Strategy Page reports on the latest set of delays to hit the Indian navy’s submarine building program:
India’s effort to build six submarines (French Scorpenes), under license, has been delayed once again. The problem is mainly poor management. An example of this occurred quite recently with the departure of ten Spanish technical advisors for the Scorpenes. Their contract expired at the end of March and, despite the expiration date being well known Indian bureaucrats were unable to get a new contract in place on time. Similar avoidable delays have occurred several times already and the price has gone up with each delay. Last year it was announced that the first Scorpene sub would not be ready until 2015. The new delays push that to 2017.
Building the subs in India will leave India with thousands of workers and specialists experienced in building modern submarines. All that will be wasted because the defense procurement bureaucrats seem to have learned nothing. These officials already caused numerous delays and cost overruns during negotiations to build these diesel-electric submarines. The bureaucrats mismanaged this deal to the extent that it is now five years behind schedule. But it is even more behind schedule if you count the several years the Indian bureaucrats delayed it even getting started. The delays and mismanagement have so far increased the cost of the $4 billion project by 25 percent (to $834 million per sub).
[. . .]
All this ineffective urgency is in play because India’s submarine fleet is dying of old age and new boats are not going to arrive in time. It’s not like this was a surprise, but the Indian defense procurement bureaucracy has long been noted as slow, sloppy, and stubborn, especially in the face of demands that it speed up. The twisted tale of the tardy submarines is particularly painful.
The plan was to have a dozen new subs in service by the end of the decade. At present, there will be (with a bit of luck) three or four of them in service by then. The procurement bureaucracy is still seeking a supplier for the second batch of six diesel-electric subs. This second six probably won’t even begin arriving by the end of the decade. It’s hard to say, although the defense procurement nabobs speak of “fast tracking” this project, but long-time observers not expecting speed.
There’s some urgency to all this because this year five of India’s 16 diesel-electric subs (10 Kilo and two Foxtrot class Russian built boats and four German Type 209s) were to be retired (some are already semi-retired because of age and infirmity). Because of the Scorpene delays, the Type 209s are being kept in service (but not allowed out to sea much) for several more years. That leaves India with 14 subs. But in the next year or so several of the older Kilos will reach retirement age. Thus, by the time the first Scorpene arrives in 2017, India will only have five or six working subs. India believes it needs at least 18 non-nuclear subs in service to deal with Pakistan and China.
Tim Worstall on some of the issues with demands that all British beef for human consumption be tested for horsemeat:
Now let’s turn to that meat problem. We’re going to test something to make sure that it is indeed what it says. Most of the time, usually, we’d go looking for beef DNA and on finding it say, yup, that’s beef.
But now we’re talking about trace amounts of other species. Some of this horse contamination is someone deliberately substituting, yes. But a lot of it, those trace amounts, is someone not cleaning the pipes between species being processed. Or the knives even. Which leads us to something of a problem.
How many species do we test for? Some minced beef… or pink slime perhaps. Do we test for beef and horse? For beef, horse, mutton, pork, chicken, duck, goose? What about rat and mouse? For I’ll guarantee you that however much people try there will often be the odd molecule of either one of those in there. Sparrow? That’s more of a problem with grain processing but still.
For example, one lovely story about vegetarianism. Those (umm, OK, some) who have moved from the sub-continent to the UK. They carry on eating the (possibly Hindu caste based) vegetarian diet they are used to. And they start falling prey to all sorts of dietary deficiencies. Anaemia, there have even been reports of kwashikor (a protein deficiency). The grains and the pulses of the sub-continent have rather more insect and other residue in them than our more modern processing and storage systems provide.
People don’t test for hedgehog DNA in meat supplies, no. But how many species should they test for?
What is curry and where did it come from?
What is curry? Today, the word describes a bewildering number of spicy vegetable and meat stews from places as far-flung as the Indian subcontinent, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean Islands. There is little agreement about what actually constitutes a curry. And, until recently, how and when curry first appeared was a culinary mystery as well.
