India’s Plan To Counter China and Sustain Maritime Sphere of Influence

The Indian Navy has been deployed in in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Aden, but the former is increasingly seeing competition with China.

“Modi government’s strategy [is] to use [Indian] island territories to project power in the Indo-Pacific in support of maritime security of the region.”

As China seeks to gain more prominence in the Indian Ocean, India is pushing back with a number of its own efforts to sustain its sphere of influence. According to the excerpted article from the Indian nationalist publication Hindustan Times, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently announced the inauguration of naval bases, which will be on islands in the Indian territory of the Lakshadweep archipelago, near the states of the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The article describes the bases as a “game-changer” and notes how they are part of a broader strategy of the Modi administration to project power into the Indo-Pacific. Specifically, according to the article, India seeks to counter the Chinese Navy and make it “think twice” about hostile actions towards India.

India considers China’s “String of Pearls” strategy in the Indian Ocean as an attempt to encircle and contain India, including with Chinese naval bases in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, [i] and Pakistan and a port in Myanmar, which can be converted to a base in the future. China can use naval bases to monitor India’s Navy and naval training exercises and, in the event of war, strike Indian ships capable of firing nuclear weapons, which would limit India’s nuclear deterrent.[ii] China claims that India is exaggerating the threat from China and is interfering in the sovereignty of India’s neighbors in the Indian Ocean, such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives, by pressuring them to disallow even Chinese “scientific research vessels”[iii] to dock at their ports.[iv] However, India disregards China’s claims. Rather, to meet the threat India perceives from China, the least India can do is to increase own naval bases to match, if not necessarily even exceed, the Chinese port and base presence in the Indian Ocean. India considers the Indian Ocean its own sphere of influence and is, therefore, building up its naval infrastructure to meet its security needs.


“India to build naval bases in Agatti and Minicoy Islands,” Hindustan Times (Delhi-based weekly covering issues in India and around the world from nationalist angles),14 January 2024.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep, India has decided to firmly extend its naval footprint by establishing naval bases in Agatti and Minicoy Islands along with air bases in order to secure the vital sea lanes of communication.

This decision dovetails into Modi government’s strategy to use its islands territories to project power in the Indo-Pacific in support of maritime security of the region. The geographical location of Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands and the Andamans and Nicobar Islands is such that India can safeguard the maritime trade routes while countering the challenge of rapidly expanding Chinese Navy and their supplicants in the Indian Ocean…. Such level of force projection has never been seen in the past and will make the adversary [China] and its supplicants think twice before playing mischief in the Indian Ocean region.


[i] An overlooked reason why China has gained increasing influence in Sri Lanka is that India’s domestic Tamil population has exerted pressure on India’s government to pressure the Sri Lankan government on treating Tamil civilians better during the civil war and in Sri Lanka. Although India did not directly intervene, it “warned” Sri Lanka about its human rights conduct, while the U.S suspended aid to Sri Lanka for its human rights violations. China, in contrast, took advantage of the situation to offer crucial aid, armaments, and diplomatic support to the Sri Lankan government without any criticism of its human rights record. See A. Jathindra, “Revisiting Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy Balance under the Shadow of the Space Dragon,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, July-August 2023.

[ii] See, for example,, “’String of Pearls’: How China-made Kyaukphyu Port in Myanmar threatens India’s nuclear attack submarine base,” 8 January 2024,

[iii] The Washington D.C-based think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), from 2020 to 2024, 64 Chinese “oceanographic missions” using “research vessels” were observed from satellite imagery, and 80% of them “demonstrated suspect behavior or possessed organizational links suggesting their involvement in advancing Beijing’s geopolitical agenda.” Indis would, therefore, rightly be suspicious of their activities in the Indian Ocean. See “China’s Research Vessels Carry Out Covert Missions for PLA,” The Maritime Executive, 14 January 2024.

[iv] See, for example, “印度海军潜艇到访斯里兰卡,印媒炒作“击败中国 (Indian navy submarine visits Sri Lanka, and Indian media exaggerates defeating China),” (privately owned Chinese-language website with nationalist tendencies), 5 February 2024.

Image: The Indian Navy has been deployed in in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Gulf of Aden, but the former is increasingly seeing competition with China
Source: Government of India,_Central_Arabian_Sea_and_Gulf_of_Aden.jpg
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Sri Lanka Suspends Chinese Research Vessel Visits

Map of South Asia, India featured.

“In the immediate (time frame), it means that China’s third ‘research/spy vessel’ Xiang Yang Hong 3 is not welcome in the first week of the New Year.”

India has been wary of Chinese research vessels docking in Sri Lankan ports and has pushed Sri Lanka to prevent these port calls. China claims the vessels are only for scientific purposes, but the Chinese ships that have docked in Sri Lanka are known to have dual scientific and intelligence-gathering purposes.[i] The accompanying excerpted articles report on Sri Lanka’s recent decision for a one-year moratorium on foreign research vessels docking in the country’s ports beginning 1 January 2024, and demonstrate how Sri Lanka continues to be a focal point in tensions between India and China.

