chinese army’s secret ‘61398’ unit spying on india’s defense and research

The Chinese Army’s secret unit ‘61398’, known for cyber espionage, is eyeing information related to India’s defense and research, the security agencies sounded an alert on Monday. According to a report of the security agencies, this secret unit of the People’s Liberation of Army (PLA) has intensified its activities against India.

Chinese

Many cases have been reported in the last few months in which Chinese hackers associated with the PLA attempted to gather sensitive information of the country through cyber espionage.

Headquartered in Datong Avenue of Pudong district in China’s Shanghai, unit ‘61398’ is witnessing a spurt in these activities, asserted an officer deployed in the central security speaking to Zee Media. “Through unit ‘61398’, China has been engaged in gathering information like cyber, space, and geolocation intelligence around the world for a long time. These units are found to be very active against India,” said the officer.

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Since 2015, PLA has centralized its space, cyber and electronic warfare (EW) assets in the newly raised PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF). Therefore the unit ‘61398’ which deals with cyber warfare and was under erstwhile 3 PLA (General Staff Department Third Department) have been subordinated under the network system department of the PLASSF.

Another officer who is aware of the development said that there is a report of at least three cyber hackers supporting cyber espionage activities. Recently, there have been attempts made by these hackers to send a special computer program worldwide by attaching malware tools to cyber espionage. Icebug, Hidden Lynx (a professional advanced persistent threat using the program), and APT-12 have been used for attacking government and industrial organizations by Chinese hackers.

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In 2014, the US had charged five PLA military officers for espionage and they were part of unit ‘61398’. The US agencies believe that, like Unit ‘61398’, many such groups exist in China with the active support of the PLA, who are engaged in cyber spying around the world.

Many analysts believe China now has the capability to successfully target critical infrastructure during the war. There is also concern that Chinese hackers may disrupt the electric grid and banking system through cyber attacks.

IAF’s Rafale jets stand no chance against its J-20

The five French Rafale fighter jets arrived at Ambala airbase in Haryana on July 29 after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km to join the Indian Air Force. Seen as India’s first major acquisition of fighter jets in over two decades, the Rafales are expected to significantly boost IAF’s capabilities.

Rafale

In terms of comparison, Rafale is more capable than Pakistan’s F-16 or China’s J-20, an aircraft that is yet to see combat. According to former IAF chief BS Dhanoa, Rafale is a game-changer, and the Chinese J-20 doesn’t even come close.

However, expectedly, Chinese experts have a difference of opinion. They claim that Rafale is just a third-plus fighter aircraft and doesn’t stand much of a chance against a ‘stealth, fourth-generation jet like the J-20.”

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As per a report published in the Chinese daily Global Times, which is also a mouthpiece of the Communist Party, Zhang Xuefeng, a military expert says that Rafale is only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced than the Su-30 MKI jets.

“In some combat performance areas, the Rafale is superior to the Su-30 MKI fighter jets, which are in service in the Indian air force in large batches, but it is only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced and does not yield a significant qualitative change,” the report quoted the expert as saying.

“The Rafale is comparable to other third-plus generation fighter jets used by other countries, but it will find it very difficult to confront a stealth-capable fourth-generation fighter jet,” he further said.

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Notably, China’s claims cannot be taken at face value following the clashes in Ladakh that left 20 India soldiers dead. Reportedly, 43 PLA soldiers, including a Commanding Officer, was killed in the clash as well but China did not acknowledge their death.

The two countries are engaged in talks for disengagement at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

India had signed a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafales to meet the emergency requirements of the IAF.

EU briefed by India, China on border clashes

The European Union has been briefed by both New Delhi and Beijing on the recent India-China border clashes, with Brussels welcoming the recent de-escalatory steps between the two countries.

border

An EU official, ahead of the India-EU summit said, “We have certainly received detailed information on how the two government see clashes at the border. But what is most important is they are talking to each other–at diplomatic, military and even the political level.”

