Letter from the Editor | November 2019

The Xiangshan Forum (held this year from October 21-22) organised by the People’s Liberation Army has turned into a much-awaited calendar event. Started in 2006 as a biennial conference, by 2015 it had grown so much in stature that the PLA converted it into an annual multilateral conference. FORCE has had the privilege of attending this every year since 2015. This year, Pravin Sawhney was invited to participate in a panel discussion on Artificial Intelligence and future warfare and a round table discussion on strategic constructs of Asia-Pacific versus Indo-Pacific. Additionally, he was invited to give a talk on Indo-China relations at Chinese foreign ministry-run think tank the Taihe Institute.

The 9th edition of Beijing Xiangshan Forum demonstrated a confident China unperturbed by the ongoing trade war with the United States. Commenting on the trade war, Chinese foreign minister said that there will be no winners in it. It was good for both to resolve matters.

The reasons for China’s confidence were not hard to find: strategic ties between China and Russia had strengthened; its Asia Pacific security architecture had more traction than the US’ version; ASEAN concerns had largely been mollified; listening to foreign critics, China had initiated some reforms in the BRI to make it attractive; South China Sea had been won without a fight; and the PLA on China’s national day on October 1 had showcased many new technologies. The cover story this month encapsulates all this.

The cover story apart, Xiangshan Forum threw a bonus in the form of Lt Gen. David Deptula, the United States Air Force officer credited with the idea of Effects-Based Operations (EBO). He was the chair on the AI panel. He writes an exclusive article on how the concept of EBO evolved.

This month in our section on Jammu and Kashmir, we carry a four-page picture story. After over two months, our Srinagar-based photographer was able to reach out to us. He sent us over two dozen photographs encapsulating the last two and half months after the government revoked the Article 370 and reduced the state to two Union Territories.

The irony couldn’t have been starker. While the world is talking about the future, we seem to be wrestling with our history.

Beyond these contradictions, the November issue has a section dedicated to the IAF Day celebration, including reports on new chief of air staff’s first press conference, IAF Day parade where the newly-inducted Chinook and Apache helicopters were proudly displayed and the handover of the Rafale fighter to defence minister Rajnath Singh.

Then there are the FORCE regulars, reports, tech updates and news from around the world. Bite in.


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