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India-Russia Military Cooperation Is As Good As Ever

The military-technical cooperation between the two nations will be active and fruitful this year.



Source: By Vitaly V. Kuzmin ( [CC BY-SA 4.0 or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For some time now, India has been one of the main importers of Russian weapons and military equipment. According to the data provided by the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of the Russian Federation, India has ordered $70 billion worth of Russian military goods since 1991.

And at present, the South Asian nation’s interest in weapons from Russia continues to grow. One of the reasons for this state of affairs is the tense climate prevalent in the region in recent years.

Historically, China has always been India’s key economic and political rival, and aside from a battle for influence between the two, there are also territorial disputes plaguing their relationship.

In recent years, the PRC has begun to compete for dominance in Asia-Pacific as well as the Indo-Pacific, boosting its economic presence in these regions and attempting to push the United States out of there. India has also felt China’s increasing dominance in countries, such as Sri Lanka and Nepal, that it has, for a long time, viewed as its own sphere of influence.

In addition, the PRC has been actively strengthening cooperation with Delhi’s key rival – Pakistan, a country that is practically always on a brink of war with India. All of these developments are a serious source of concern for India, which have pushed it to boost its defence capabilities and cooperate with other countries competing against China, such as, first and foremost, the United States. And Americans, in turn, would like to have India in its vanguard during the confrontation with the PRC.

But India, which has, for many decades, adhered to the principle of non-alignment (with any military alliances, for instance) and grew accustomed to putting its own interests first, does not wish to become too dependent on its Western partner in, among others, the military-industrial sector.

Hence, aside from the United States, India needs another supplier of high-quality weapons.

Another reason why India prefers to cooperate in the military-technical sphere with Russia is its ongoing (for several years now) “Make in India” initiative, in accordance with which all of the most important products for this nation should be manufactured in its territory.

As a result, not only does India expect its partners to sell it goods and equipment but also share their manufacturing technologies. It is not easy to win such trust from the United States. Russia, on the other hand, has helped its partners establish licensed production facilities in their territories on more than one occasion.

Currently, Russian T-90S tanks and Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft are being manufactured in India.

In addition, Indo-Russian joint ventures to produce the latest version of the Kalashnikov rifle and Kamov Ka-226T helicopters have already been established in the South Asian nation. BrahMos missiles, designed by Russian and Indian engineers, are also manufactured in India.

Therefore, Russia is an optimal and long-trusted partner for India in the military-technical sphere. Moreover, India’s need for defence imports from Russia is very high, which is evidenced by trade volumes between the two countries in the military sector.

As mentioned earlier, from 1991 to 2019, India purchased $70 billion worth of defence goods from Russia, which averages out to annual spending of $2.4 billion.

However, in reality, India spent more than $15 billion from 2017 to 2019, in other words, its annual expenditure on Russian military products has equalled more than $5 billion in the last 3 years.

In addition, India clearly showed its interest in Russian weapons in 2018, when Russia secured a contract to supply a batch of S-400 anti-aircraft weapon systems to India. And the latter chose not to cancel the order despite pressure from Washington and the threat of US sanctions, which hangs over any nations that purchase S-400 systems.

So Russia’s military-industrial complex is preparing for another surge in cooperation in the military-technical sphere between Russia and India.

One important platform that Russia uses to introduce its military products to Indian and foreign partners is DefExpo India, an international military exhibition of naval, air and land systems.

DefExpo India 2020 was held in February of this year, in the Indian city of Lucknow.

A number of Russian companies that are part of Russia’s military-industrial complex took part in the exhibition and included Rosoboronexport, Almaz-Antey, UralVagonZavod, Russian Helicopters and others. They showcased more than 500 weapon and military equipment exhibits at DefExpo India 2020. As usual, Russian defence goods generated a great deal of interest among the event’s attendees.