The first excerpted article from India’s independent think tank Observer Research Foundation states that Sri Lanka’s moratorium is an attempt to appease India by not allowing Chinese ships to carry out intelligence gathering activities so close to India under the guise of scientific research. While Sri Lanka has become more economically tied with China over the past several years, it still relies on India as an economic and political partner. Sri Lanka’s ties with India, while strained at times, go back further than its ties with China. An immediate impact of the moratorium resulted in the Chinese ship Xiang Yang Hong 3 being prohibited from docking in Sri Lanka in early January. The author mentions that China sought permission from both Sri Lanka and the Maldives to dock the Xiang Yang Hong 3 late last year. The second excerpted article from India’s English-language daily Deccan Herald reports that in light of the Sri Lankan moratorium, the Maldives is allowing the Xiang Yang Hong 3 docking rights. The purpose of the Chinese visit is for the rotation of personnel and replenishment for the ship, and not for research, according to the article. Nevertheless, the decision by the Maldives enables China a port visit close to India. The article also mentions that there will likely be some political fallout between India and the Maldives over this authorization, though it is unclear how this will play out. Overall, Sri Lanka’s one year moratorium on foreign ships reflects India’s influence in Sri Lanka. However, the docking of the Xiang Yang Hong 3 in the Maldives likewise demonstrates that India’s ability to influence only extends so far, allowing China to project power and maintain a presence near India.


N. Sathiya Moorthy, “Decoding Sri Lanka’s moratorium on foreign research vessels,” Observer Research Foundation (independent think-tank in India), 8 January 2024.

On the face of it, the recent Sri Lankan government’s decision to ‘declare a pause’ on foreign research vessels for one year beginning 1 January 2024 is an attempt to buy peace with the large-hearted Indian neighbour, and also the United States…

In the immediate, it means that China’s third ‘research/spy vessel’ Xiang Yang Hong 3 is not welcome in the first week of the New Year…

“The arrival of these ships creates serious diplomatic tensions, and it (2024) is an election year,” Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said, by way of explanation. “Such ship visits can be highly disruptive for the region and Sri Lanka, because of the pressure the government may come under…” he added…

For instance, Shi Yan 6 was not the first Chinese research/survey ship, otherwise considered a ‘spy ship’, to visit Sri Lanka…A year earlier in 2022, Yuan Wang 5 had berthed at the Chinese-controlled Hambantota Port in the south, unlike Shi Yan 6, which docked at the capital Colombo…

In the case of the new vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 3, China had sought permission from both Sri Lanka and neighbouring Maldives, to dock it in these waters from 5 January to the end of May, a long five-month haul. As the intention was to map the ocean in these parts, the long stay should be a cause for concern for the larger Indian neighbour.

It should be equally so for the US, whose Diego Garcia military base is situated 700 km away…

Anirban Bhaumik, “India wary as Maldives allows China ‘research vessel’ to dock at port,” Deccan Herald (English-language daily newspaper in India), 23 January 2024.

…President Mohamed Muizzu’s government on Tuesday stated that it had decided to allow Chinese PLAN’s ‘research vessel’ Xiang Yang Hong 3 to dock at Malé, the main port of the Maldives. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the government of the Maldives stated that the decision to allow the ship to make the port call followed a diplomatic request from Beijing. It, however, claimed that Xiang Yang Hong 3 would dock at Malé only for the rotation of personnel and replenishment and would not conduct any research as long as it would remain in the territorial waters of the Maldives.New Delhi, however, is not convinced and, according to the sources, would soon convey its concerns to Malé through diplomatic channels. A source in New Delhi told DH that India would use its assets to keep watch on the Xiang Yang Hong 3 during its port call in the Maldives…


[i] For background on India pressuring Sri Lanka to prevent Chinese vessels docking in Sri Lankan ports, see: Matthew Stein “India Works To Maintain Sri Lankan Foothold Amid Growing China Presence,” OE Watch, 10-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Map of South Asia, India featured.
Attribution: Public domain

India Looking to Alternative Arms Suppliers Because of Delays From Russia

The next generation M4 rifle from Swiss Arms, the Sig Sauer SG 516 is a newborn assault rifle manufactured by the SIGARMS GmbH, Switzerland. The rifle is based on an American-made Colt Defense M4 Carbine but combined with gas piston/op-rod system, based on the SIG 550 series system.

“This deficit surfaced visibly in the inability of the Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL) joint venture (JV), instituted in late 2021, to deliver the first batch of around 5,000 AK-203 7.62x39mm rifles to the Indian Army, by March 2024.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the impact on the Russian defense industry’s deliveries of weapons and equipment to numerous countries, including India, is well documented.[i] The accompanying excerpted article from the independent news website The Wire reports on a Russian-Indian joint venture failing to meet an early 2024 delivery deadline of a batch of assault rifles for India’s Armed Forces. While this marked a small item that Russia has failed to deliver to India compared to the larger systems that have been delayed, the article notes that India has already found an alternative. The article reports that the Indian Army recently acquired 73,000 SIG Sauer rifles from the United States, similar to a purchase of SIG Sauer rifles a few years ago to meet a short notice operational requirement.[ii] The article notes delays of a few other Russian systems, including two S-400 [R1] surface-to-air missile systems and two guided missile frigates. India is not likely to quickly find alternatives to the S-400s or frigates, considering the cost and delivery timeline for these types of systems. However, India’s purchase of SIG Sauer rifles shows that it is willing to look for alternative partners whenever possible.


Rahul Bedi, “Russian Rifle Delays Raise Concerns Over Deliveries from Moscow, The Wire (an independent English-language news website), 15 December 2023.