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Welcoming the de-escalation, EU officials said, “Pleased to see since the deadly clashes took place at LAC” and “both sides having committed to show restraint and engage in military de-escalation and engage in dialogue.”

China and India have started de-escalation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with areas such as Galwan Valley, Hot springs and Gogra witnessing complete de-escalation.

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“We trust both Indian and Chinese authorities and look to continue the dialogue in order to find a peaceful solution to the differences and it is particularly important when 2 of the world’s powerful and influential players like India and China…have this immediate de-escalation,” the EU official further added. “It is crucial for global stability and EU supports good neighbourly relations between both.” 

EU has also expressed “interest in a number of concrete economic steps” taken by India after June 15 clashes, said another EU official when asked about India-China border row.

China will be one of the key topics of discussion at the 15th India-EU summit that will take place virtually on Wednesday at 4.30 PM IST. EU will be represented by Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and India will be represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell will also join.

India to strengthen maritime alliance in Indian

India is the works of strengthening maritime alliance in the Indian Ocean region, as one of the fallouts of Chinese combativeness in the region.

The details of the plan are still in the works but could include countries impacted by Chinese belligerence in the South China sea.

The alliance will not only help maintain balance in the Indo Pacific region but comes even as QUAD grouping consisting of –Japan, US, India, and Australia is expected to gain strength.

India

In contrast to Atlantic or the Pacific ocean, the Indian ocean which is the 3rd largest ocean is not an open one, and entry into it is via straits like Strait of Malacca. India could use its maritime capability by deploying warships near the Malacca Strait, China’s jugular vein – to signal to the Chinese communist party that it means business.

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India has been an active player of the 22 members strong IORA–Indian ocean rim association. The grouping consists of countries that share a boundary with the Indian ocean and expected to be more vocal on illegal fishing by Chinese vessels in the region. 

New Delhi has been engaging with individual countries as well, from the recently announced Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Australia and India to maritime exercises with the Japanese in the Indian ocean.

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India isn’t in a mood to believe in Chinese much after the June 15 violent face-off that killed 20 Indian soldiers. It is believed that any retreat at this juncture would be taken as a sign of weakness, further emboldening the CCP to broaden its strategy of ‘salami-slicing’.

A govt source said,” The martyrdom of 20 Indian soldiers – a first on the LAC after 1975- has the potential to permanently alter the prism through which India steers its China strategy and also transform Indo-Chinese dynamics.”

Chinese new claim on Galwan valley has only increased the suspicion. The valley is strategically important for India since the mountain-tops on either side overlook the crucial Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road that connects Sub-Sector North (SSN) with the rest of Ladakh.

After India bans 59 apps, China says ‘strongly concerned

A day after the central government banned TikTok, a popular short video-sharing platform, and 58 other Chinese mobile apps bans in the country citing security reasons, China has responded by saying that they are “strongly concerned” and are verifying the situation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Tuesday said that China is “strongly concerned” and is “verifying the situation”. He said this regarding India’s ban on Chinese mobile apps.

“We want to stress that the Chinese government always asks Chinese businesses to abide by international and local laws and regulations. The Indian government has a responsibility to uphold the legal rights of international investors, including the Chinese ones,” said Zhao Lijian.

China

The applications were removed today from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store in India.

All 59 apps with Chinese links that were listed by the Centre in its ban order were removed from the online app stores, including TikTok, Helo, Likee, CamScanner, Mi Video Call – Xiaomi, Vigo Video as well as e-commerce platforms like Club Factory and Shein and games like Clash of Kings.

Here is the full list of banned 59 apps

In an order issued under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, the Ministry of Information Technology said it has decided to block 59 apps in view of the emergent nature of threats.

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These apps are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order,” the government said in its order.

The move to ban the apps with Chinese links comes in the backdrop of a violent face-off between Indian and Chinese troops near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh’s Galwan valley weeks ago, which resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and reported casualties among.43 Chinese soldiers.

