “provocative and coercive” actions if the visit took place. Pelosi’s visit may be considered a big loss of face for Xi, particularly when he is poised to be re-elected as the CCP General Secretary in the next few months. The invectives China has used to condemn the US and its allies on this issue show that the stand-off over Taiwan is likely to continue for some time. We can expect the spill over of the continuing US-China confrontation in the Indian Ocean region in the coming months. It is imperative that China’s symbolic acts are studied to gauge the substance behind them to understand its intentions.

Did Nancy Pelosi Accelerate Chinese-Russian Military Cooperation With Her Taiwan Visit?

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6 mins read

Following the chaotic U.S. departure from Afghanistan in August 2021 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Washington has sought to reaffirm its commitment to its allies and partners. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on August 2 assuaged nerves in Taipei and underlined the island’s status as a key component of the U.S. Pacific strategy.

The affair also generated a rare instance of U.S. bipartisanship. Twenty-six Republican senators backed Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, while on August 14, a team of lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties visited the island. The Republican governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, also made a trip to Taiwan on August 22.

China’s Foreign Ministry warned of “serious consequences” in the lead-up to Pelosi’s visit, but even after continual visits by U.S. politicians to Taiwan, Beijing is unlikely to pursue military escalation. Doing so could result in a repeat of the 1995-1996 Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, which led to a remarkable loss of face for the Chinese leadership.

The third crisis started when then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui was granted a visa by the United States in 1995 to attend a reunion at Cornell University. Hosting the Taiwanese leader was seen as a serious provocation by China, instigating a series of missile tests and Chinese troop buildup over the next few months.

In response, the United States steadily built up its military power in the Asia-Pacific region, including “[sending] two aircraft carrier battle groups to the area” in March 1996. Chinese missile tests concluded days later, with Beijing being forced to accept U.S. military dominance in the region, and it could do little but protest when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan in 1997.

The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis generated great interest in Russia, which saw an opportunity to exploit China’s desire to push back against the United States. Writing in 1996, Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer stated that defense contracts with China “could become not only a way for our hapless military-industrial complex to preserve jobs and earn money, but also the start of a long-range strategic partnership and a new balance of forces in Asia that would favor Russia.”

Having already accelerated since the Soviet collapse, Russia rapidly increased its weapons export to China after the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. This helped rejuvenate the Russian arms industry, and has allowed Russia to maintain its status as the second-largest arms exporter up through today. As Washington’s attention turned to the Middle East following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, China gained increasing access to Russian-built missile systems, aircraft, ships, and other military technology.

Initially, Russian imports were largely limited to Soviet-era weaponry. But as China’s domestic arms production capabilities evolved, Russia has offered more advanced and sophisticated shipments of arms over the last decade to ensure China remains a customer, as well as to undermine U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.

As a result of this, Taiwan and U.S. forces in this area have become far more vulnerable to Chinese missiles, aircraft, and ships. After Pelosi’s departure, China conducted multiple missile tests near Taiwan, while China’s two aircraft carriers, commissioned in 2012 and 2019, were both sent to the regionOn August 21 alone, five Chinese ships and 12 aircraft were detected around Taiwan.

China also indicated that it intends to conduct “regular combat readiness patrols” around the island.

The Biden administration was careful to avoid condoning Pelosi’s visit, instead advocating for calm. Although in the weeks leading up to her visit, the U.S. Navy had sent its warships through the Taiwan Strait on several occasions “in what it calls freedom of navigation operations,” since Pelosi’s return, Washington has been wary of escalation, “keeping an aircraft carrier group and two amphibious assault ships at sail in the region, but not close to the island” of Taiwan, rather than retaliating against China’s recent exercises in the region. On August 12, U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said that the U.S. plans to cautiously resume its trade and military presence in the Taiwan Strait only in line with its previous “commitment to freedom of navigation” in the coming weeks. Already preoccupied with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. military cannot risk confronting China as it could a quarter-century ago.

Though Beijing has also so far avoided significant escalation, China’s growing defense capabilities have allowed it to aid the Russian military’s campaign in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the invasion, China has increased sales of microchips, aluminum oxide, and raw materials essential to the Russian defense industry. In June, several Chinese companies were also blacklisted by U.S. officials for aiding the Russian military.

