Archive

Archive for September, 2009

A Q Khan and some candid admissions

September 22, 2009 2 comments

The ISI and some elements from within the Pakistan government must be a worried lot, especially in the wake of some candid admissions by an “aggrieved, wounded and humiliated” A.Q. Khan, the erstwhile head of Pakistan’s nuclear program, disgraced and now reduced to a common criminal for his illegal proliferation of nuclear weapons technology through a vast network of people spread across many countries who hankered to enter the coveted list of those rare ones in possession of nuclear delivery.

His admission in letters dating to the year of his arrest, that his activities involving nuclear proliferation which included exchanging and passing nuclear blue-prints and equipment to countries such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Libya were conducted with the complicity of the Pakistani government and military comes as no surprise, for all along the proceedings of his actions, it was well known that he had the blessings and the support of the Pakistani establishment.

The illegal proliferation network aided by Pakistan ensured its presence in many a nation willing to pay for entry into the nuclear club and was taken notice by the American CIA although information passed on later to the US State Department remained not acted upon for fear of upsetting what Americans saw as a strategic partner in the war on terror! Overlooking what it very well knew was not condonable, the United States allowed Pakistan to continue its game of misadventure, tracking its every move in extensive detail. Furthermore, the Americans were aware of this from a very early age which can be traced to the premiership of Benzair Bhutto. Therefore, to conclude that Pakistan’s activities involving nuclear proliferation is of recent times is blatantly foolish.

The Americans sat up and brought to light their knowledge after the 9/11 incidents which required them to see world terror and its assistants in a different light. Mounting severe pressure over Pakistan, post the world trade tower incidents, and also making it a partner in the war on terror, United States more than just nudged Pakistan into admitting to this ominous network. Suddenly then American First Citizen increased his tirade against an axis of evil, which included North Korea and Iran, both of whom co-incidentally were also part of the list of beneficiaries of Pakistan’s well charted nuclear proliferation network!

In a desperate attempt to save face, then head of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf looked within the establishment for a scapegoat that he could nail for the expose and showcase to the world, hoping to silence the Americans and cap the pressure emanating on him. Thus happened the disgrace of Abdul Qadeer Khan, who from 1976 was involved in Pakistan’s nuclear program until 2001, when he was sacked from his position as the Chairman of the Kahuta Research Laboratories! His scripted downfall came in 2002 when the United States called for examination of his role in Pakistan’s activities of nuclear proliferation, which the Pakistanis emphatically dismissed as concocted. Then in 2003, following revelations from Iran and Libya, his fate appeared to be sealed and he was forever removed from the ‘inner circle’ and was made to sign a confession detailing his activities pertinent to nuclear proliferation!

President Musharraf however granted him pardon while he continued to be held under house arrest. Perhaps this was Musharraf’s way of granting him a breather while having made him shoulder the blame for a foul game that the Pakistani establishment had willfully played for a very long time!

Though the media has over the past couple of days highlighted extensively the letters containing Khan’s assertions, it comes as no surprise for the role of the Pakistani establishment was always known to the world, at least the world of the US State Department and the CIA, both of whom considered it best to ignore it for the succession of better bilateral ties! Moreover the letter itself, that so lucidly describes many a happenstance in the Pakistani nuclear ambit was written in 2003 immediately after Khan’s arrest and is by no means a recent production!

That it has now been made public is probably the beginning of another dramatic orchestration of events that will not be known in full light until the passage of many years! But perhaps, Khan should have known better than to trust his masters and taken strong wind of the stern advice given to him by Li Chew, then minister and head of China’s nuclear-weapons program. For if he had done so then “The bastards first used us and are now playing dirty games with us,” would have been more of a passable collection of words with little or no significance whatsoever!

Indo-China border engagement

September 15, 2009 2 comments

It takes India a few of its Indo Tibetan Border Policemen (ITBP) to be shot at and injured by Chinese troops to momentarily sit up and take notice of the repeated Chinese incursions that have been happening across the Indo-China border! But still, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is playing footsie and denying these reports categorically saying that no such incidents have taken place! “A media report about two ITBP jawans having been injured due to firing from across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has come to notice. The report is factually incorrect,” were the strong and emphatic words of External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash. However, the headquarters of the ITBP has neither denied nor confirmed the report.

The alleged incident came to light when a certain newspaper reported that personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police were injured when Chinese troops had fired at them in Kerang in northern Sikkim a few days ago. The newspaper further reported that following the shootout in Kerang, border personnel held an emergency meeting on August 30. The newspaper confirmed the firing incident citing a top intelligence source, who spoke in condition of anonymity.

General Deepak Kapoor, India’s Army Chief, brought to light a series of air incursions by the Chinese about a month ago, while the Indian government down played the incidents citing them as ‘routine and harmless.’ One would recall a series of further incursions a few days ago with Chinese soldiers having left red painted rock memorabilia for their Indian counterparts – in Indian soil!

Although the Indian government has further downplayed this incident, much like what it did previously, a number of people within and outside the establishment believe them to be true, unlike the responses from the establishment itself! That the government chooses to respond differently is a question left better best answerable to by the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs, who routinely downplay such incidents so as to remain in the good equations with the Chinese and not antagonize them!

If the report is correct, which in all probability it is, it will be the first incident of firing along the Indo-China border since the 1996 bilateral agreement which seeks either nation not to engage in opening fire, no matter what the provocation is, primarily aimed as a part of confidence-building measures.

