February 2021 has been a month of mixed news. On the positive side, the government rightly patted itself for successfully holding Aero India 2021, the first aerospace and defence show to be held anywhere in the world since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
In a first, the show was held in a hybrid manner—while exhibitors and select visitors were allowed on the fairgrounds of air force station Yelahanka, those who wanted to play it safe could access the show virtually. Understandably it was a much smaller show than its predecessors, but it was big enough to send across Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message of ‘Atmanirbharta’ in defence.
In the other positive news, the government started to roll out the Covid-19 vaccines, gradually increasing its ambit of recipients. With this, despite the second wave of infections, hope increased that India may yet buckle the global trend and decisively break the cycle of infections.
However, February also brought in a major strategic setback. No surprises for guessing who the cause was of the setback. Once again, China got the better of Indian policymakers, diplomats and military leadership. In the name of de-escalation and restoring peace on the Line of Actual Control, China pushed the envelope back to 1959, forcing India to accept what it had repeatedly rejected over the last 60 years. And as always, this was sold to the nation as India’s victory. Even more comically, some commentators went breathless declaring how India’s military posture forced China to seek peace and withdrawal from the point of confrontation.
Doublespeak may be one of the instruments of diplomacy. But doublespeak on national security matters extracts a heavy price.
On this sobering note, the cover focus this month is on the future of border management. India’s present level of border management secures national integrity at a huge cost to the border population. Seen dispassionately, while it gives a sense of security to the mainland, it keeps the periphery tremulous. Clearly, this can not be a guarantor of long-term security. Apart from looking at these sensitive issues, the cover story also delves into archaic training of the border guarding forces, as well as looks at ways in which unmanned technology could be better employed for border management.
The other big story this month is the show report on Aero India 2021. Given the minister of defence guidelines, FORCE participation was smaller than its previous editions, but that didn’t impact upon our performance at the show. FORCE brought out three Show Dailies on February 3, 4 and 5. The show report captures the essence of the show.
Enjoy the issue. And brace for a hot summer!