After the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan revealed the importance of drones in state-to-state conflicts, Russia has been desperate to offset its drone deficit in Ukraine. The Russian military has modified large numbers of Chinese civilian drones and robots, as they are cheaper and more widely available than Russian variants, to supplement the efforts of its armed forces.

Chinese drone company Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), the world’s largest drone manufacturer, halted sales to both Russia and Ukraine in April to prevent misuse of its products. But surveillance technology developed by DJI, called AeroScope, can be used to track other DJI aircraft along with the position of the drone’s operator, and Ukrainian experts have indicated that Russia continues to use AeroScope to target Ukrainian forces.

While representatives for DJI and other Chinese drone and robotics companies have stated they do not support the use of their products in conflict, they are ultimately beholden to Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criticism of Pelosi’s visit as a “thoroughly planned provocation” and including Taiwan on its list of unfriendly countries and territories in March means Beijing may continue to look the other way on the issue of using Chinese-made civilian drones in the Russia-Ukraine war.

And in addition to growing technological collaboration, Chinese and Russian militaries have also deepened operational integration over the last two decades. Their first joint military exercise took place in 2003, and dozens of others have taken place around the world since then. China also plans to take part in the Vostok military exercises (alongside India, Mongolia, Belarus, and Tajikistan) in Russia’s Far East from August 30 to September 5.

There are numerous limitations, however, to greater military cooperation between these two powers. China is wary of comparisons between the Ukraine-Russia conflict and its own dispute with Taiwan. Beijing has largely focused on nurturing its economic influence over Taiwan since the turn of the century, while isolating it diplomatically.

China also does not want to jeopardize its relatively constructive relationship with Ukraine, nor risk Western economic sanctions by more openly supporting Russia. Certain Russian companies have also criticized China’s weapons technology theft, while Chinese weapons exports have begun to threaten Russia’s market share among its traditional customers. These factors reflect the lingering distrust between Moscow and Beijing that has existed for decades.

However, the mutual opposition of both China and Russia toward the United States is enough to offset these issues for now. The United States had earlier warned China against assisting Russia’s war effort, but clearly it is a line China is willing to skirt. Considering the U.S. sells billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Taiwan annually and has had special forces on the island since at least before 2019, this is no surprise.

Military cooperation between China and Russia has been further augmented by growing energy sales between the two countries, as well as a desire to create international institutions, like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and independent financial payment systems, to bypass traditional U.S.-dominated structures. The Chinese-Russian relationship was reinvigorated just weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the declaration of a “no limits” partnership.

Both China and Russia increasingly recognize that dividing U.S. attention between Ukraine and Taiwan will allow Beijing and Moscow to consolidate their regional positions. The muted U.S. response to Chinese military action around Taiwan since Pelosi’s visit is yet another indication that Washington cannot confront Russia and China simultaneously, particularly as they grow into a more united front.

If tensions over Taiwan continue, China may be convinced to increase its military support to Russia. If this happens, it will upend the military balance in Eastern Europe, just as Russian military assistance to China has done in East Asia over the last two decades.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Media Tizzy and Myths on Yuan Wang 5

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3 mins read

The Indian security establishment and media had gone tizzy with the Yuan Wang 5’s visit to Hambantota in Sri Lanka. The media was abuzz with many comments based on figments of imagination on the subject. The aim of this article is to dispel such false notions/interpretations based on legal provisions in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), bilateral agreement between India and Sri Lanka and the basic tenets of submarine operations.

Myth 1: This visit is in violation of the clause in the India Sri Lanka peace accord of 1987 that a military vessel cannot berth in Sri Lanka without New Delhi’s consent.

First, there is no such clause in the agreement which primarily deals with the understanding between India and Sri Lanka on tackling the civil war then involving the Sri Lankan establishment and the Tamil Tigers.

Second, Sri Lanka is a sovereign nation, and it is well within its rights to permit any warship or any military support vessel to berth in their ports based on a diplomatic clearance.

As a diplomatic courtesy, New Delhi was informed of the visit.

Third, this is peace time and there is no hostility in the region which should have raised a question mark on the Chinese vessel’s itinerary.