The term likely derives from kari, the word for sauce in Tamil, a South-Indian language. Perplexed by that region’s wide variety of savory dishes, 17th-century British traders lumped them all under the term curry. A curry, as the Brits defined it, might be a mélange of onion, ginger, turmeric, garlic, pepper, chilies, coriander, cumin, and other spices cooked with shellfish, meat, or vegetables.
Those curries, like the curries we know today, were the byproduct of more than a millennium of trade between the Indian subcontinent and other parts of Asia, which provided new ingredients to spice up traditional Indian stews. After the year 1000, Muslims brought their own cooking traditions from the west, including heavy use of meat, while Indian traders carried home new and exotic spices like cloves from Southeast Asia. And when the Portuguese built up their trading centers on the west coast of India in the 16th century, they threw chilies from the New World into the pot. (Your spicy vindaloo may sound like Hindi, but actually the word derives from the Portuguese terms for its original central ingredients: wine and garlic.)
But the original curry predates Europeans’ presence in India by about 4,000 years. Villagers living at the height of the Indus civilization used three key curry ingredients — ginger, garlic, and turmeric — in their cooking. This proto-curry, in fact, was eaten long before Arab, Chinese, Indian, and European traders plied the oceans in the past thousand years.
Strategy Page on the Indian government’s planned upgrades along the shared border with China:
The Indian Army wants $3.5 billion in order to create three more brigades (two infantry and one armored) to defend the Chinese border. Actually, this new force is in addition to the new mountain corps (of 80,000 troops) nearing approval (at a cost of $11.5 billion). The mountain corps is to be complete in four years. The three proposed brigades would be ready in 4-5 years. By the end of the decade India will have spent nearly five billion dollars on new roads, rail lines and air fields near the 4,057 kilometer long Chinese border.
The Indian Army currently has 37 Divisions including; 4 RAPID (Reorganised Army Plains Infantry Divisions) Action Divisions, 18 Infantry Divisions, 10 Mountain Divisions, 3 Armored Divisions and 2 Artillery Divisions. There are also 12 independent combat brigades (five armor and seven mechanized infantry). Most of the army has been organized and trained to fight the Pakistani army in flat terrain. The Chinese border is largely mountainous.
Three years ago India quietly built and put into service an airfield for transports in the north (Uttarakhand) near their border with China. While the airfield can also be used to bring in urgently needed supplies for local civilians during those months when snow blocks the few roads, it is mainly there for military purposes in case China invades again. Uttarakhand is near Kashmir, and a 38,000 square kilometer chunk of land that China seized after a brief war with India in 1962. This airfield and several similar projects along the Chinese border are all about growing fears of continued Chinese claims on Indian territory. India is alarmed at increasing strident Chinese insistence that is owns northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. This has led to an increased movement of Indian military forces to that remote area.
India quickly discovered that a buildup in these remote areas is easier said than done. Moreover, the Indians found that they were far behind Chinese efforts. When they took a closer look three years ago, Indian staff officers discovered that China had improved its road network along most of their 4,000 kilometer common border. Indian military planners calculated that, as a result of this network, Chinese military units could move 400 kilometers a day on hard surfaced roads, while Indian units could only move half as fast, while suffering more vehicle damage because of the many unpaved roads.
Strategy Page has the advance listing of places around the world where peacekeeping or peace-making may be required this year:
Planning for peacekeeping works a lot better if you have a good idea of where the next crises will occur. For 2013 there are several potential hotspots where diplomats can’t handle the mess and armed peacekeepers may be needed. In some cases, there might also be a call for more peacekeepers in an existing hotspot. That might happen in the eastern Congo, where the largest force of UN peacekeepers has been trying to calm things down for nearly a decade, but the violence just keeps going. There’s increasing hostility between Sudan and newly created South Sudan. There are some peacekeepers there, but, like Darfur (western Sudan) the violence never seems to stop.
There’s always been the possibility of large scale fighting between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There’s been more and more small scale violence on the border and growing threats from both countries. There is still a lot of tension between Pakistan and India, over Pakistani support for Islamic terrorists making attacks in India. Pakistan denies any responsibility, despite a growing mountain of evidence. Neither country would be very hospitable to peacekeepers.