Delays in the indigenous licensed manufacture of Russian Kalashnikov AK-203 [R1] assault rifles at a dedicated facility in Korwa near Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, has further raised concerns in domestic military circles over Moscow’s ability to deliver assorted contracted-for platforms and other materiel to India on time, or if at all.

Despite the sanguinity expressed periodically by Russian officials and diplomats to their Indian counterparts – over the fact that their military-industrial complex remained robust and was ‘on stream’ to vindicate its equipment delivery schedules, US-led sanctions on Moscow for invading Ukraine have, in reality severely jeopardised its capacities in this regard.

This deficit surfaced visibly in the inability of the Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL) joint venture (JV), instituted in late 2021, to deliver the first batch of around 5,000 AK-203 7.62x39mm rifles to the Indian Army, by March 2024. Instead, at the Indian Army’s prompting, the Ministry of Defence recently approved the add-on import of around 73,000 ‘Patrol’ Sig Sauer assault rifles from the US…

No official statement on this postponement in supplying the AK-203s to the Indian Army units has been forthcoming, from either IRRPL, the Indian Army or the Ministry of Defence. But industry sources said that the economic and technological sanctions on Russia, were together responsible for deferrals in even an industrially low-end project entailing the licensed manufacture of assault rifles. The IRRPL was formed, amidst much fanfare, to manufacture some 750,000 AK-203 rifles…

Russia’s defence industrial complex seems to concur, as it recently conceded its inability in continuing to deliver military kit to its many clients, including India, as it needed to prioritise ‘manufacturing and supplying products to the Russian Army’…

Meanwhile, apart from the deferred AK-203 project, India has three other major Russian platforms on order, all of which were plagued by delays, and possibly an ambiguous future.

These included the delivery of two of five Almaz-Antey S-400 Triumf self-propelled surface-to-air missile systems, acquired for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in a deal signed in October 2018 for $5.5 billion, constructing two Project 1135.6M Admiral Grigorovich guided missile frigates worth an estimated $950 million at Russia’s Yantar Shipyard at Kaliningrad…Between 2021 and March 2023 Russia had delivered three S-400 systems, and Rosonboronexport’s Mikheyev had recently told the country’s state-owned news agency TASS, that the remaining two air defence systems would arrive by end-2023, which has not happened…


[i] For more information on Russian military equipment delays to India since the war in Ukraine began, see: Matthew Stein, “India Takes a Step Away from the Russian Defense Industry,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, 31 July 2023.

[ii] See: Matthew Stein, “Bypassing the “Make in India” Initiative,” OE Watch, May 2020.

Image Information:

Image: The next generation M4 rifle from Swiss Arms, the Sig Sauer SG 516 is a newborn assault rifle manufactured by the SIGARMS GmbH, Switzerland. The rifle is based on an American-made Colt Defense M4 Carbine but combined with gas piston/op-rod system, based on the SIG 550 series system.
Attribution: CCA 3.0

Israel’s Operation in Gaza Compounding Logistical Delays for India’s Armed Forces

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the India-Israel Business Summit, in New Delhi on January 15, 2018

“Consequently, in light of the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and now in Gaza, Russia and Israel, he warned, could well end up either failing to meet India’s numerous materiel requirements or delaying deliveries interminably.”

Two months after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in 2022, India began to experience delays in deliveries of weapons and equipment from Russia. The Israeli operations in Gaza have only compounded the delays.[i] The accompanying excerpted article from the independent English-language news website The Wire reports on the ongoing delays of military equipment from not only Russia, but now Israel, as it carries out its Gaza operation. The article examines how two of India’s main suppliers of weapon systems and equipment, Russia and Israel, are currently engaged in conflicts. It also notes how Israel has not provided India with major platforms or systems like Russia has but provided components for various systems as well as different munitions. These components have been implemented into systems of all branches of the Indian Armed Forces making it difficult to quantify the number of Israeli systems in Indian platforms. The author of the article ends by mentioning that Russia’s and Israel’s conflicts could motivate India to pursue alternatives to continue building its defense industry. While the article does not offer specifics on how India will deal with the delays, the situation may push India to seek other partners to find short and long-term solutions to grow the country’s defense industry.


Rahul Bedi, “Ukraine and Gaza May Impact Russia and Israel’s Ability to Sustain Materiel Exports to India,” The Wire (an independent English-language news website in India), 14 October 2023.

The involvement of India’s two principal materiel providers – Russia and Israel – in their respective wars and conflicts has the potential to impact the inflow of defence equipment supplies into the country, warned a cross-section of service veterans and military analysts.

…This equalled a whopping 55% or so of Russian and Israeli military imports for India…

Retired Brigadier Rahul Bhonsle of the Security Risks Asia consultancy in Delhi said that while the BJP-led government had launched the atamnirbhar initiative to indigenise Indian military needs, Delhi still topped the global list of defence equipment importers.

Consequently, in light of the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and now in Gaza, Russia and Israel, he warned, could well end up either failing to meet India’s numerous materiel requirements or delaying deliveries interminably.

Unlike Russia, Israel does not provide India any major platforms, but supplies critical and innovative force multipliers like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), assorted missile, guidance and avionics systems, precision-guided munitions, diverse sensors and surveillance and targeting radars, amongst other equipment.