Remotely controlled weapon station AU-220M from UralVagonZavod became one of the most interesting Russian exhibits on display. It is a remotely controlled artillery gun with a versatile range of weapons for “land, water, and sky”. It can be installed on a tank, an infantry combat vehicle, a ship and even a plane, or it can be used as a standalone artillery gun. If used on a battlefield, it can significantly lower the number of potential casualties from your side during especially challenging missions.

The idea of conducting military operations remotely by transforming a conflict into something resembling a computer game captured people’s imaginations a long time ago. Hence, it is not surprising that AU-220M attracted the attention of many of the exhibition’s visitors.

Yet another interesting piece of news from DefExpo India 2020, aside from the AU-220M demonstration, was the announcement made by representatives of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (an Indian aerospace and defence company) about their readiness to continue the work on the design of the fifth-generation fighter jet with their Russian partners. This is a truly important development for the military-technical cooperation between the two countries.

The initiative has been in existence for quite some time.

In 2007, the Russian Federation and India signed an agreement to jointly design and develop a new fighter jet based on Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57. The project was called the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). Work on it began in 2010. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Russia’s Aviation Holding Company “Sukhoi” were responsible for the initiative.

But, in 2018, India withdrew from the project. The aforementioned and several other developments prompted some media outlets to report that the military-technical cooperation between India and Russia was starting to decline. But then the Indian side began to talk about reviving the FGFA initiative. This, in combination with India’s increased spending on Russian military goods and purchase of S-400 systems, mentioned earlier, all of this shows that any talk about reduced levels of military-technical cooperation between Russia and India is more than premature.

During DefExpo India 2020, other interesting announcements were made about India’s plans to manufacture more Russian tanks at the licensed production facilities, and to modernize existing tanks with the help of Russian experts as well as the intentions of joint venture India Russia Helicopters Limited to take part in a tender to supply its new multi-role helicopter to the Indian Navy, etc.

2020 has just begun but it is already clear that the military-technical cooperation between Russia and India will be active and fruitful this year.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from New Eastern Outlook, where the opinion piece first appeared.

Dmitry Bokarev

Dmitry Bokarev is a political observer who has written extensively on subjects related to Russia and its defence-oriented partnerships with other nations, including India, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.

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Bridge Over Teesta River In North Sikkim Opened For Traffic

The bridge will help the movement of logistics for the Armed Forces deployed in the forward areas. 



GANGTOK (Sikkim): In a relief to the residents of Lachen in North Sikkim, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) on March 21 opened for traffic 360 feet long bailey suspension bridge over Teesta River in Munshithang near Chungthang town.

The 86 Road Construction Company (RCC) of 758 Border Roads Task Force (BRTF), under Project Swastik, commenced the construction of the bridge in October 2019 and completed it in January 2020.

The approach roads to the bridge have also been constructed.

The bridge will give impetus to tourism and facilitate the movement of logistics for the Armed Forces deployed in the forward areas.

In June 2019, a steel bridge of 180 feet span at the same location was completely damaged due to a massive cloud burst resulting in severing the lines of communication in North District of Sikkim.

The connectivity was kept open by routing the traffic through restricted Army land.

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Ensuring a Level Playing Field in the Indian Army

Success in this venture is predicated on the mindsets of the seniors in charge and the WO community.



The Supreme Court’s decision of February 17, 2020, relating to grant of permanent commission to Women Officers (WOs) has received wide publicity. Elaborating upon the 2010 judgement of the Delhi High Court, as well as consequent policies adopted by the Ministry of Defence as intimated through its letter of February 25, 2019, the Supreme Court has laid down the law with great clarity.

Also Read:
(1) Women Officers to Get Permanent Commission in All 10 Branches of Indian Army
(2) In A First, Indian Army launches a recruitment drive for women soldiers
(3) Ponung Doming Is Indian Army’s First Woman Lieutenant Colonel From Arunachal

With immediate effect, in addition to permanent commissions in ten arms and services of the Indian Army, WOs will also be eligible for ‘command positions’ in their respective units, as applicable to their male counterparts. A perusal of the judgement is educative, and indicates the many twists and turns that this case took to reach its denouement.

