Daily Current AFfairs 19.10.2021 (A shadow foreign policy for the first time, China denies testing ‘hypersonic missile’)

Daily Current AFfairs 19.10.2021 (A shadow foreign policy for the first time, China denies testing ‘hypersonic missile’)


1.A shadow foreign policy for the first time

A document suggesting an alternative foreign policy has been put forth, but will the Opposition consider it?

India does not have a tradition of shadow cabinets lurking behind the government in power with ready alternative approaches to policy matters. The opposition challenges government policies, but provides no alternatives to be adopted in the event of a change in government. It is only at the time of elections that a manifesto is put forward, but that does not become the policy of the government automatically. The opposition uses think tanks and NGOs to float ideas, which may become part of policy if they become publicly acceptable. Since there has been a consensus on foreign policy, a shadow foreign policy was out of the question. But for the first time, a document has emerged from the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) in the nature of an alternative to the present foreign and defence policies named ‘India’s Path to Power: Strategy in a world adrift’. It is authored by eight well-known strategists and thinkers.

In 2012, many of the same authors had produced another document, ‘Non-alignment 2.0’, in the light of the global changes at that time, as a contribution to policymaking, without criticising the policies of the government. But the new government in 2014 had its own ideas and not much attention was given to the study. The present document, however, is in the nature of an alternative to the foreign and defence policies of the Modi government, as some of its tenets are not considered conducive to finding a path to power for India in the post-pandemic world. The eight conclusions are quite logical and reasonable, but the tenor and tone of the paper is one of criticism and need for course correction.

Change in foreign policy

The first term of the Modi government was remarkable for its innovative, bold and assertive foreign policy, which received general approbation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led from the front and took the credit for overcoming the hesitations of history. He laid out his priorities and pursued them with vigour. After his unconventional peace initiatives with Pakistan failed, he took a firm stand and gained popularity at home. His wish to have close relations with the other neighbours did not materialise, but his helpful attitude to them even in difficult situations averted any crisis. He brought a new symphony into India-U.S. relations and engaged China continuously to find a new equation with it. India’s relations with Israel and the Arab countries became productive. Mr. Modi’s enhanced majority in the second term was partly on account of his foreign policy successes.

It was when the second Modi government dealt with some of the unfinished sensitive matters, which were essentially of a domestic nature (Article 370, citizenship issues and farming regulations), that their external dimensions led to a challenge to its foreign policy. Questions were raised in the West about human rights and the state of democracy in India. The opposition in India began to question the foreign policy postures of the government. The pandemic, the economic meltdown and China’s incursion into Ladakh added to the woes of the government.

The cumulative effect of these developments is reflected in the CPR report. It says, “The foundational source of India’s influence in the world is the power of its example. This rests on four pillars, domestic economic growth, social inclusion, political democracy and a broadly liberal constitutional order. If these integral pillars remain strong, there is no stopping India… The most significant change in the last decade or so is that we cannot take for granted the success of India’s development model… But the fundamental sources of India’s development and international influence look increasingly precarious. We must confront this changed outlook… Nourishing the foundations of India’s success requires a conscious political effort, and it is a strategic imperative…”

Set the house in order

This assertion at the beginning of the report is the heart of the report and it is repeated in different forms. In other words, the finding is that domestic issues have impacted foreign policy and, therefore, India should set its house in order to stem the tide of international reaction. “It is important that we acknowledge the perverse impact of domestic political and ideological factors that are driving our foreign policy… Political polarisation and majoritarianism will lead to a diminished India — one that may struggle to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie… ahead,” asserts the report. It also says that the confused international order that followed the global crisis saw an “omnidirectional Indian foreign policy.” These harsh statements are likely to be challenged by the government, which will claim that India has stood true to its own foundational values and there is no “authoritarian model of development”.

Once the basic premise is set aside, the report has many positive elements, which will help policymakers to rethink policy. For instance, the report rightly points out that “it would be incorrect and counterproductive for India to turn its back on globalisation…” It also suggests that SAARC should be revived and that India should rejoin the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and continue its long-standing quest for membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

The report also stresses the importance of strategic autonomy in today’s world where change is the only certainty. As for the India-U.S.- China triangle, the report makes the unusual suggestion that India should have better relations individually with both the U.S. and China than they have with each other.