Most of this was fitted onto combat aircraft, helicopters, warships, submarines and armoured vehicles.

But such equipment and component diversity made it difficult to quantify the exact or even near-precise percentages of Israeli military equipment in service with India’s armed forces.

…(though) Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza against Hamas was ‘unlikely’ to impact military hardware and spares supplies to India in the short term, they cautioned that an extended conflict could jeopardise deliveries.

…Once diplomatic ties with Israel were instituted under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1992, the two sides fast-tracked their strategic and defence relationship based on mutual security and commercial interests.

Israel, for its part, rightly perceived a commercial opportunity, while India looked upon Tel Aviv as a reliable and ‘no-questions-asked’ materiel provider, especially of varied ammunition and missile systems which India’s military badly lacked, and still does.

Nonetheless, it still took another six-odd years and the BJP’s ascent to power under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for Israel’s defence machinery to definitively establish itself in India…

However, it was the 11-week long Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999 that catapulted Israel’s defence industry to centre stage domestically.

As the seriousness of the deadly conflict unfolded, commercially savvy Israel dug deep into its military reserves to supply India high-end hardware, especially badly-needed 155mm rounds for its FH-77B Bofors howitzers, laser-guided munitions and other ordnance that contributed largely to the Pakistan Army vacating the mountainous region’s siege and ending hostilities.

Two decades later, the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) Mirage 2000H fighters in their attack on a Pakistani militant training camp at Balakot in Pakhtunkhwa in February 2019, fired specifically configured Israeli Crystal Maze Mk2 missiles (variants of the Rafael Advanced Defence Systems AGM-142 Raptor Have Nap/Popeye missile)…

…And though India had reduced its dependence on Russia for military equipment by some 33% between 2011 and 2020 in an effort to diversify its network of materiel suppliers, switching entirely to alternate sources was not an option military-planners in Delhi desired, as it entailed colossal expenditure, reworked infrastructure, inordinate delays and doctrinal changes.Perhaps the individual wars in Ukraine and Gaza and the constraints these could impose on Russia and Israel’s ability to export defence equipment may end up providing alternative routes to sustain and modernise India’s military through indigenous efforts.


[i] For more information on India’s issues with deliveries of ordnance since the war in Ukraine began, see: Matthew Stein “India Takes a Step Away from the Russian Defense Industry,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, 31 July 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the India-Israel Business Summit, in New Delhi on January 15, 2018
Attribution: Government Open Data License – India (GODL)

India Upgrades Its Artillery Systems Based On Lessons From The War In Ukraine

Dhanush howitzer during Republic Day Parade 2017

“The war also brought out the matter of increased survivability, the source said, referring to reports which suggested that Russia had lost 5,000 guns and rocket systems so far.”

India continues to draw many operational and tactical lessons from the war in Ukraine.[i] The excerpted article from The Hindu reports that India’s Branch of Artillery, an operational arm of the Army, conducted a study of the Ukraine conflict and will subsequently convert all existing towed and self-propelled artillery systems making 155mm the standard caliber. The article also notes that the Army will be looking to India’s defense industry to update these systems with a focus on buying indigenously produced munitions. Officials in India’s Ministry of Defense stated concerns about the availability of ordnance for various systems after the war in Ukraine began.[ii] Overall, this marks an example of Indian officials taking another lesson from the war in Ukraine resulting in a long-term change for the country’s armed forces.


Dinakar Peri, “Indian Army draws lessons from Ukraine war, revises artillery requirements,” The Hindu (English-language newspaper in India), 17 September 2023.

Drawing lessons from the Ukraine war, the Indian Army has revised the profile of its Artillery regiment, with focus on a mix of mobility and augmented long-range firepower.

The Army expects to achieve its target of converting the entire artillery to medium 155 mm gun systems by 2042…

“The Regiment of Artillery has done a detailed study along with the Operations Branch. In the revised Artillery profile, Army is going for more self-propelled and mounted gun systems,” the source said…

The Army has embarked on a plan to make 155 mm the standard calibre of all artillery guns…

The war also brought out the matter of increased survivability, the source said, referring to reports which suggested that Russia had lost 5,000 guns and rocket systems so far.

There is a need for methods for force preservation as well as to adopt shoot-and-scoot techniques. “The Russia-Ukraine conflict also shows that we need to be prepared for such a prolonged war,” the source said.

…the Army inducted the M777 Ultra Light Howitzer (ULH) in November 2018. It has since inducted all 145 guns contracted. In addition, 100 K9-Vajra Self Propelled Guns have been inducted and the Defence Acquisition Council has approved procurement of 100 more.

…The Army has also placed orders for 114 Dhanush guns, indigenously upgraded based on the Bofors guns, and 300 Sharang guns, which are upgraded from 130mm guns to 155 mm…

In addition, Request for Proposals (RFPs) have been also issued for two more gun systems — 155mm/ 52 calibre Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) and Mounted Gun System (MGS). The MGS has crew and ammunition onboard the vehicle and has shoot-and-scoot capabilities, officials said. The Army is looking for around 300 guns.…In addition to guns, there is a major focus on indigenisation of munitions, officials said, stating that four types of munitions were currently under trials.