Fourth, Sri Lanka had laid down two conditions to be followed by the Chinese vessel: The Vessel Automatic Identification System (AIS) was to be always kept on and that the vessel should not violate the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) norms of Sri Lankan waters.

These conditions would have been agreed upon by the Chinese establishment and thus the vessel was permitted to enter Sri Lankan waters.

Myth 2: The ship entered Hambantota to spy on Indian military-related sensitive activities on the east coast.

The Chinese research vessel is a satellite uplink and down link ship.

The ship has adequate EW (electronic warfare) capabilities, and it can easily monitor the Indian coast while operating in international waters as per the provisions in the UNCLOS.

She does not have to enter a port in Sri Lanka to fulfill this mission.

It may also be noted that Chinese research vessels have been operating in the Indian Ocean routinely and this is not the first occasion.

Myth 3: The vessel has been deployed in the Indian Ocean to gather oceanographic data for submarine operations.

Research vessels are well within their rights to gather oceanographic data in international waters as per the provisions in the UNCLOS (Articles 55, 56, 75, 221(1)).

However, there are restrictions whilst operating in the EEZ of a coastal State who has special rights regarding the marine scientific research, exploration and use of marine resources including energy production.

The difference between territorial waters and the EEZ is that the former confers full sovereignty over the waters whereas the latter confers merely sovereign rights for the coastal state below the surface of the sea.

If the Chinese vessel adhered to these norms, it was not violating any international regulations and operating within the framework of the UNCLOS.

Myth 4: Oceanographic data which is collected by research vessels adds to the data bank and could be interpolated for submarine deployment.

This data which is referred to is primarily the temperature profile visa vis the depth of water in an area which is useful for strategic deployments of submarines.

It made sense in olden days when such data was not available on open sources. In modern times, this data is readily available on open sources.

The US National Oceanographic Data Center and British Oceanographic Data Centre are established sources to get oceanographic data inputs.

Further, this information is more theoretical as the underwater medium is dynamic in nature and the data pertains to the time and date when it was collected.

Hence other than interpolating certain theoretical inferences, this data is of little practical utility for submarine deployment.

Moreover, in real time a submarine commander would ascertain the temperature layer in his patrol area and assess the situation before adopting the tactics to be employed notwithstanding the information available in the data bank.

As far as this vessel is concerned, the primary role is the tracking and support of satellite and intercontinental ballistic missiles as per directions of China’s People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force.

The vessel can also be deployed for other research activities like space tracking and satellite operation monitoring.

It may also be noted that the sequence of events that preceded the ship’s arrival clearly indicate that there have been extensive deliberations between all stakeholders prior to the government of Sri Lanka permitting this vessel to berth at Hambantota.

In this context, it is important to note that in the current crisis, Sri Lanka must depend on China to a large extent notwithstanding assistance from India, US, Japan and the IMF bailout.

Talks between China and Sri Lanka are in progress to work out a favourable debt restructuring which is also a pre-condition for an IMF bailout.

For this, Colombo will need to toe Beijing’s line which could have been a major factor to permit berthing of this vessel and in such a situation India needs to display diplomatic forbearance.

It appears that New Delhi has clearly taken a balanced view in this case.

Lastly, while the actual mission of the Yuan Wang 5 is not known, it is quite possible that she has been deployed for a genuine space-related assignment.

The article was originally published on rediff.com

Travis Sinniah: First Sri Lankan to Be Honoured by NDU

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4 mins read

On August 9, the National Defense University in Washington DC welcomed three new CISA alumni to the International Fellows Hall of Fame in a ceremony held in Sydney, Australia during NDU’s 16th Alumni Continuing Education Security Seminar, the statement issued by College of International Security Affairs of National Defense University (NDU).

During the event, Admiral (Ret) Travis Sinniah) has been recognized for his service as Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy. He is the first Sri Lankan to be inducted.

Meanwhile, Major General Abdulla Shamaal of the Maldives, who is also the first Maldivian graduate to be inducted and Major General Molefi Seikano of Botswana were also recognized for their respective services.

“We thank them and their families for their commitment to the service of their fellow citizens and to the safety and security of their respective regions and the globe. Together we can overcome today’s security challenges,” the statement further elaborated.