The verdict will be instrumental in ensuring that regardless of gender, the potential of the best of India’s youth is available for long term use in its Armed Forces.

With this judgement, a potentially divisive issue has finally been laid to rest.

The Army is now required to implement the directions of the Supreme Court in right earnest. Given that this particular case impinges equally on the Army’s cadre management, training and human resource (HR) policies, the conduct of operations in the field as well as routine soldiering in peace stations, it is important to analyse just how the decisions of the Court could be implemented and arrive at actions to be taken by the military concurrently.

The Army is responsible to ensure that the implications of the judgement are thought through and a holistic road map drawn, to cater not just for WOs who have been consistently high performers but for the others as well.

Without being in any manner prescriptive, this commentary attempts to highlight certain important aspects which would be uppermost in the minds of the policymakers.

A glance at the current situation in just two of the 10 arms and services where WOs are currently serving is instructive. Take the case of Army Aviation, where WOs commissioned into aviation and posted to aviation squadrons currently perform duties of an Air Traffic Controller (ATC).

These squadrons also have appointments in Logistic and Engineering, separately earmarked for officers from other services, which are often occupied by WOs. While with time the strength of WOs of the aviation cadre in squadrons will surely increase, but commanding an aviation squadron would entail training for the operational role in combat environments, i.e. flying, something that has not been open to them.

It is only by gaining the requisite experience as a flyer, in addition to understanding and managing everything that flying operations encompass (including maintenance and administrative aspects), can a WO be found fit to be considered for command.

Of course, this would entail putting female aviation volunteers through pilot aptitude and stringent medical tests at the time of commissioning, though the question of what is to be done with those already in service performing non-flying duties, as explained above, would have to be tackled. Though the numbers overall are small, necessary instructions based on a clear road map are required to be formulated in stipulated time frames.

WOs are represented in almost every unit of the Corps of Engineers. After undergoing the Young Officers Course, they perform combat engineering tasks including mine laying and bridging. They are currently eligible to undergo only one long engineering course – either the Bachelor’s engineering degree for non-engineering graduates or a Master’s for those who join as engineering graduates. Despite the induction of WOs into the Engineers approximately 20 years ago, there is not one WO who has qualified to serve in the parachute field company of the Corps, though there is no bar on volunteers.

While specific data at the time of writing is not available to this author, it is learnt that nomination by unit commanders for their officers to attend the Bomb Disposal Course, which is open to all, has been generally restricted to male officers.

However, WOs do get nominated to attend long survey courses to thereafter serve in map making and similar departments. For ensuring gender balance and to qualify WOs for command of engineer regiments, it is obvious that the anomalies brought out above are analysed and resolved, with the issue of fresh policies (including the motivational) if necessary.

Further, to equip WOs for command, various common courses of instruction for all arms and services, till now the exclusive preserve of males (or with very limited participation of WO volunteers), would have to be opened up. The Junior Command course, a foundational course for subunit commanders, is one such course. Attendance at the Senior Command Course would follow, subject to their meeting common selection criteria.

Considering that in India women are known to perform better than men in examinations (in Officers Training Academy or OTA Chennai too, a woman cadet had passed out first in the order of merit once, winning the Sword of Honour), it would be educative to see the performance of WOs some years down the line, vis a vis their male counterparts in the Staff College entrance examinations and subsequently on that course. They would then be eligible to tenant appointments of principal staff in combat brigades and subordinate staff in higher headquarters, doubtless providing value addition.

In addition, as brought out earlier, a large number of specialist courses pertaining to respective arms and services would have to be undergone by WOs to ensure that they are fully trained to tenant the Commanding Officer’s appointment.

Another aspect of training is physical training. Amongst all other arms courses, WOs would be equally eligible to attend the physically very high pressure four-week Ghatak commando course.

Despite commissions into the infantry, mechanised infantry, armoured corps and artillery not being open to women, the current standards of physical training at OTA Chennai and in the Army, which differentiate between men and women, might have to be reworked.