[i] The Indian Army carried out an exercise in the summer of 2022 that worked through tactical communication issues related to the war in Ukraine and earlier this year policy makers outlined several capabilities that India should develop in its armed forces after watching how Russia and Ukraine have made adjustments on the battlefield, see: Matthew Stein “Lessons For India From The War In Ukraine,” OE Watch, 05-2023.

[ii] For more information on India’s issues with deliveries of ordnance since the war in Ukraine began, see: Matthew Stein “India Takes a Step Away from the Russian Defense Industry,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, 31 July 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Dhanush howitzer during Republic Day Parade 2017
Attribution: Government Open Data License – India

Pakistan Struggles In The Tri-Border Region After Multiple Terrorist Attacks

Location of the Mastung district in Balochistan, Pakistan.

“Recently, the insecurity and activities of militants have increased in different parts of Balochistan, and a number of security forces, government employees, and civilians have been killed in attacks and clashes.”

As attention turns to developing terrorism trends in other regions of the world, Pakistan has recently suffered a series of deadly suicide attacks in its Balochistan province. [i]

 According to the first excerpted article from the London-based, Afghan-run independent news outlet Afghanistan International, on 29 September, 59 people were killed, and more than 60 were injured, in a suicide attack during the Milad al-Nabi ceremony in Mastung, Balochistan. Milad al-Nabi is an important Muslim holiday celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.[ii] The Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP) quickly condemned the attack and denied responsibility, claiming they provided information to Pakistan’s intelligence agency before the bombing. While the TTP denied this bombing, the pro-Pashtun group has been responsible for multiple deadly attacks in the province, as well as the greater Balochistan region.[iii] No group has claimed responsibility for this attack, though Pakistan’s Acting Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti claimed India was involved.

The second excerpt from the Pashto language branch of Radio Free Europe, Mashal Radio, describes some of the complex issues that Pakistan’s Balochistan province is facing. In addition to TTP activity, the Islamic State (IS) and Baloch separatist groups like the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) have claimed responsibility for multiple recent attacks.[iv] Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department conducted kinetic operations in the area, killing a prominent IS member days before the bombing in Mastung. Hours after the Mastung attack, an additional suicide bombing was conducted in Doaba, a small city in the Hangu district of Pakistan. It is currently unclear whether the attacks are related. Recent attacks in Balochistan province – as well as the greater tri-border region – have created a delicate security situation. The Taliban, IS, and Baloch separatist groups conducting attacks in the same area make it difficult for counterterrorism units to combat them effectively and accurately attribute attacks to the appropriate groups. Although Pakistan has stepped up counterterrorism efforts in its own province, the larger Balochistan region is remote and challenging for each country to police. Terrorist groups can base their operations out of Afghanistan or Iran and conduct attacks in Pakistan, with little ability for Pakistan to conduct follow-up operations inside bordering nations. If these groups gain a permanent foothold in the greater Balochistan region, transnational groups could use the area to coordinate international attacks or further destabilize the relationship between Pakistan and India.


“المرصاد: طالبانو د بلوچستان د برید په هکله له پاکستان سره معلومات شریک کړي وو

(Al-Mursad: The Taliban had shared information with Pakistan about the attack in Balochistan),” Afghanistan International (London based Afghan run independent news outlet), 1 October 2023.

Al-Mursad, a website close to the Taliban, says that the group had shared the information about the Baluchistan attack and other similar attacks and the names of those involved with Pakistan’s intelligence…. The previous day, 59 people were killed and 60 were injured in a suicide attack on the Milad al-Nabi ceremony in Mastung, Balochistan. Pakistan’s Acting Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said in Quetta yesterday that India is involved in the Balochistan attacks. But al-Mursad says, reliable evidence shows that Pakistan is carrying out the project of raising and strengthening ISIS as a proxy organization in Afghanistan and the region…. They [Al-Mursad] add in their report that Balochistan is considered a large and lawless area for ISIS in this country. Even before this, Daesh has claimed responsibility for some attacks in Balochistan, the last of which was Hafiz Ahmad, the leader of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, in Swabi last month. ISIS has not yet said anything about the Mustang attack.

Terin, Ayub, Majeed Babar, Shahin Buneri, Daud Khattak, “د مستونګ چاودنه کې لسګونه کسان وژل شوي دي

(Dozens of people were killed in the Mustang explosion),” Mashal Radio, 29 September 2023.

[H]e did not say anything about the nature of the explosion, but the Reuters news agency quoted a police official, Munir Ahmed, as saying that the suicide bomber detonated near the “Madina Mosque” when people were attending the Milad ceremony. Achakzai said the government declared a state of emergency in the hospitals of Quetta after the incident…. A few hours after the explosion in Mastung, a number of people were killed in a suicide attack in Doaba, Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned the attacks in Doba and Mastung in a statement on September 20. The statement says that the organization’s Secretary General Hussain Ibrahim Taha condemns “any form of terrorism” and expresses “full support for Pakistan’s efforts in the fight against terrorism.” This is while 11 people, including the spokesman and former senator Hafiz Hamdullah,were injured in a bomb blast in Mastung on September 14. The police had said at that time that Hamdullah’s convoy was going towards the Mustang from Quetta when an explosion occurred at the checkpoint. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the Mastung blast…. The Pakistani army has said that four soldiers were killed in a missile attack on a security post in Zhob. The Army Public Relations Office (ESPR) said in a statement that the attack took place on the evening of September 28. It has been claimed in the statement that the missile was sent by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants from Afghanistan, but that group and the Taliban government in Kabul have not yet said anything in response…. Recently, insecurity and activities of militants have increased in different parts of Balochistan and a number of security forces, government employees and civilians have been killed in attacks and clashes. On the 9th of September, six local football players were going from Dera Bugti to Sawai in a car to participate in the championship called “Al Pakistan Chief Minister Gold Cup” when armed men kidnapped them. Before this, a soldier was killed in two attacks on the traffic police and the Levies force in the afternoon of August 16…. On August 13, militants attacked the convoy of Chinese engineers in the port city of Gwadar, after which a clash with the security forces began….