Admiral Travis Sinniah, WWV, RWP, RSP, USP, ndu, psc was a Sri Lankan admiral and the 21st Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy. He has served as the Commander of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Naval Area and as Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Fleet. He was the second Tamil to be appointed the commander of the Sri Lankan Navy after Rajan Kadiragamar in the 1960s.

Click here to watch his Farewell Speech as the Commander of Sri Lanka Navy;

Admiral Travis Jeremy Liyanduru Sinniah was educated at Trinity College, Kandy, and St. Joseph’s College, Trincomalee. He joined the Naval and Maritime Academy, Trincomalee, as an Officer Cadet in 1982, and graduated in 1984. He was selected to attend the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, from which he graduated in 1986. His training at HMS Dryad, HMS Mercury, HMS Collingwood and HMS Vernon at Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, has been among the best in the world. He has served on board British Warships during his time at Dartmouth.

Admiral Sinniah was the senior-most naval officer to be in active combat operations at sea during the war. He was awarded the highest combat medal (granted to a living officer) for exceptional valour and gallantry, the Weera Wickrama Vibhushanaya (WWV), and recommended for field promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral on account of his exceptional contribution to the war effort. His most significant Gallantry awards are the Weera Wickrama Vibushanaya (WWV), awarded for individual acts of gallantry and conspicuous bravery of a military nature of a high order in the face of the enemy, the Rana Wickrama Padakkama (RWP), awarded for exceptional gallantry in the face of the enemy and the Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP), awarded and re-awarded for gallantry in the face of the enemy. His other awards are the Uththama Seva Padakkama (USP), the Vadamarachchi campaign medal, the Riviresa campaign medal with clasp, the North & East operation medal with double clasp, the Sri Lanka long service medal with clasp, the Purna Bhoomi operation medal, the Sri Lanka independence 50th anniversary Medal and the Humanitarian operation medals for the north and the east with clasps.

The admiral received his specialization in Naval Communications and Electronic warfare at HMS Mercury, Petersfield, Portsmouth and INS Venduruthi, Cochin, India. He attended the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington, India and was conferred the Master of Science degree in Defence and Strategic Studies. He followed a special course on Diplomacy and holds a Diploma in International Studies.

Admiral Sinniah is a Counter Terrorism Fellow (CTF) of the National Defence University, Washington DC. USA and he was made the “Distinguished Graduate” at the NDU for the year 2005. Admiral Sinniah followed the Defence Cooperation Course conducted by the Defence Institute of Security Assistance Management, Ohio.

Admiral Sinniah is a front line Executive Officer who has served in all the Squadrons of the SLN. He has held the prominent appointments of Flag Officer Commanding Naval Fleet, Commandant Naval and Maritime Academy, Deputy Area Commander East, Commandant Volunteer Naval Force and Commander Eastern Naval Area. He has commanded the flag ship of the Sri Lanka Navy, SLNS Sagara. He served in the Elite 4th Fast Attack Flotilla as a Squadron Commander and subsequently commanded the Flotilla as its Commanding Officer (FAF4). In addition, he has served as Commanding Officer on board Sri Lanka Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels, Fast Missile Vessels, Fast Gun Boats and Fast Personal Carriers.

The admiral has held various staff positions at the Naval Headquarters, which include Naval Assistant to the Commander of the Navy, Staff Officer Projects and Plans, Senior Staff Officer Research and Development, Director Naval Projects and Plans and R & D and Deputy Director Naval Administration. He has also served as Deputy Area Commander of the Eastern, Northern and North Western Naval Commands.

Admiral Sinniah is a respected instructor and an eloquent speaker. He has represented the Navy at innumerable seminars and conferences, and presented papers at many of them. He spearheaded the establishment of the Naval wing for the Defence Services Staff College at Batalanda, laying down its syllabi and planning its initial courses.

Admiral Sinniah is a specialist in counter terrorism and littoral warfare. He was nominated to direct the Maldivian Defence Forces (MNDF) in formulating their maritime security strategy and counter-terrorism doctrine, which was implemented in 2008; it remains as the MNDF foundation policy on counter-terrorism at sea and on land.

