2020 has been a big year for the Indian Armed Forces, with indigenisation, upgrades, rule-changes and other matters, along with elevated tensions with China
2020 has been an extraordinary year for the Indian defence forces as the country achieved greater heights in terms of military cooperation with other nations, in modernising and replenishing its arsenal, and also in pushing for indigenisation of military hardware to cut short its reliance on imports and to boost exports. This becomes pertinent given the sharp escalation witnessed in India-China ties in addition to the constant menace of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
India which has the world’s third-largest military budget, increased its expenditure this year by a whopping $10 billion as the government wants the tri-services to use more homegrown technologies as opposed to foreign-made hardware in line with the Make in India initiative. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant developments that took place this year in the Indian defence sector.
1. Indian Forces Stand Up To Chinese Aggression as Tensions Flare
The tensions with China spiked when 20 Indian Jawans were martyred on the icy heights of Galwan valley in an ambush by the Chinese PLA on the intervening night of June 15 and 16 – the first time casualties had resulted from a clash between the two powerful neighbours in decades. The tell-tale Chinese attempt at expansion came amid Beijing facing heat from all sides owing to the Coronavirus pandemic originating from its shores. India stood firm faced with the dragon, however, making moves diplomatically, militarily as well as in its internal policies to corner China. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called out ‘vistarvaad’ on numerous forums, most significantly by personally going to Leh and addressing the troops at what is undoubtedly India’s territory. India’s boldness in standing up to China has been noticed globally, with what had seemed like an unstoppable force finally meeting an unmovable object giving other countries the impetus they needed to do the same.
2. Rafale fighter jets arrive in India
In July, the first batch of French-developed Rafale fighter jets arrived in India to provide a much-needed boost to the country’s air power. India received another three jets earlier last month with IAF inducting a total of eight Rafale fighter jets so far. India had signed a Rs 59,000 crore deal with France in 2016 under which 36 Rafale jets are expected to be delivered by 2022.
3. Permanent Commission For Women In Army
In 2020, the Indian Army took a step towards gender equality in the armed forces as it kickstarted the process to grant eligible women officers Permanent Commission. The decision came after a historic Supreme Court ruling that directed the Indian Army to grant eligible women officers Permanent Commission. Earlier, women officers were hired under the short services schemes for five years, which was subject to extension for up to 14 years. But now women can serve in the Indian Army till retirement age.
4. India tests INS Vikrant aircraft carrier
INS Vikrant is the first aircraft carrier developed and constructed in India. The Indian Navy recently concluded the basin trials of the ship and the sea trials are expected to begin in January 2021. The work on the aircraft carrier began in 2009 and the vessel was first moved out of the dry dock in 2011. The ship, which is constructed by Cochin Shipyard, is expected to be commissioned in the Indian Navy in February 2021, which would be a historic moment because of the carrier being indigenously built.
5. Armenia pens defence deal with India
Earlier this year, India signed an agreement with Armenia to supply indigenous SWATHI weapon-locating radars developed by DRDO. India has agreed to sell four SWATHI radars to Armenia after Yerevan gave the deal a go-ahead following trials of similar technologies from Russia and Poland. SWATHI radar system can accurately detect weapons such as shells, mortars, and rockets within a 50-kilometre range. The deal is in line with the government’s Make in India initiative, and opens up a much-desired scenario where India becomes an exporter of military technology.
6. India’s IOR Strategic Supremacy
2020 has opened new gates for India to assert its influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with all four QUAD nations deciding to participate in the Malabar exercise for the first time since 2007. The exercise, which was meant to target China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific, was held in two phases last month. The Malabar exercise saw the participation of the Australian fleet for the first time since the quadrilateral dialogue between India, US, Japan and Australia expired in 2007.
7. India restricts defence imports to boost domestic production
India in August announced restrictions on military imports stopping the country’s Armed forces from buying 101 defence items from foreign countries as a step to boost domestic defence production. The list includes artillery guns, short-range surface to air missiles, cruise missiles, offshore patrol vessels, electronic warfare systems, next-generation missile vessels, floating dock, anti-submarine rocket launchers, basic trainer aircraft among other items.
8. Testing of Rudram, Dhruvastra & BrahMos missiles
The Indian Air Force test-fired the Rudram missile earlier this year, which is capable of disabling the enemy’s radar system and transmitters. The missile has been developed by DRDO and if inducted in the IAF, India will become only the fourth country to have the technology. India also tested the Dhruvastra missile, which is a helicopter version of the Nag Helina and is capable of destroying enemy bunkers, battle tanks, and armoured vehicles.
The Indian tri-services have been testing a more enhanced version of BrahMos missiles lately that can be fired from land, sea, and air. The updated version of the missile will provide a range of around 400 kilometres as compared to the 290-kilometres version, which is already in service of the Indian Navy and Indian Army. The missile technology has been developed jointly by India and Russia and is considered the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world.
9. Defence Ministry approves proposal to acquire 33 new fighter aircraft from Russia
The Defence Ministry in July approved the proposal to acquire 33 fighter jets from Russia at a low-cost of Rs. 18,148 crore. To replenish the sanctioned strength of the air power of the Indian Air Force, the defence ministry agreed to procure 12 Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia. Under the deal, 59 MiG-29 fighter jets will also be upgraded. The decision came amid the tensions between India and China.
10. Indian Navy & Coast Guard fight fire aboard oil tanker off Sri Lanka’s coast
The Indian Navy helped Sri Lanka contain the fire onboard oil tanker MT New Diamond earlier in September. The ship was on its way to India when it caught fire. One person died in the accident while the Indian Navy rescued 22 people who were on board the vessel at the time of the incident. Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took to social media for the efforts made by the Indian defence forces in controlling the fire. This continues Indian forces’ proud tradition of leading humanitarian and rescue missions the world over.