Defence Column May


Defence News:- The Bodoland Movement has its roots in the history of Northeast India post-independence. At Independence, the entire region East of the Siliguri Corridor comprised Assam, less the erstwhile princely states of Tripura and Manipur which were Union territories and less the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), later renamed Arunachal Pradesh.

To cater to regional aspirations, the states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram were carved out of Assam. The tribal populations in the Northeast were granted protection by the Constitution in terms of the Sixth Schedule. However, this did not extend to the tribal Bodo people who were living in the plains of Assam, in the Upper Brahmaputra Region.

The Bodo is the largest minority group in Assam and is concentrated in the northern areas of the Brahmaputra River Valley, namely in Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Chirang, Baksa, Darrang, Sonitpur, Kamrup, Nalbari, Barpeta and Dhubri, amongst others. The Bodo people have consistently highlighted their divergence from Assamese society and raised issues like land alienation and social and economic backwardness.

In 1979, due to the large scale influx of immigrants into Assam from Bangladesh, a movement was launched against the influx of foreigners by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP). The movement enjoyed mass support and eventually led to the signing of the Assam Accord. This, however, came as a rude shock to the Bodo people as they felt that AASU had not

protected their interests. Consequently, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) launched a movement for the self-determination of the Bodo people and the movement soon taking a violent turn reflected in the Bodo-Assamese clashes of the late 1980s.

The initial demand for autonomy changed to a demand for complete independence, which was adopted by groups such as the Bodo Security Force (BSF), later renamed as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the ensuing insurgency claimed hundreds of lives.

To restore peace, an accord was signed in 1993 between the ABSU and the Government of India. This was the first Bodo Accord and the agreement resulted in the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC). However, the Accord delivered little in terms of political and financial authority to the proposed BAC.

Vital issues related to demography, territory and boundaries were left unsettled, which led to the resurgence of violence in the area. Thus little was achieved due to the ambiguities in the terms of agreement of the Accord and lapses in power-sharing in the newly formed BAC. To get its demands met, the BSF resorted to armed violence and demanded secession from the state.

Failing to get its demands met, a section of the Bodo leadership created the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) who took up arms against the state. They were ideologically not aligned with he BSF and this led to the groups going on a collision course. Hostility

between the two dogged the Bodo movement for long and exacted a heavy human cost. During this period the BSF reorganised itself as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). While violence between the NDFB and BLT can be seen as part of contentious politics, it also reflects a continuum with other non-violent social movements in the area which derived from the failure of the conventional groups to derive benefit from the state which they considered detrimental to their identity and existence.

The second Bodo accord was signed in 2003 between Government of India and extremist group Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), which resulted to the formation of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with four districts—Udalguri, Chirang, Baska and Kokrajhar.

These areas are commonly called Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD). The BTC was established under the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution and was constituted to look after issues of Bodo tribes like education, horticulture and forests. However, police, general administration and revenue are controlled by the Government of Assam. A total of 2641 BLT cadre surrendered along with their weapons.

The accord was supported by the unarmed sections of the Bodo groups such as the ABSU and the erstwhile Coordination Committee for Bodoland Movement (CCBM), though these groups were sidelined by the government for the signing of the accord. All the groups got together to form the Bodoland People’s Progressive Front (BPPF), a political party comprising of former BLT and ABSU/CCBM leaders. However, the party split as the former BLT leaders sidelined the ABSU/CCBM leaders during the elections to Bodoland Tribal Council (BTC). This led to

renewed clashes in the region, with the NDFB demanding secession, the BLT demanding greater autonomy and targeting non-Bodo groups while the third group, ABSU, looking for more political powers and involvement in state administration.

In this complicated environment, the third Bodo Accord was signed in the presence of India’s Home Minister, Shri Amit Shah on 27 January 2020 after several rounds of negotiations between New Delhi and the four factions of NDFB along with ABSU. From the side of the government, the agreement was signed by the Chief Minister of Assam, Shri Sarbanada Sonowal, Ministry of Home Affairs and Kumar Sanjay Krishna, Chief Secretary of Assam.

The NDFB factions led by Ranjan Daimari, Govinda Basumatary, Dhiren Boro and B. Saoraigra signed the agreement. ABSU President Pramod Boro and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief, Hagrama Mohilary also signed the Accord.