[i] Balochistan has been conquered and divided by multiple empires, gaining partial independence in the 18th century, and is now divided amongst three nations, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan—with other ethnic majorities. While not as commonly known as the Pashtun, Kurdish, or Punjabi people, the Baloch are ethnically, linguistically, and historically unique. Years of subjugation and marginalization – along with its remote and sparsely populated geographic location – have contributed to the fragile state of the region, allowing nationalist and radical Islamist groups to further destabilize the province through violence. For more information on the history of the Balochistan region, see: Mickey Kupecz. “Pakistan’s Baloch Insurgency: History, Conflict Drivers, and Regional Implications,” The International Affairs Review, 16 May 2012.

[ii] For more information on the Mawlid al-Nabi celebration, see: “Birthday of the Prophet: Mawlid al-Nabi,” The Pluralism Project – Harvard University, 2020.

[iii] For additional background information on Tehrik-E Taliban Pakistan, see: “Tehrik-E Taliban Pakistan (TTP),” Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

 [iv] For additional information on the Balochistan Liberation Army, see: “Balochistan Liberation Army,” Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation, Updated 2019.

Image Information:

Image: Location of the Mastung district in Balochistan, Pakistan.
Attribution: CC-BY-SA-4.0

Azerbaijan Protests India’s Delivery of Weapons to Armenia

Hikmat Hajiyev has been the Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan since 2018.

“But the fact remains that today Armenia, even if it wants to, will not be able to transfer these weapons to the remnants of the so-called regime in Karabakh.”

For years, Armenia has watched its adversary, Azerbaijan, receive weapons from Turkey, Russia, and Israel. Armenia has a smaller defense budget than Azerbaijan’s, and thus, has not been able to match the same level of acquisitions, notably, contracting for an export version of Russia’s Iskander ballistic missile system in 2016.[i]

However, despite these challenges, according to the first excerpted article from the Azerbaijani news agency Trend, Armenia received an unnamed weapon system from India in late July 2023. The article also mentions a $400 million contract between India and Armenia signed this past year providing Armenia with the Pinaka multiple rocket launcher, 155 mm artillery systems, anti-tank rockets, and unknown quantities of ammunition.[ii] The second excerpted article from the Azerbaijani news website Caliber reports that the Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan – Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration, Hikmet Hajiyev, met with India’s ambassador to discuss his concerns about the increasing military cooperation between India and Armenia. Hajiyev noted that India’s cooperation with Armenia comes as Azerbaijan and Armenia are negotiating a peace agreement and that the delivery of new weapons aggravates the situation. The article notes that India’s ambassador would relay the message to Armenia, but that the meeting was unlikely to have a major impact. While Azerbaijan has fair relations with India, it has better relations with Pakistan, including an increasing level of security cooperation in recent years.[iii] Ultimately, the delivery of weapons to Armenia could lead Azerbaijan to deepen its relationship with Pakistan.


Takhmaz Asadov, “Из Индии в Армению везут оружие – кто хочет накалить ситуацию в регионе? (Weapons are being delivered from India to Armenia – who wants to heat up the situation in the region?),” Trend (news agency in Azerbaijan), 26 July 2023.

The movement of a vehicle column from the border checkpoint Nurduz (Iran) to Armenia was recorded. According to the spread footage, it can be seen that the cargo being transported is covered with an awning so that the destination of the cargo remains unknown. However, it is clear that the cargo transported from Iran to Armenia is for military purposes and has already been delivered to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

As for the consignor of the cargo, this is India, with which Armenia has recently been rapidly increasing military-technical cooperation. It is known only from open sources in the media that a military contract worth more than 400 million US dollars has been signed between Armenia and India…

“Индия разжигает огонь на Южном Кавказе (India is stoking a fire in the South Caucasus),” Caliber (news website from Azerbaijan), 26 July 2023.

On July 26, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan – Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration Hikmet Hajiyev met with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to our country Sridharan Madhusudhanan.

At the meeting, Hikmet Hajiyev noted that the Azerbaijani side is concerned about the deepening of military cooperation between Armenia and India, in particular, the photos and videos circulated in the media in recent days about the transportation of Indian-made weapons systems through Iran to Armenia…

Hikmet Hajiyev stressed that the supply of weapons by India to Armenia, at a time when Azerbaijan is negotiating a peace agreement with this country, serves to militarize Armenia and aggravate the situation, hinder the establishment of lasting peace and security in the South Caucasus region…The Indian Ambassador assured that he would inform official Delhi about the issue raised by Azerbaijan, noted the importance of dialogue between the two countries to discuss issues of concern in bilateral relations…


[i] The export version of Iskander missile system does not have as long of a range as the version Russia uses, but it has many of the same capabilities. For background on Armenia’s acquisition of it, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia’s Acquisition of the Iskander Ballistic Missile System,” OE Watch, November 2016.