And then there the developing mess in the Western Pacific off China, where Chinese claims to a lot of uninhabited rocks and reefs is causing a growing outrage from the neighbors. China keeps pushing and with all those armed ships and aircraft facing off, an accidently, or deliberate, shot is possible. China will also be a major player if North Korea finally does its political collapse. The North Korean economy has already tanked as has morale and living standards. If the government loses control China and South Korea have both made claims on responsibility for taking over and dealing with the mess.
The Economist provides some background on a growing naval rivalry between the two biggest powers in Asia:
… Samudra Manthan is the title of a new book on this topic by C. Raja Mohan, an Indian writer on strategic affairs, for whom the myth is a metaphor for the two countries’ competition at sea. This contest remains far more tentative and low-key than the 50-year stand-off over their disputed Himalayan border, where China humiliated India in a brief, bloody war in 1962. But the book raises alarming questions about the risks of future maritime confrontation.
[. . .]
China’s naval plans receive more attention. By 2020 its navy is expected to have 73 “principal combatants” (big warships) and 78 submarines, 12 of them nuclear-powered. Last year its first aircraft-carrier, bought from Ukraine, began sea trials; indigenous carriers are under construction. Proving it can now operate far from its own shores, China’s navy has joined anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Of course this evolution is not aimed at India, so much as at building a force commensurate with China’s new economic might, securing its sea lines of communication and, eventually perhaps, challenging American dominance in the western Pacific, with a view to enforcing China’s view of its national sovereignty in Taiwan and elsewhere.
Indian strategists, however, tend towards paranoia where China is concerned. China’s close strategic relations with India’s neighbours, notably Pakistan, have given rise to the perception that China is intent on throttling India with a “string of pearls” — naval facilities around the Indian Ocean. These include ports China has built at Gwadar in Pakistan; at Hambantota in Sri Lanka; at Kyaukphyu in Myanmar; and at Chittagong in Bangladesh.
[. . .]
India’s naval advances are less dramatic. But it has operated two aircraft-carriers since the 1960s, and aims to have three carrier groups operational by 2020, as part of a fleet that by 2022 would have around 160 ships and 400 aircraft, making it one of the world’s five biggest navies. Like China, it also hopes to acquire a full “nuclear triad” — by adding sea-based missiles to its nuclear deterrent. While China has been testing the waters to its south and south-west, India’s navy has been looking east, partly to follow India’s trade links. India fears Chinese “strategic encirclement”. Similarly, China looks askance at India’s expanding defence ties with America, South-East Asia, Japan and South Korea.
Strategy Page on the odd post-sales attitude of Russian aviation manufacturers:
Indonesia knows that India has learned how to deal with shabby Russian support. For example, earlier this year India went public with yet another complaint about the Su-30 fighters it buys from Russia. This time it was an unspecified “design flaw” in the electronic flight control system. This bit of information was made public because India has found that more discreet communications about these matters results in little or no action from the Russians. For example, India has been pressuring Russia for several years to do something about component failures in the Russian designed AL-31 engines that power the Indian Su-30MKI jet fighters. There have been several AL-31 failures because of this in both Indian and Russian Su-30s.
[. . .]
India buys bare bones fighters from Russia and equips these Su-30MKIs with Israeli sensors and communications gear. In many respects, the Indian made Su-30s, the Su-30MKI, is the most capable version available, due to its Israeli and European electronics and the well trained Indian pilots. The 38 ton SU-30MKI is most similar to the two seat American F-15E fighter-bomber. Even though equipped with Western electronics, the aircraft cost less than $40 million each, about half what an equivalent F-15 costs. The Su-30MKI can carry more than eight tons of bombs and hit targets over 1,500 kilometers away.
Indonesia has already become disenchanted with its Su-30s and announced last August the six Su-30 jet fighters it ordered from Russia earlier this year (for $78 million each) would be the last Russian fighters purchased. Indonesia already has ten Su-27s and Su-30s, and wanted at least 16 of these modern aircraft so they will have a full squadron.