Salient features of the Bodo Peace Accord 2020 are:

  • The number of seats in BTAD will be increased from 40 to 60
  • A central university will be set up at Barama in the name of Upendra Nath Brahma
  • Special industrial policy for BTAD
  • Railway coach factory to be set up in BTAD area
  • Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre to be set up at Udalguri, Baksa and Chirang
  • DC, SP will be appointed in consultation with BTC authority
  • A national sports university will be set up
  • Autonomous Welfare Council for the Bodo people living outside BTAD areas
  • A cancer hospital and medical college will be set up in Tamulpur
  • Government of India to expedite the process of granting hills tribe status to Bodos living in hills areas
  • A veterinary college will be set up at Kumarikata
  • A central university and RIIMS will be set up in Udalguri
  • Government of Assam “will notify Bodo language in Devanagri script as the associate official language in the state.”

During his first visit to Assam following the signing of tripartite Bodo Peace Accord 2020, PM Modi announced Rs 1500 crore package for Bodo areas of the state. The announcement of the Rs 1500 crore package for Bodo areas was made by the Prime Minister while addressing a celebratory rally at Kokrajhar in Assam.

In his address to the people of the region, PM Modi said that the Bodo Peace Accord 2020 signed between All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the Assam Government will bring “an end a problem that had been persisting for decades and marks the beginning of a new era of peace and progress.”

It is hoped that with this accord, peace will finally come to the Bodo people and the people of Assam. But the challenges are many and only time will tell whether the Accord will achieve the peace that is so desperately needed.



Amid fears of the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19), the Indian Navy has postponed the MILAN 2020 exercise, scheduled from 18 to 28 March 2020. Milan stands for ‘Multilateral Naval Exercise,’ with the exercise slated to be hosted at Visakhapatnam. The MILAN series of biennial exercises commenced in 1995 and is the biggest naval exercise organised by the Indian Navy, involving naval forces of around

30 friendly countries. Milan 20 had generated a very enthusiastic response, with navies around the world have expressed their desire to participate. However, with the coronavirus affecting 84 countries and already having caused over 3200 deaths worldwide, with many times that number being affected by the virus, the Indian Navy thought it prudent to schedule to reschedule the exercise to a later convenient date.

The theme of Milan 2020 was ‘Synergy Across the Seas’ and was designed to improve professional interaction among friendly foreign navies. The exercise was also intended to help the naval forces leverage each other’s strengths to hone their skills. It would have also provided an opportunity for the forces to interact with each other in areas of mutual interest.



Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is all set to provide the Indian Air Force with 83 Tejas fighter aircraft, after detailed negotiations between the IAF and HAL. The deal for the supply of 83 fighter aircraft has been finalised for Rs 39,000 crore, a reduction of 17,500 crores from the earlier projected cost of Rs 56,500 crore. The deal is likely to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)

by the end of March 2020. Once CCS approval is accorded, HAL could start the deliveries of Mark-1A jets in 2023. The Tejas Mark-1A jets are likely to come with 43 upgrades over the Mark- 1 jets.

These improvements are improving maintainability, AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar, air-to-air refuelling, long-range beyond visual range (BVR) missiles, and advanced electronic warfare aimed at jamming the enemy’s radars and missiles.

Women in the Forces

On February 29, Major General Madhuri Kanitkar was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, becoming the third woman officer in the Indian Army and first woman paediatrician to achieve the second-highest post in the force.

A former dean of Armed Forces Medical College Pune, she has also served in HQ Integrated Defence Staff. Major General Madhuri Kanitkar and her husband Lt Gen Rajiv Kanitkar, are now the first couple in the armed forces to achieve the rank.



HAL has started groundwork to produce a 10 to 12-tonne attack helicopter by 2027 which will be comparable with some of the best medium-lift military choppers globally like the Apache of the Boeing. As of now, HAL is in the process of manufacturing the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), a derivative of the Dhruv Helicopter, which had been developed during the 1990s and inducted into the Indian Armed Forces during the 2000s.

Development of the LCH went through innumerable delays, but now, with the prototype and testing completed, the LCH was declared ready for production in February 2020. The Combat Helicopter now proposed to be built is a medium-lift helicopter that will replace the Russian Mi17 helicopters. Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd R. Madhavan said the proposed combat helicopter will be an indigenous platform, with the potential to manufacture around 500 helicopters.

This, he stated will stop the import of more than Rs 4 lakh crore worth of platforms from foreign countries. Shri Madhavan further stated that HAL has completed the preliminary design of the helicopter and that the prototype is set to be ready by 2023 if the government gives formal approval to the project this year. The cost for design as well as to produce the prototype of the helicopter will be to the tune of Rs 9,600 crore.

HAL would be able to manufacture the first such helicopter by 2027 and is looking to manufacture at least 500 helicopters of the variant. The project, if sanctioned will be the biggest by HAL after the development of the Tejas fighter aircraft. Shri Madhavan said that the preliminary design has been completed and that HAL is in discussion with the Air Force and the Navy. The 10-12

tonnes category will have two basic structures on similar platforms. The naval version will have different dimension compared to the one for the Army and the Air Force. He also said that like the LCH that HAL developed from the Dhruv platform, a similar variant of 10-12 tonnes category can be produced to make it an Apache equivalent.