The report contains detailed analyses on different regions and key countries, but the general thrust is that all is not well with Indian foreign policy and a fundamental change is necessary to meet the present situation. The report concludes that since China will influence India’s external environment politically, economically and infrastructurally, there is no feasible alternative to a combination of engagement and competition with China. The approach of the present government is not very different. There is implicit criticism of the Pakistan policy when the report asserts, “as long as our objectives of policy towards Pakistan are modest, resumption of dialogue and a gradual revival of trade, transport and other links are worth pursuing.”

A considerable part of the report is devoted to issues relating to defence, the nuclear doctrine, space, cyberspace and the ecological crisis. On the looming environmental disaster, the report states that since India is still at an early stage of its modern development trajectory, it is not yet locked into an energy-intensive pattern of growth. Much of its infrastructure remains to be built. It suggests all is not well with the present strategy for environmental protection and economic development.

The eminent stature of the authors and the CPR will certainly compel detailed studies of the report in the run-up to the next elections and beyond as the time frame suggested for change is the next decade. But the significance of the report is that it reveals the end of the era of consensus foreign policy and presents a shadow foreign policy for the first time in India. It remains to be seen whether any of the opposition parties will adopt it and fight the next election on the platform provided by the report.


For the first time, a document has emerged from the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) named ‘India’s Path to Power: Strategy in a world adrift’. It is authored by eight well-known strategists and thinkers and provides foreign policy alternatives.

India does not have a shadow cabinet. Under such circumstances, strategic papers by experts, which provide alternate foreign policy options, become very important.

What have been the changes in foreign policy by the current government?

The government has taken a bold, and assertive foreign policy, overcoming the hesitations of history. For instance, after peace initiatives with Pakistan failed, the Government of India took a firm stand against terrorism. This has resulted in the following benefits,

Even though close relations with the other neighbours did not materialize, the government’s helpful attitude managed all situations and has averted any crisis.

There is a new synergy in India-U.S. relations.

The government is also engaging with China continuously to build strong bilateral relations.

India’s relations with Israel and the Arab countries have now become productive.

What were the challenges faced by the government?

Article 370 was a domestic matter. But, questions have been raised in the West about human rights and the state of democracy in India.

The pandemic, the economic meltdown and China’s incursion into Ladakh added to the troubles of the government.

Moreover, political polarization and majoritarianism might diminish India. For example, the opposition in India questioned the foreign policy of the government.

What should be the way forward?

India should keep its focus on economic growth and should promote further globalization. There is a fundamental need to change the outlook towards China. India should also look at resuming political dialogue with Pakistan.

All this can be best done when ruling parties and opposition parties have coherence in the terms of foreign policy.

The source of India’s influence in the world rests on four pillars, domestic economic growth, social inclusion, political democracy and liberal constitutional order. If the government strengthened these integral pillars, then there is no stopping for India.

2.China denies testing ‘hypersonic missile’

It’s a routine test of space vehicle to verify technology of spacecraft’s reusability, says Foreign Ministry

China’s government on Monday denied a recent report saying it had carried out a test of a nuclear capable hypersonic missile, stating that the launch was a “routine test of a space vehicle”.

On Sunday, the Financial Times reported China’s military in August carried out its first ever test of a “nuclear capable hypersonic missile”, adding that the test “circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught U.S. intelligence by surprise”.

The newspaper quoted five people familiar with the test as saying the Chinese military launched a rocket that carried a hypersonic glide vehicle “which flew through low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target”.

Two of those people told the newspaper the test “showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than U.S. officials realised.” Only the U.S., Russia and China were developing the hypersonic glide vehicles, the newspaper said, noting they are far more difficult to track than ballistic missiles.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, however, denied the report. “As we understand,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “this was a routine test of space vehicle to verify technology of spacecraft’s reusability.”

“It is of great significance to reducing the cost of using space vehicle and providing a convenient and cheap way for mankind’s two-way transportation in the peaceful use of space,” he added. “Several companies around the world have conducted similar tests. After separating from the space vehicle before its return, the supporting devices will burn up when it’s falling in the atmosphere and the debris will fall into the high seas. China will work with other countries in the world for the peaceful use of space for the benefit of mankind.”

The Financial Times quoted security experts as saying the test was conducted in August. It noted that the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, which carries out launches, had in July announced its 77th launch of a Long March rocket, and in end-August said it had carried out a 79th flight, sparking speculation about a secretive 78th launch that had not been reported.

Asked if he was referring to the same launch as reported by the Financial Times, Mr. Zhao said, “It’s not a missile, but a space vehicle.”


Recently, it has been reported that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the globe before speeding towards its target.