The United Kingdom (UK) approach, brought out in an article published in the UK Defence Journal in September 2018, is illustrative, with the British Army stating that “These new physical fitness standards are objective, measurable, role-related and gender free to ensure Army personnel have the physical capability to meet the necessary force preparation and operational requirements [emphasis added].”

While the tests are for personnel in combat roles, the UK is in the process of formulating gender-neutral tests for personnel in non-combat roles as well.

There are certain other policies which would be immediately impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision. Foremost would be the numbers to be recruited.

Considering that all appointments have been opened up to women in the 10 arms and services, the Adjutant General in conjunction with the Military Secretary (MS) would have to decide on whether the logic for maintaining the current fixed intake at the academies should remain or be jettisoned, more so when it might turn out that proportionately woman candidates perform equally as well as their male competitors in the selection process. Going hand in hand with this would be the aspect of cadre management.

To ensure a level playing field, the MS Branch would be required to post WOs to Rashtriya Rifles and Assam Rifles units.

Training of WOs in counter-insurgency would merit much greater importance.  Their numbers posted to other difficult areas in high altitudes too would doubtless increase. This would have to be seen in concert with the management of ‘spouse postings’ – an institutional support mechanism wherein the request for a common place of posting for a married officer couple is examined and granted to the extent feasible, a dynamic issue which takes much time and effort to guarantee satisfaction. This apart from other compassionate issues which couples with one member in uniform would have to make adjustments for.

Then, there is the issue of attachments.

Currently, male officers of the Services, including Short Service Commissioned officers, are attached to infantry battalions in difficult areas for periods which have varied from one to three years, (durations as per policies in vogue), thereby enabling them to obtain some experience of operational soldiering.

All things being equal, this too will be thrown open to WOs. Finally, comes the issue of promotion to select ranks (Colonel and above), where there can be no discrimination based on gender.

The Army is at the cusp of a huge change, with its transformation studies (integrated battle groups, promotion policies of brigadiers, cadre review, etc.), while conceptualising its role in theatre commands.

It has to concurrently manage the matter of WOs as seamlessly as possible. Success in this venture is predicated squarely on the mindsets of the seniors in charge and the WO community. There cannot afford to be any foot dragging in implementation or shouts of victimisation from any side, as the operational effectiveness of India’s finest institution should not be impacted at any cost.

The final word might well go to British Field Army Sergeant Major Gavin Paton, quoted in the UK Defence Journal article referred to earlier as saying: I don’t care if you are a man or a woman, I don’t care what you do, and the enemy doesn’t either.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Originally published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.inhere.

Alok Deb

Maj. Gen. Alok Deb, SM, VSM (Retd.) is a Kargil Veteran and former Deputy Director General of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. He has served in all types of operational environments in India and also abroad as a UN peacekeeper.

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India Means Business On Pakistan-Occupied Jammu-Kashmir

There is a window for India to alter the discourse in its favour.



External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar’s remarks on Pakistan-occupied Jammu & Kashmir (PoJK) during his interaction at The Heritage Foundation in Washington on October 3, 2019, is one of the most significant expositions on the issue in recent times. Reiterating India’s claims over PoJK, EAM Jaishankar stated:

My sovereignty and my jurisdiction is laid out by my maps. My maps have been there for over 70 years. Now, that’s my claim. And naturally if I have a claim, as you would have a claim, as anybody would have a claim, you would hope one day that if there are territories in your claim over which you don’t have physical jurisdiction, one day you will. It’s as simple as that.”

The EAM’s remarks epitomise India’s renewed push to assert its claim on the territory that continues to be under Pakistan’s illegal occupation. In fact, he reinforced what he had stated earlier during a press conference in Delhi in September 2019, that PoK is “part of India” and that someday India will have “physical jurisdiction” over it.