[ii] For more information on Armenia’s acquisitions from India, see: Matthew Stein “Armenia Acquires Indian Multiple Rocket Launcher System Amid Delays in Russian Deliveries,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

 [iii] Security cooperation between Azerbaijan and Pakistan has been increasing for the past several years, see: Matthew Stein “Pakistan Providing Border Security Assistance to Azerbaijan,” OE Watch, October 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Hikmat Hajiyev has been the Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan since 2018.
Attribution: Public domain

India’s Security Engagement With Egypt and Saudi Arabia Evolving

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Mohammad bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (2016)

“The military-to-military ties are likely to develop further, with greater efforts toward interoperability and understanding each other’s security concerns…” 

India’s military influence activities continue to increase in key Arab countries Egypt and Saudi Arabia.[i] In May 2023, the commanders of the Indian and Egyptian armies met in Cairo to discuss deepening bilateral military cooperation, as reported in the first accompanying excerpt, from the Twitter account of the Indian Embassy in Cairo. The meeting follows up on earlier high-level engagements discussing defense cooperation, most notably Egyptian President Sisi’s January 2023 visit to India. Their armies conducted a bilateral exercise in Egypt in January, and earlier in May, the Indian and Egyptian air forces also conducted joint training, as mentioned in the second accompanying excerpt from the Egyptian defense ministry website. Egypt is seen as a possible gateway for Indian weapons sales to Africawith rumors of looming weapons sales and possible joint production agreements between the two countries.

The Indian military has also increasingly engaged with their Saudi counterparts. Indian and Saudi naval forces held a training exercise in the Persian Gulf in May, concurrent with a 3-week training program for around 50 Saudi naval personnel in India. India-Saudi military ties “are likely to develop further, with greater efforts toward interoperability and understanding each other’s security concerns,” according to an Indian defense expert cited in the excerpt from the Saudi English-language daily Arab News. The two countries’ heads of state spoke in June on deepening relations in several areas, including defense.[ii] Saudi Arabia remains among the top global arms importers and an attractive potential customer for the Indian weapons industry. Saudi media is enamored of the narrative of multipolarity but rarely considers India as part of the great power competition discussion. India’s strategic importance is evaluated through the lens of its membership in non-Western multilateral organizations such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt recently became SCO dialogue partners and have moved toward greater involvement in BRICS institutions.[iii] India’s growing security involvement in the Arab world bears watching even though it remains overshadowed by the specter of growing Russian and Chinese influence in the region.


@indembcairo. Twitter, 15 May 2023. 

Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande proceeded on a three-day visit to Egypt. The visit will provide an opportunity to enhance bilateral #DefenceCooperation and strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

“The Egyptian And The Indian Air Forces Carry Out A Joint Air Training At An Egyptian Air Base,” Egyptian Ministry of Defense Website, 8 March 2023.

Within the framework of supporting and strengthening military cooperation relations with friendly and brotherly countries, the Egyptian and Indian Air Forces carried out a joint air exercise at an Egyptian air base. The training included implementation of a number of joint drills, including training on aerial refueling, which contributes to the exchange of training experiences between the elements participating from both sides

“Indian navy chief welcomes Saudi cadets during first joint training,” Arab News (English-language Saudi daily), 2 June 2023.  

Muddassir Quamar, a Middle East expert and associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said there have also been efforts to develop cooperation in nonconventional defense areas, as well as the defense industry. “The military-to-military ties are likely to develop further, with greater efforts toward interoperability and understanding each other’s security concerns,” he told Arab News.


[i] For background see: “India-Egypt Ties: Sharply Rising Graph of Engagement,” Bharatshakti (Indian defense publication), 12 December 2022. and “How India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Ties Are Deepening, And Will Help The Defence Industry,” ABP News (Indian news network), 28 May 2023.

[ii] “PM Modi, Saudi Crown Prince review ties with focus on connectivity and defence,” Hindustan Times (Indian daily), 9 June 2023.

[iii] Egypt recently became an official member of the New Development Bank, sometimes referred to as the “BRICS bank,” and Saudi Arabia is reportedly in talks to join. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have also both expressed interest in BRICS membership and are considered potential candidates were the group to expand.

Image Information:

Image:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Mohammad bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (2016) 
Source: Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India, via Wikimedia Commons,_Deputy_Crown_Prince_of_Saudi_Arabia.jpg    
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0 

India Takes a Step Away from the Russian Defense Industry

Foreign Military Studies Office logo

(Click image to download article.)


India and Russia have had a long-standing security cooperation partnership, with India relying heavily on Russian weapons and equipment for its armed forces. However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Make in India initiative in 2014 to develop the country’s defense industry and reduce dependence on imports. The war in Ukraine has caused India to accelerate this process and end negotiations or cancel agreements with Russia on several weapon system acquisitions. Indian officials cited Russia’s logistical problems in delivering new systems as the reason for the cancellations. This article examines how the conflict in Ukraine has impacted one of Russia’s key security cooperation partnerships and how India’s defense industry is developing to produce replacements for these systems. The study provides insights into the challenges and opportunities for India to achieve its goal of self-reliance in defense production.