Following the India-China skirmishes in the Galwan valley on June 15, tensions have exacerbated manifold between the two countries with Indian campaigns about boycotting Chinese products gaining rapid popularity in the mainstream.

Although numerous Indian government officials had earlier said that the border tensions will not impact trade between India and China, they have also been urging the citizens to be “vocal about local” and prefer indigenous alternatives to foreign, especially Chinese, brands.

In the following days, the Centre also took action cancelling several contracts with Chinese firms in sectors like railway and telecom, supposedly aimed at preventing Chinese entry into strategic markets in India.

Now, it has culminated into India banning Chinese apps over “raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians”.

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The Ministry of Information Technology said that it has received several reports about the ‘misuse’ of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India”.

This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure the safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace, the government order explained.

Among the banned apps, TikTok has over 200 million users in India, as it had become especially popular in suburban India launching several people into overnight online fame. They had even carefully curated a community surrounding it and catered to demands relating to personalities. E-commerce platforms like Club Factory and Shein are also widely popular in India. CamScanner and SHAREit were two other popular utility apps that people widely used for scanning documents and rapid sharing of files, respectively.

India,China reach mutual consensus to ‘disengage’

In the Corps Commander level talks between India and China at Moldo, both sides have reached a mutual consensus to disengage in the Eastern Ladakh sector, Indian Army said on Tuesday.

According to sources cited by news agencies, the modalities for disengagement from all friction areas in Eastern Ladakh were discussed and will be taken forward by both sides.

India

“The Corps Commander level talks between India and China on 22 June 2020 were held at Moldo in a cordial, positive and constructive atmosphere. There was a mutual consensus to disengage. Modalities for disengagement from all friction areas in Eastern Ladakh were discussed and will be taken forward by both sides,” the Army said.

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The meeting had started at around 11:30 AM yesterday at Moldo on the Chinese side of Line of Actual Control (LAC) opposite Chushul to defuse the tensions in the Eastern Ladakh sector due to the Chinese military build-up, sources had said.

This was the second meeting between the two corps commanders. They had met on June 6 and had agreed to disengage at multiple locations. India had asked the Chinese side to return to pre-May 4 military positions along the LAC.

The Chinese side had not given any response to the specific Indian proposal and not even shown intent on the ground to withdraw troops from rear positions where they have amassed over 10,000 troops.

On the perchance of Pangong Lake in Ladakh becoming a major source of contention between India and China, the two countries have engaged in a serious discussion over the past few days in order to sort out and resolve the tensions over the border dispute. According to sources, India has now demanded pre-May 2 status quo at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the meeting with China that took place yesterday (i.e. June 22, Monday).

India and China held Corps Commander-level meeting at Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) opposite Chushul to discuss the ongoing dispute in Ladakh. Last week, as many as 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in the face-off in the Galwan Valley after an attempt by the Chinese troops to unilaterally change the status quo during the de-escalation in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian intercepts have revealed that the Chinese side suffered 43 casualties including dead and seriously injured in the violent clash.

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Earlier, the central government had approved emergency funds for the Indian Army to buy any weapons systems under Rs 500 crore rupees. This is the first time that the armed forces have been granted such authority since the 2019 Balakot airstrike, when Indian warplanes had crossed the de facto border in Kashmir and dropped bombs in the vicinity of the town of Balakot in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.

The armed forces can now buy any weapons system which they feel is necessary during war. The Indian Army has also been given full freedom to give a befitting response to any Chinese ‘misadventure’.

The rules of engagement at the LAC have changed and field commanders have been sanctioned to use firearms under ‘extraordinary circumstances’ using all resources at their disposal.

Two agreements signed earlier between India and China, in 1996 and 2005, respectively, did not permit the use of firearms in these areas.

According to the terms of an agreement signed in 1996, “neither side shall open fire or hunt with guns or explosives within 2km from the line of actual control”.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media Global Times’ editor Hu Xijin called the change in the lines of engagement as a “serious violation” of the agreement between New Delhi and Beijing.