However, EAM’s remarks cannot be seen in isolation. The issue of PoJK reverberated through the entire monsoon session of the Parliament last year. Consistent references to India’s claim on the territory were made during parliamentary debates on constitutional amendments relating to the then state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Home Minister Amit Shah reminded the House that when he spoke about Kashmir, PoJK was automatically accounted for.

His statement was seconded by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in his statements both in Lok Sabha (House of the People) and outside which underlined that any talks with Pakistan must involve PoJK and that Pakistan has no locus standi on the region.

The Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Jitendra Singh, too reiterated that India would seriously pursue its claim on PoJK.

Although references to PoJK have been made in the past as well by officials and ministers, what makes the current assertion noticeable is the frequency and intensity with which they are being made. Abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution has provided a fillip to India’s position on PoJK, signalling a paradigmatic shift in how it seeks to pursue its strategic interests.

For decades, J&K has reeled under the state-sponsored terrorism from Pakistan. The incessant spate of violence had apparently overshadowed India’s legitimate claim on PoJK, though some tough messaging was on display when a parliamentary resolution emphasising J&K as an integral part of the country was unanimously adopted in February 1994, at a time when the Pakistan-sponsored militancy in J&K was at its peak. The resolution not only strongly condemned Pakistan for its support and encouragement to “subversive and terrorist activities in the Indian state of J&K” but had also asked Pakistan to vacate territories that were under its illegal occupation.

Nevertheless, indiscriminate violence and terrorism in J&K continued to cast shadow on the unresolved issue of PoJK and India’s legitimate claim over it for over the next two decades.

From Claim to Rhetoric:

Earlier, successive governments seemed to have virtually abandoned India’s claim on PoJK. However, India is now finally witnessing a phase where pronouncements about reclaiming PoJKare being made at the highest echelons of the state. For long, public articulation on PoJK was too weak. What once was an essential constituent of India’s position on Kashmir at world forums including the United Nations, had come to be rejected as a mere rhetorical rant.

Another factor that contributed to the lethargic approach towards PoJK was India’s stance on maintaining the status quo, discounting the reality that Pakistan was constantly challenging the same. India had, advertently or inadvertently, projected that it was inclined towards a status quo-centric solution on Kashmir.

What happened as a result was that a legitimate territorial claim underpinned by an Instrument of Accession incrementally degenerated into what was considered worthless jingoism — one that failed to resonate with India’s strategic policy pursuits. While India was categorical about preserving its territorial integrity vis-a-vis J&K, expressed aversion to third party interference on the issue, and later highlighted Pakistan-abetted terrorism in the region, it did not speak enough on PoJK to effectively influence the world opinion. There are no solid explanations for India’s qualms in expressing and asserting its position on PoJK more frequently than it has. This is despite the fact that the official version of India’s stance on PoJK has remained unchanged since 1947.

The downplaying of the country’s legitimate claims on PoJK failed to instil a strong sense of justification for those claims in public as well as at the global level. Lethargy and neglect together, slowly but surely, bred policy inertia on the issue, which at some point looked rather irreversible.

Reinvigorating India’s Claim on PoJK:

The surge in official references to PoJK has disrupted the inertia of the past years. Stridency in statements that talks with Pakistan will only be on PoJK seems to be graduating towards an attempt to turn the tables in dealing with Pakistan. The perceptible impression is that the rules of engagement will have to change. India’s insistence that talks with Pakistan cannot be held until Pakistan stops fomenting terror has so far been received well at the regional and global levels.

To trace the beginning of this policy shift, forceful assertion of India’s claim on PoJK began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech in August 2016, when he made explicit reference to parts of PoJK. Media coverage pursuant to the surgical strikes of September 2016 further sensitised the people about PoK.

Besides, repeated references to terror camps in PoJK by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar sustained the government’s focus on PoJK.

Even prior to Prime Minister Modi’s speech in August 2016, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in May 2015 spoke of factoring in the 106-km long border with Afghanistan.

The annual reports of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) too began using the term Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK), instead of PoK.

It is believed that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as the flagship project of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in clear disregard of the Indian sensitivities, might have provoked the political establishment to rejuvenate its extant claims on the territory.