Admiral (Ret) Travis Sinniah) of Sri Lanka, Major General Abdulla Shamaal of Maldives, and Major General Molefi Seikano of Botswana with CISA officer during the event [ Photo: Sri Lanka Guardian/CISA]

He was instrumental in the design and modification of naval guns for the SLN, working closely with Royal Ordnance UK, and in the design of the Super Dvora class of FAC with Israeli aircraft industries. He was also the design leader for the indigenous 30mm stabilized gun of the SLN.

Admiral Sinniah is a sharpshooter and an “X” marksman. He is an excellent IPSC practical pistol shooter who captained the navy team in 2001/2002. Admiral Sinniah is a keen sportsman, and represented the Navy in basketball, soccer, rugby, squash and badminton.

Admiral Sinniah is a battle-hardened officer who has been awarded and re-awarded for valour and gallantry. He led the Naval Task Force in the destruction of LTTE “warehouse” ships over a period of two years. This monumental operation, “Sagara Balaya”, was the turning point in the war against the LTTE, and heralded its end. He has 37 LTTE hits under his command, and counts over 70 hits by the fleet during his tenure as Commander of the Fast Attack Flotilla. Admiral Sinniah was the officer who apprehended the infamous LTTE ship “Kadalpura” with 19 black sea tigers on-board, including the LTTE second-in-command and 9 LTTE leaders, a significant milestone in the course of the war.

Admiral Sinniah has been mentioned in dispatches and personally commended by the President of Sri Lanka for acts of conspicuous bravery, exceptional gallantry and outstanding service to the nation.

Prior to his appointment as the 21st Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy on 22nd August 2017, Admiral Sinniah held the post of Commander Eastern Naval Area. After his appointment as the Commander of the Navy the veteran naval officer introduced a new deployment of naval ships and craft in the northern seas. The initiative produced imminent results causing a significant drop in the number of Indian fishing trawlers entered into the Sri Lankan territorial waters.

Pakistan Navy Ship Calls at Port of Colombo

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2 mins read

Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived at the port of Colombo on a formal visit yesterday morning (12th August 2022). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy in compliance with naval traditions.

The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

In the meantime, the Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area at the Western Naval Command Headquarters today. The ship is expected to remain in the island until 15th August and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes organized by the Sri Lanka Navy to promote cooperation and goodwill between two navies.

Colombo call

Further, PNS Taimur is expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril an identical warship belongs to the Pakistan Navy arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

PNS Taimur is the second of four frigates of Type 054 A/P being built for the Pakistan Navy. The lead ship of the class, PNS Tughril, was commissioned on January 24, 2022. PNS Taimur was launched on 29 January 2021, and the Chinese shipyard completed the ship in 17 months.

Pakistan signed an initial contract for the delivery of two Type 054 A/P frigates in 2017. An additional contract for two more ships was announced in June 2018. According to the contract, all four ships are built in China and the first two are expected to be delivered to the customer by year-end. HZ Shipyard seems to kept its commitment by delivering the second Type 054 A/P frigate on time.

The Pakistan Navy is currently undertaking an important renewal of its fleet, with the procurement of several modern platforms: In addition to these frigates from China, Pakistan will also commission new corvettes from Turkey and OPV from the Netherlands. It is also modernizing its submarine force. In 2016, Pakistan agreed to pay China $5 billion for the acquisition of eight Chinese Yuan-class type-041 diesel submarines by 2028 in order to shift the force balance with its archrival India.

The Type 054A is a multi-role frigate and is recognized as the backbone of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet of surface combatants with 30 vessels in commission. They have a length of 134 meters, a beam of 16 meters for a displacement of 4,000 tons. They have a crew complement of 165 sailors and are fitted with:

  • a H/PJ-26 76mm main gun
  • 2×4 CM302 anti-ship missiles
  • 32x VLS cells for HQ-16 surface-to-air missiles
  • 2x Type 730 30mm CIWS
  • 2x Triple Torpedo launchers

In PLAN service, those frigates feature a Type 382 radar which shares a close resemblance with the Russian MR-710 Fregat radar. Unlike the Pakistan Navy variant – whose first ship-in-class is fitted with an SR2410C radar – the Type 054A in Chinese Navy service does not feature a long-range/metric wave radar.