Repeated border violations and now incidents of opening fire indicate a brazen and even more aggressive Chinese army backed by its government reiterating its policy of inch-by-inch take-over of the Indian Territory it lays claim to! Large parts of the Indo-China border are unattended and remain unguarded throughout the year, prompting easier access to the violator and also making monitoring and reporting difficult for the Indians. However, what is appalling is the Indian government’s lukewarm and lackadaisical response, contributing more fodder and will power to an already aggressive and violent band of Chinese, who know no pleasantries of peaceful co-existence!

China has, as is usual practice, officially denied any violation of the Indo-China border or the Line of Actual Control. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing has denied all reports of Chinese airspace violations and incursions in border areas. A team of Chinese officials have also met Indian media representatives based in Beijing in an attempt to convey a message, that India is China’s partner and not a rival – something that is more of a farce than fact!

Sun Weidong who is deputy director-general of the ministry’s Asian department, in a statement said that “China does not pose any threat to India. For us, the biggest task is to develop ourselves so that 1.3 billion people can lead a good life. I don’t think it’s logical to say that when a country grows strong it will bully others.” But this is far from true, given the aggressive policy that China follows in laying claim to portions of Indian Territory that it regards to be part of its sovereign!

New Delhi’s responses and reasons behind them are better best not discussed! The MEA and the political brass, in conjunction, it seems are more worried about cozying up to the Chinese, something which is ominously similar to the stand that Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s former Prime Minister, maintained in the run up to the Indo-China debacle in 1962. It is surprising that no lessons have still been learnt over a period spanning 47 years! Just when one thinks that there could be some measure to address this repeated misadventure, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statements while addressing a conference of state Director Generals of Police in New Delhi comes as a dampener!

His woes that “Infiltration across the Line of Control and other places like Nepal, Bangladesh and the sea has been going up” simply do not reflect the current state of affairs and appears well doctored in order to omit Chinese references. Such a partisan type stand echoes our inability, lack of will and seriousness over the issue, which is precisely being taken as a soft spot to further such incidents, that will only increase in the coming days!

So much for partnership and cooperation!

Pakistan's nuclear agenda – The compelling problem!

September 3, 2009 Leave a comment

News about Pakistan’s modification of the Harpoon missiles aimed to possibly launch on Indian targets comes as a somber reminder of a dreaded neighbour whose intentions can many a times be very misleading, contrary to what is thought of. History has rightly indicated how bitterly Indian overtures for dialogue and peace have been met with counter productive misadventures, Kargil being among the many such gaffes on the part of Pakistan.

Breaking the news, New York Times carried a feature that detailed how Pakistan had illegally modified Harpoon anti-ship missiles, that it had acquired from the United States, in order to now give it the ability to strike land targets in India. While American intelligence agencies got wind of this through information acquired from a test conducted by Pakistan on April 23rd, this year, Pakistan itself claims that such is not the case. It states that no modifications have been done to the Harpoon and that the previous tests, claimed by US agencies pertain to an altogether different missile developed indigenously by Pakistan.

Americans on the other hand claim that Pakistan stands in violation of the Arms Control Export Act, under which encumbrance the Harpoon sale had been effected. It will not immediately be known if the missile in question is the Harpoon itself or a home grown technology or if it has been bought over from China. But the general concern is that such a technology now presents Pakistan with a new ability, one that will enable it to launch strikes on Indian targets which were hitherto out of reach or considered to be so!

Interestingly, this allegation comes at a time when President Obama’s administration sought congressional approval of a staggering $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next couple of years, which it says is a measure to arm an ally in its concerted efforts in the war against terror!

The sooner the Americans come to terms with the fact, one that they already know about, that Pakistan has been siphoning off money and arms supplied to it to aide illicit operations, the war on terror stands won on many grounds!

Barely, hours after this report, an American scientist, Hans M Kristensen, belong to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), reported that Pakistan has increased its number of ready-to-use nuclear warheads to a staggering 90 in number! His article on the FAS page that Pakistan has stored nuclear warheads in fully assembled condition indicates that they can be called for use at a short notice. On the contrary, India, which has a respectable no first strike policy ensures that war heads are not mounted on missiles and stores either of them separately.

The growing concern pertaining to Pakistan’s increasing nuclear arsenal was expressed by the Chief of Indian Army, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, who in his statement mentioned that this was clearly beyond the level of deterrence that a country needed.

Meanwhile, FAS sources claim that Pakistan has been developing two new cruise missiles, which include the ground-launched Babur and the air-launched Ra’ad, both of which have nuclear delivery capability. Added to the tweaked Harpoons, Pakistan now has a variety of delivery measures with which it could exact a nuclear attack, something which is a serious threat to the Indian nation, over and above that which already exists! That they intend to increase their nuclear weapons capability is without doubt, considering the emerging plutonium reactors plants and the additional chemical separation facility.

A senior nuclear policy expert, Bharat Karnad states that Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions are no secret. According to him “they have had it for several years. The reason why they are doing is that they want to be ready to detain any threat at any point. They also apprehend danger to nuclear weapons by outside countries which they don’t want to name but by implication they have the United States, Israel and India that is who they fear will attack them.”

Quite co-incidentally, the disgraced pioneer of Pakistan’s nuclear program, A. Q. Khan, who until a while ago faced serious restrictions imposed by the law, has now been rewarded, or shall we say compensated, with significantly reduced sanctions! I’m wondering if this is the establishment’s way of asking him to once again participate in the revival of Pakistan’s nuclear agenda. If so, Pakistan is seriously embarking upon a long and well planned construction of a nuclear delivery system, which in the time to come will be a force to reckon with and perhaps an overt threat to the peace and stability in the region!