The helicopter will be powered by twin engines and will feature blade folding option for ship deck operations. The planned roles for the helicopter will be to support air assault, air transport, combat logistics and combat search and rescue. The chopper will also have a very superior weapons package. It will also have a huge potential for export.


India will supply four indigenously built weapon locating radars to Armenia in Europe. The radars to be supplied are the SWATHI weapon locating radars developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

The purchase order comes after Armeniahad conducted trials of systems offered by Russia and Poland. While those radars also performed well, Armenia gave the final nod to the Indian system, developed by DRDO. India has already started the supply of the equipment to Armenia and the deal is being seen as a major achievement for the ‘Make in India’ programme in the defence sector.



Speaking at the ET Global Business Summit 2020 at the Taj Palace, New Delhi, the Raksha Mantri, Shri Rajnath Singh reiterated India’s resolve to achieve a turnover of USD 26 billion in aerospace and military manufacturing in five years. “In our envisaged Defence Production Policy,” Singh said, “we have clearly spelt out our goal to achieve a turnover of $26 billion in aerospace and defence goods and services by 2025. This will have huge implications for India’s endeavours to promote R&D, innovation and its efforts to secure a place in global supply chains”.

According to the Minister, this would be the key for the country to be a USD 5 trillion economy by 2024. Presently, India’s economy is around USD 2.8 trillion. For that purpose, thrust is being given to enhancing defence exports though the primary aim of indigenous defence production will remain to cater to the needs of the Armed Forces.

The Raksha Mantri stated that the manufacturing sector itself has the potential to reach USD 1 trillion by 2025. This goal could be achieved through the implementation of key flagship programmes such as ‘Make in India’. Urging the defence industry to make the best use of the opportunities, he said a slew of structural reforms has been initiated by the government to ensure synergy among key stakeholders.

Some major decisions that are taken for Make in India

  • Approval accorded to more than 200 proposals worth Rs 4 lakh crore in defence manufacturing in the last five years.
  • Doubling the size of aeronautics industry from Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 60,000 crore by 2024, for which several major platforms are envisaged in defence aerospace sector including India’s 90-seater civil aircraft, developing civil helicopter industry of USD 5 billion in public-private- partnership model.
  • Simplification of the industrial licensing process, hike in FDI cap, making defence export less stringent, streamlining the defence offset policy and opening the government-owned trial and testing facilities for the private sector.
  • Defence public sector undertakings have been encouraged to increase their export portfolio to 25 per cent of their turnover and the government is willing to extend Lines of Credit and grants to friendly foreign countries over the next five years.
  • Achieve exports of defence goods and services to the tune of USD 5 billion in the next five years. For this, all possible support would be extended to the private sector.
  • The government has prepared a roadmap for the application of artificial intelligence in national security set up. Plans are afoot to develop at least 25 defence specific artificial intelligence products by 2024.
  • Opportunities are being provided by the government for the manufacture of mega defence platforms including fighter aircraft, helicopters, tanks and submarines under the strategic partnership model.

The Raksha Mantri also highlighted the decision to enhance foreign equity cap from earlier 26 per cent to 49 per cent under the automatic route and up to 100 per cent under the government approval route. Till December 2019, the defence and aerospace sector has received inflows over Rs 3,155 crore. Of this, Rs 1,834 crore have received since 2014.

The minister expected a manifold surge in investments when some of the major programmes, which are in the pipeline, move into the execution phase. This represents a marked change in mindsets, as earlier, there was marked hesitation in exporting military equipment and in investing in indigenous production, especially by the private sector.

The assurance given by Singh that the government is open to new ideas and committed to fully harness the energies, entrepreneurship spirit and enterprise of the private sector in the defence sector is thus welcome.

The Raksha Mantri expressed confidence that the industry will contribute even more to the government’s efforts towards indigenisation of defence production. He stressed that the intention of the government is not just limited to bringing reforms but to act as an incubator, catalyst and facilitator for promoting investment and achieving self-reliance in defence manufacturing.

With respect to Defence R&D in the private sector, the Minister was conscious of the fact the private sector had yet to establish itself in this field. To assist them, the government has opened opportunities through DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) with a zero fee for Transfer of Technology (ToT), free access to over 450 patents, access to test facilities and an upfront funding of up to Rs 10 crore. As of now, more than 900 licensing agreements for ToT have been signed with private industries.

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