In a brief but bloody altercation high up in the Himalayan mountains, Chinese forces attacked and defeated Indian troops along part of the extensive border between the two nations. In History Today, Gyanesh Kudaisya looks back at the events of 50 years ago:
China and India share the longest disputed frontier in the world, extending over 4,000 km, with a contentious Line of Actual Control across the Himalayas. Fifty years ago, on October 19th, 1962, border skirmishes between China and India escalated into a full-scale war across the mountainous border. Hostilities continued for over a month, during which China wrestled 23,200 sq kms of territory from India and inflicted heavy casualties. The Indian government acknowledged the loss of over 7,000 personnel, with 1,383 dead, 1,696 missing in action and 3,968 captured by the enemy. The Chinese also conceded ‘very heavy’ losses. Then, quite suddenly, on November 21st, China announced a unilateral ceasefire and a return to border posts held by its army prior to the conflict, while retaining some 4,023 sq km of territory in the Ladakh region.
This brief war has come to define relations between Asia’s two largest countries and the border issue remains unresolved. Beijing still claims over 92,000 sq km of territory, mainly in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
The war was a dramatic turning point for India. Most Indians saw it as a ‘stab in the back’, a grave act of betrayal by the Chinese leadership, whom Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister (1947-64), had lauded as brothers in the heyday of a friendly relationship in the mid-1950s. This was reflected in Panchsheel, ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’, upon which in 1954 China and India inked a bilateral treaty, and the 1955 Bandung conference, where Nehru had personally introduced Chinese premier Zhou Enlai to Afro-Asian delegates in order to minimise China’s isolation.
In the Wall Street Journal, a comparison of university education in the US and in other countries:
Both India and China have intense national testing programs to find the brightest students for their elite universities. The competition, the preparation and the national anxiety about the outcomes make the SAT testing programs in the U.S. seem like the minor leagues. The stakes are higher in China and India. The “chosen ones” — those who rank in the top 1% — get their choice of university, putting them on a path to fast-track careers, higher incomes and all the benefits of an upper-middle-class life.
The system doesn’t work so well for the other 99%. There are nearly 40 million university students in China and India. Most attend institutions that churn out students at low cost. Students complain that their education is “factory style” and “uninspired.” Employers complain that many graduates need remedial training before they are fully employable.
[. . .]
The U.S. and the U.K. are ranked first and second, driven by raw spending, their dominance in globally ranked universities and engineering graduation rates. China ranks third and India fifth, largely on enrollment (Germany is fourth). The reasons for U.S. supremacy are clear: For one, it spends the most money on education, disbursing $980 billion annually, or twice as much as China and five times as much as India. It is also the most engineer-intensive country, with 981 engineering degrees per million citizens, compared with 553 for China and 197 for India.
American universities currently do a better job overall at preparing students for the workforce. The World Economic Forum estimates that 81% of U.S. engineering graduates are immediately “employable,” while only 25% of Indian graduates and 10% of Chinese graduates are equally well prepared. “Chinese students can swarm a problem,” a dean at a major Chinese university told us. “But when it comes to original thought and invention, we stumble. We are trying hard to make that up. We are trying to make technical education the grounding from which we solve problems.”
Strategy Page outlines the nasty situation the Pakistani government finds itself in:
The Pakistani government has asked the U.S. government to stop publically demanding that Pakistan take action against the terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan. Such public demands make it more difficult for Pakistan to act as such an operation would be jumped on by the Pakistani media as Pakistan taking orders from the United States. This is a deadly accusation in Pakistan, where decades of government enthusiasm for Islamic radicalism and hatred of the United States has made it impossible for a Pakistani government to have cordial relations with America. The way the local culture works in Pakistan, this attitude means America can be blamed for just about every problem in Pakistan. That would include the persistent poverty, corruption, bad government and constant threat of another military coup. Pakistan means, literally, “Land of the Pure” and that means it’s easy for Pakistanis to believe that their problems must be caused by some external force. The United States and India have been tagged as the cause of Pakistan’s problems for so long that it’s simply not acceptable for any Pakistani politician or media outlet to describe the source of Pakistan’s problems any differently. Actually, there are a growing number of politicians and media outlets who are questioning the traditional attitudes towards the U.S., India and the personal responsibility of Pakistanis. Alas, such heretical opinions can still get you killed and many such Pakistanis emigrate or keep silent. In Pakistan, politics is very much a contact sport.