Click here to download

Key Arab Countries Join Chinese-Led Regional Body as Dialogue Partners

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

“… The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative…”

A growing number of Arab countries are joining the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as “dialogue partners.” The SCO was established in the early 2000s as a mechanism for deepening political, economic, and security cooperation between countries of Central and South Asia. It has eight member nations (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and over a dozen “observer” and “dialogue partner” nations, which may send delegates to SCO meetings and negotiate with the bloc on particular issues but do not have voting rights or official sway within the organization.

In the past year, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have all been officially granted “dialogue partner” status, with Bahrain expected to follow suit. With this, roughly two-thirds of countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility have joined the SCO in some capacity.[i] While these developments bear watching, SCO partnership is—at least for now—not necessarily at odds with existing security commitments and arrangements.[ii] Instead, engagement with the SCO is seen as part of a strategic diversification approach being pursued by Arab countries in response to emerging multipolarity. Arabic-language media largely sees these moves through an economic lens and as part of what the first accompanying excerpt, published in the Qatari-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, considers China’s “efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.” Arab countries’ interest in the SCO, however, should not be dismissed as a purely economic phenomenon bereft of potential strategic implications. According to a former Egyptian diplomat cited in the second accompanying article, published last September in the prominent Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, Russia will seek to use the SCO “as an additional point in its confrontations with the West.” Russian attempts to use the SCO for strategic leverage against NATO would likely cause friction within the organization, clashing not only with China’s more regional and economic focus but also with the strategic interests of other SCO members. Nonetheless, growing Russo-Chinese geostrategic alignment may eventually enable the SCO’s orientation to gradually shift toward global geopolitics, particularly if its membership begins extending beyond Central and South Asia. Especially noteworthy in this regard is Iran’s interest in full SCO membership (it is currently an observer country). This interest, combined with the recent China-mediated Saudi-Iranian détente, makes the SCO a potential venue through which Iran may seek to compete with the United States. Last April, Iran was for the first time invited to participate in the SCO defense ministers’ meeting in New Delhi. As reported in the third accompanying excerpt, from the pro-Iranian Lebanese media outlet al-Mayadeen, Iran’s Defense Minister called for the establishing of a “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” and more broadly using the SCO to promote a “balance of power.” Iranian ambitions notwithstanding, the SCO remains an “alternative” rather than a “challenge” to the West, as articulated by an Indian journalist cited in the fourth accompanying excerpt, from the Saudi English-language daily Arab News. Still, in a competitive world, today’s alternatives may become tomorrow’s challenges. Present Arab involvement in the SCO remains limited and largely economic in nature, but the potential for this involvement to morph in a way that that erodes U.S.-Arab security partnerships, while not imminent, is worthy of consideration.


“منظمة شنغهاي.. ترسيخ الصين لاقتصاد التعددية القطبية يتمدّد عربياً

(Shanghai Organization.. China’s consolidation of the multipolar economy is expanding in the Arab world),” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 16 April 2023.

China is seeking to attract a larger number of economically active countries to membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as part of its efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.

“ماذا يعني انضمام 5 دول عربية إلى منظمة «شنغهاي»؟

(What does the accession of 5 Arab countries to the ‘Shanghai Organization’ mean?).” al-Sharq al-Awsat (influential Saudi daily), 17 September 2022.

Ambassador Raouf Saad, the former Egyptian assistant foreign minister and former Egyptian ambassador to Moscow, acknowledged that Russia will work to exploit the matter as an additional point in its confrontations with the West. However, he stressed the constants of Egyptian foreign policy, which refuses to “enter into alliances directed at the expense of its interests.”

“وزير الدفاع الإيراني: يجب تفعيل حزام الأمن البحري لمنظمة “شنغهاي

(Iranian Defense Minister: The ‘Shanghai Organization’ maritime security belt must be activated,)” al-Mayadeen (pro-Iran Lebanese media outlet), 29 April 2023.

Today, Saturday, the Iranian Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, proposed adopting the “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” mechanism with the aim of maintaining the security of communication lines and collectively guaranteeing global trade with the participation of the armed forces of member states…

During his remarks at the meeting of defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in New Delhi, India, Ashtiani said that the achievements of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization “should promote global multilateralism and balance of power.”

“Middle Eastern participation grows in China-led security bloc as new countries join,” Arab News (English-language Saudi daily), 5 May 2023.
“It is a question of moving the weight or the center of gravity from the Western world — the US and EU combined — to the Eastern world, the place where the population of the world actually now exists overwhelmingly, the place where the fastest-growing economies are also present,” Suhashini Haidar, diplomatic editor at the English-language daily the Hindu, told Arab News. The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative, she said.


[i] Of the 21 countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility, only eight (Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Yemen) do not have any status in the SCO. However, Iraq, Israel, and Syria have all applied for dialogue partner status, while Turkmenistan has attended SCO summits as a guest attendee. That leaves Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen as the only countries with no relationship to the SCO.

[ii] SCO partnership alone means little in terms of defense commitments: Turkey, a NATO member, is an SCO dialogue partner.  Full membership in the SCO should also not be equated to membership in a defense alliance, such as NATO, given that both India and Pakistan are full members. Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have an adversarial relationship with one another, are both dialogue partners.

Image Information:

Image: Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).
Source: N509FZ,
Attribution: CC 4.0