  • Several countries, including the US, Russia and China, are developing hypersonic missiles which travel at a speed five times that of sound.
  • Though slower than ballistic missiles, they are harder to intercept and can be manoeuvred.

Key Points

  • Implications for India:
    • Hypersonic technology developments, in the backdrop of growing US-China rivalry and a year-long standoff with Indian forces in eastern Ladakh, is certainly a threat for India’s space assets along with the surface assets.
    • The offence system operating at these speeds would mean a requirement to develop defence systems at these speeds.
  • Hypersonic Speed and Technology:
    • About:
      • Hypersonic speeds are 5 or more times the Mach or speed of sound.
      • Mach Number: It describes an aircraft’s speed compared with the speed of sound in air, with Mach 1 equating to the speed of sound i.e. 343 metre per second.
    • Types (2):
      • Hypersonic cruise missiles: These are the ones that use rocket or jet propellant through their flight and are regarded as being just faster versions of existing cruise missiles.
      • Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV): These missiles first go up into the atmosphere on a conventional rocket before being launched towards their target.
    • Technology Used: Most hypersonic vehicles primarily use the scramjet technology, which is a type of Air Breathing propulsion System.
      • This is extremely complex technology, which also needs to be able to handle high temperatures, making the hypersonic systems extremely costly.

Ballistic Missile vs Cruise Missile

Ballistic MissileCruise Missile
Travel in projectile motion and trajectory depends on gravity, air resistance and Coriolis Force.Comparatively follows a straight trajectory of motion.
Leave the earth’s atmosphere and re enter it.The flight path is within the earth’s atmosphere.
Long-range missiles (300 km to 12,000 km)Short range missiles (range upto 1000 km)
E.g. Prithvi I, Prithvi II, Agni I, Agni II and Dhanush missiles.E.g. BrahMos missiles

Classification of Missiles Based on Speed

Speed RangeMach NumberVelocity in m/s
Subsonic< 0.8< 274
  • Development of Hypersonic Technology in India:
    • India, too, is working on hypersonic technologies.
      • As far as space assets are concerned, India has already proved its capabilities through the test of ASAT under Mission Shakti.
    • Hypersonic technology has been developed and tested by both DRDO and ISRO.
    • Recently, DRDO has successfully flight-tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), with a capability to travel at 6 times the speed of sound.
    • Also, a Hypersonic Wind Tunnel (HWT) test facility of the DRDO was inaugurated in Hyderabad. It is a pressure vacuum-driven, enclosed free jet facility that simulates Mach 5 to 12.

Air Breathing Propulsion System

  • About: These systems use atmospheric oxygen, which is available up to about 50 km of earth’s surface to burn the fuel stored on-board thereby making the system much lighter, more efficient and cost effective.
  • Examples of Air Breathing Propulsion System include the Ramjet, Scramjet, Dual Mode Ramjet (DMRJ).
  • Ramjet:
    • A ramjet is a form of air breathing jet engine that uses the vehicle’s forward motion to compress incoming air for combustion without an axial compressor.
    • Fuel is injected in the combustion chamber where it mixes with the hot compressed air and ignites.
    • Ramjets cannot produce thrust at zero airspeed; they cannot move an aircraft from a standstill.
    • A ramjet-powered vehicle, therefore, requires an assisted take-off, like a rocket assist, to accelerate it to a speed where it begins to produce thrust.
    • The ramjet works best at supersonic speeds and as the speed enters the hypersonic range, its efficiency starts to drop.
  • Scramjet:
    • A scramjet engine is an improvement over the ramjet engine as it operates at hypersonic speeds and allows supersonic combustion, which gives it its name — supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet.
    • The scramjet is composed of three basic components:
      • A converging inlet where incoming air is compressed,
      • A combustor where gaseous fuel is burned with atmospheric oxygen to produce heat,
      • A diverging nozzle where the heated air is accelerated to produce thrust. The exhaust gases are accelerated to hypersonic speeds using a divergent nozzle.
    • The speed at which the vehicle moves through the atmosphere causes the air to compress within the inlet. As such, no moving parts are needed in a scramjet, which reduces the weight and the number of failure points in the engine.
  • Dual Mode Ramjet (DMRJ):
    • The third concept is a mix of ramjet and scramjet, which is called DMRJ.
    • There is a need for an engine which can operate at both supersonic and hypersonic speeds.
    • A DMRJ is an engine design where a ramjet transforms into a scramjet over Mach 4-8 range, which means, it can operate in both the subsonic and supersonic combustor mode.
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