[. . .]
Pakistan has actually been sponsoring terrorist groups for decades but has so far managed to avoid admitting it. Those efforts are failing now that the U.S. and India have been pressing Pakistan more energetically to shut down terrorist operations in its territory. The recent U.S. designation of the Haqqani Network (based in North Waziristan and long under the not-so-subtle protection of the Pakistani military) as an international terrorist organization has annoyed Pakistan a great deal. For decades, it’s been no secret in Pakistan that Haqqani has government sponsorship. But the official position of the Pakistani government was that Haqqani either didn’t exist or had no government recognition or support. The U.S. presented compelling evidence to the contrary, which was another way of calling several decades’ worth of Pakistani officials liars. This designation means the Americans will now prosecute government and non-government organizations working with Haqqani. The Pakistani government knows this means specific individuals and organizations within the Pakistani government as well as banks and other commercial organizations. The U.S. prosecutors have proved to be quite relentless since September 11, 2001 and the Pakistani nightmare is retired military and intelligence officials being arrested while vising Europe or the Americas. Suddenly, the world is a more dangerous place for many Pakistani officials and businessmen who worked with Haqqani over the years. Likewise, India won’t let up on pressuring Pakistan to shut down Islamic terror groups based in Pakistan that are continuing to support Islamic terrorism in India. Pakistan has officially shut down 43 terror groups (all but two of them since September 11, 2001), and that includes 14 so far this year. But the U.S. and India point out that most of these groups simply disband and reform under another name and continue to be left alone by the Pakistani government.
The Indian navy will have to carry on with an ancient aircraft carrier for a few more years because the INS Vikrant is being further delayed:
India announced that its first locally designed and built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant will be at least three years late. This was not unexpected. The latest delay was caused, in large part, because the Indian firm hired to build a complex portion of the engine, the gearbox, proved incapable of the task and a foreign company had to be brought in.
There have been many other problems. While construction began three years ago, it was soon delayed because Russia was late in supplying the high-grade steel needed for the hull. Last December 30, the Vikrant was floated out its dry dock. Vikrant was not supposed to leave dry dock yet but the dock was needed for another project. Construction will go on, with pipes, conduits, and other fittings installed. Later this year, Vikrant will return to another dry dock to have its engines and other major equipment installed, although some of that equipment will be late because of problems with suppliers.
While waiting for the Vikrant to be ready, India will have to extend the service life of the already aged INS Viraat, which began life as HMS Hermes in the Royal Navy before being transferred to Indian service in 1987. She is the oldest aircraft carrier in active service in any navy.
Image from Wikipedia.
The Economist on the relatively slow development of India’s manufacturing sector:
If India is to become “the next China” — a manufacturing powerhouse — it is taking its time about it. “We have to industrialise India, and as rapidly as possible,” said the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1951. Politicians have tried everything since, including Soviet-style planning. But India seems to prefer growing crops and selling services to making things you can drop on your foot.
Manufacturing is still just 15% of output (see chart), far below Asian norms. India needs a big manufacturing base. No major country has grown rich without one and nothing else is likely to absorb the labour of the 250m youngsters set to reach working age in the next 15 years. But it can seem a remote prospect. In July power cuts plunged an area in which over 600m people live into darkness, reminding investors that India’s infrastructure is not wholly reliable. And workers boiled over at a car factory run by Maruti Suzuki. Almost 100 people were injured and the plant was torched. The charred body of a human-resources chief was found in the ashes.