More recently, the favourable outcome of the 2019 general elections and the subsequent abrogation of Article 370 by the Union government reorganising J&K into two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh – infused further energy into the government’s articulation of its position on PoJK.

The return of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with an overwhelming majority in June 2019 certainly raised hopes among the people regarding a decisive move on the long-pending, and geopolitically sensitive security matter.

Future Strategy:

It has been argued that strengthening claims on PoK and injecting it into India’s Kashmir strategy will potentially buttress India’s negotiating capability,11 not only vis-a-vis Pakistan but also China, which too is in possession of parts of the former princely state, including the Trans-Karakoram Tract provisionally ceded to it by Pakistan in 1963.

India’s Kashmir strategy in the past evolved against extreme pressures imposed by the international community that was influenced by Pakistan-spurred deceitful, anti-India propaganda. Pushing PoJK high on India’s strategic priorities will make India’s Kashmir policy more effective.

However, India must prepare to face some bigger challenges ahead. Below are a set of measures that could serve as a primer to deal with such challenges.

A conducive situation as is evolving now demands a set of measures that may serve as vital components of a long-term strategy on PoJK. The present context is an opportunity that must be seized to enunciate a coherent, policy-oriented discussion on PoJK.

Sustain Momentum: The first and foremost challenge is to sustain the present momentum on PoJK. In the coming days, it is all the more necessary that institutional mechanisms are set up and bolstered to monitor developments in PoK on a real-time basis. India must also be more open towards cultivating people from the terrain who are willing to come on board and contribute towards its broader policy objectives in PoJK.

Shore up Public Awareness: There is an urgent need to widen the ambit of knowledge and awareness on PoK before stimulating a meaningful discourse on the subject. There is a need for more articulate and balanced voices on PoJK as against the loud rhetoric and jingoism that animate discussions regarding the issue. In this context, raising India’s stand on PoJK must spread across ideological aisles. The MHA has a significant role to play in the dissemination of important facts and data on PoJK.

Much disservice has been done by the sense of domestic complacency on PoJK. While the talk on plebiscite and secession in J&K is unacceptable to all political parties, in certain quarters, irresponsible statements diluting India’s claim on PoK have flowed freely in the public discourse. Such remarks have seldom been reprimanded or subjected to punitive measure within India. This tendency must be consciously reversed after due consideration.

Sensitise International Public Opinion: On the external front, India must undertake diplomatic efforts towards sensitising the international community about its legitimate claims on PoJK. Indian foreign office should target especially those countries who are either involved in developmental/infrastructure projects in PoJK or are willing to do so.  With friendly countries like the United States, Japan and France showing their sensitivity to the Indian position on the issue vis-à-vis Pakistan, India should activate its diplomatic missions to communicate its policy shift with regard to Kashmir in general and PoJK in particular.

Political Representation: The government must give serious thought to reserving parliamentary seats for representatives from PoJK. The erstwhile Constitution of J&K had allotted seats in the state assembly for members from PoJK, which, it noted, shall lie vacant until PoK is integrated with India. That there was no such quota in the Lok Sabha was something of a constitutional incongruity. Despite the fact that the constitution of J&K no longer exists, and the erstwhile state stands bifurcated into two Union Territories, it is all the more compelling to consider this option in accordance with the revised map of India. The constitutional impediments that may exist in this regard need to be overcome by introducing the required changes. Filling up some, if not all seats in the new assembly, could be a step forward, to begin with. Since delimitation for the newly created two Union Territories has already been done, serious thinking is required now to contemplate follow-up options in this regard.


To sum up, timing is opportune for India to proactively pursue its claim on PoJK. There is a window for India to alter the discourse in its favour. India should develop a blueprint to recalibrate its approach on this long pending issue.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Originally published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.inhere.

Priyanka Singh

Dr. Priyanka Singh is Associate Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi. She holds an Honours degree in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi, and a PhD from the University of Lucknow.

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