Yet not all is farce and tragedy. Take Pune in west India, a booming industrial hub that has won the steely hearts of Germany’s car firms. Inside a $700m Volkswagen plant on the city’s outskirts, laser-wielding robots test car frames’ dimensions and a giant conveyor belt slips by, with sprung-wood surfaces to protect workers’ knees. It is “probably the cheapest factory we have worldwide”, says John Chacko, VW’s boss in India. In time it could become an export hub. Nearby, in the distance it takes a Polo to get to 60mph, is a plant owned by Mercedes-Benz.
The initial demand for a domestic manufacturing base was more political than economic: it would serve to reinforce the newly won independence of India by showing that India could make its own goods rather than importing from the UK or other major manufacturing nations. It was also economic, in that it would provide relatively high-paying jobs for India’s rapidly urbanizing population.
Ironically, now that the manufacturing sector seems to be on the upswing, the one thing it isn’t going to do for India is provide lots and lots of jobs: as with the rest of the world, manufacturing “things” is being done with fewer workers every year (even when the total output increases, fewer workers are needed to produce that output).
The Economist on the massive blackouts in India recently:
FOR an aspiring economic superpower, there can be few more chastening events than electricity cuts as massive as those that struck northern and eastern India this week. An area (including the capital, Delhi) in which more than 600m people live faced blackouts over two days. Infrastructure, from traffic lights to trains, stopped working. Hospitals, sanitation plants and offices ground to a halt. Airports and factories had to rely on backup generators, often fuelled by truckloads of diesel.
The impact on India’s economy goes far beyond lost output. The blackout will badly damage the country’s reputation, and highlights the rotten infrastructure that is hobbling its efforts to catch up with China.
[. . .]
At one end, not enough cheap coal is being dug up and gasfields are sputtering. At the other, the national transmission grid needs investment. Meanwhile the “last mile” distribution companies, largely state-owned, that buy power and deliver it to homes and firms, are financial zombies. Much of their power is pinched or given away free. Local politicians put pressure on them to keep tariffs low, which leads to huge losses. Squeezed between a shortage of fuel and end-customers who are nearly bust, those private generating firms are now cutting back on vital long-term investment in new plants.
[. . .]
The solution is to cut graft, tackle vested interests and allow markets to work better. The coal monopoly needs to be broken up and local distribution firms privatised. Yet despite the looming crisis, for a decade the government has shirked doing what is clearly necessary, just as it has failed to implement key tax reforms, cut public borrowing or open the retail sector to competition. It has allowed corruption and red tape to damage other vital industries, such as telecoms.
ESR on a famous incident in British India in the 1840s:
The first lesson is for the various sorts who call themselves “multiculturalists” and “moral relativists”. Napier showed us that these ostensibly liberating doctrines actually translate into “might makes right” — that, in the absence of a common normative ethical framework, disputes about “custom” will be won by the tribe with the most ability and will to use force.
The second lesson is for people who, having noticed than relativism and multiculturism are a road to ruination and blood, then argue that we must fall back on religion as the only possible source of truly universal ethical norms (If God is dead, is anything permissible?). Notice that the would-be widow-burners are priests? The “custom” they are arguing for is exactly their bid in the game of if-you-accept-my-religious-premises.
Napier, in promising those priests a hanging, says nothing of any religious counter-conviction of his own. And it would make no difference to the lesson if he had — except, perhaps, to underline the point that religion is just another form of tribal particularism and thus fundamentally unable to lift us away from the bloody muck of might-makes-right.
In The Register, Phil Muncaster reports on what is rumoured to be the next stage of India’s space program:
Not to be outdone by China in the space race, India is set to flex its muscles on the world stage, planning a mission to Mars late next year.
K Radhakrishnan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told reporters on Saturday that there will be a definitive announcement on the scientific research-based project by the government soon.
“A lot of studies have been done on the possible mission to Mars. We have come to the last phase of approvals,” he said, according to Times of India.
The proposed Mars mission will apparently be focussed on the Red Planet’s origins and evolution, its climate and geography and whether life can be sustained there.