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Indo-China border – The current situation

August 22, 2010 15 comments

China’s quiet but steady plans of increasing it’s military capabilities are not going unnoticed! Reports emanating from the Pentagon, early last week, have confirmed that it has successfully deployed long range CSS-5 missiles close to the Indian border while also having developed contingency plans to move airborne forces to the region at very short notice. Quite naturally, this is of serious concern to India, considering the long standing not-so-friendly relations that both countries have shared over the years, a culmination of which was witnessed in 1962 when Chinese aggression against India came at a very unexpected time, at the backdrop of the Indo-China cooperation effort that was supposed to spearhead the beginning of a warm bilateral relationship between both nations!

In an annual report to the US Congress, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” officials from the US Department of Defence have stated that “Beijing remains concerned with persistent disputes along China’s shared border with India and the strategic ramifications of India’s rising economic, political, and military power” and in order “to improve regional deterrence, the PLA has replaced the older liquid-fuelled, nuclear capable CSS-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles with more advanced and survivable solid-fuelled CSS-5 MRBMs and may be developing contingency plans to move airborne troops into the region.” The report also notes that China continues to invest heavily in “increasingly capable long-range air Defence systems, electronic warfare and computer network attack capabilities, advanced fighter aircraft, and counter-space systems.”

To understand the context of the report, especially the aforementioned contents of it, or rather to attempt to gain a clear understanding of the situation on the ground, one needs to revisit the occurrences of many instances of skirmishes initiated by the PLA against the Indian Army, while repeatedly claiming regions along the border as part of Chinese territory and systematically orchestrating such claims as legitimate, many such incidents having been reported during the course of the previous year! Therefore, mentions made by American officials about China’s concern and resultant up-scaled measures of deterrence along the Indo-China border can at best be termed as lopsided or unfounded in substance, considering, among other things, China’s continued posture of aggression and a refusal to engage in talks regarding territorial disputes!

Chinese aggression and repeated claims of Indian territory are not by any means recent, and have been happening well ahead of the 1962 engagement, both in overt and covert means! By remaining continually irreconcilable and averse to meaningful and constructive dialogue, this communist state has been nurturing a sense of hostility against India for a very long time now! Following the ascension to Presidency by Hu Jintao, China effectively began a new era of militarization and modernization of the PLA that at best can be described as transgressing the boundaries of China’s political and territorial interests! Apart from the Indo-China scenario, one can also draw instances from China’s actions with regards to Taiwan, where it continues to engage in a substantial military build-up, largely aimed at stifling any move by Taiwan to assert independence from the mainland!

It may be recalled that, not very long ago, China tried to block a $2.9 billion loan that India had sought from the Asian Development Bank, citing that it was purported for use in Arunachal Pradesh, a region China claims to be part of it’s territory! Such concerted attempts by the Chinese are not few or far apart these days and seem to be well orchestrated as is it’s view of emerging India and it’s imminently rising socio-economic status! China has, during the recent past, engaged in massive infrastructure development along the border with India, strengthening road and rail networks, aimed to augment operations by the PLA in the possible hope of arm-twisting it’s neighbour and gaining superiority in the region! So long as such projects continue to be undertaken unbridled, there is a looming danger of Chinese incursions on a large and more determined scale and the Government of India needs to ensure that steps are taken to recognize such threats by putting into place countermeasures of deterrence, or in the present circumstances, defence at least!

India and China share a 4057 km long border that is largely porous, and tensions have been long prevalent over how each side has viewed this dividing line and presently recognizes the same! The boundary with China is divided into three parts, namely, Eastern, Western and Middle sectors. In the Eastern Sector, China claims an area of 94,700 sq. kms., which is in addition to the entire part of Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Sikkim. The Western Sector consists of Aksai Chin and the Western boundary in Ladakh and is located along Lanka La, Niagzu stream, Demchok and Teshigong through the Emis Pass. China has, for long, understood the strategic value of Aksai Chin in sustaining and maintaining control over Tibet. In this region, China claims about 38,000 sq. kms. of land, primarily of that in Aksai Chin. In the Middle Sector the area extends up to Spiti Valley and Shipkila Pass, while in the Garhwal area of Uttarakhand, Satluj-Ganga watershed has been the traditional boundary. Here China claims about 1,300 sq. kms. as part of it’s territory. After the war in 1962, China has been found to have illegally occupied 20,000 sq. kms. in Arunachal Pradesh and 38,000 sq. kms. in the Ladakh region, which is excluding 5,180 sq. kms. of area ceded to it by Pakistan in 1963. In the Eastern Sector, which consists Tawang, Zemithang and Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh, it has been ascertained that the Thagla Ridge, where the 1962 Indo-China war had begun, along with places such as Namka Chu and Sumdrong Chu Valley have been under Chinese occupation since 1986. The occupation has resulted in the loss of extensive amounts of traditional grazing land of the local people. In central Arunachal Pradesh, under the Upper Subansiri district, the Asa-Pila-Maya Army camp which was part of the Indian territory is now under Chinese occupation. Similarly, in the eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh under Dibang Valley district, the Athu-Pupu range, a place regarded as sacred by the local people, has been been under Chinese occupation since 2006. In the Chaklagam range in the Eastern part, the three mountain ranges have been occupied by China since 2006. Similarly, in Kurung Kumey district, seven of the nine India Army base camps have been occupied by Chinese Army.

While officials in the Indian government continue to remain in a state of denial with regards to repeated border violations by the Chinese, it is estimated that India has lost vast amounts of land to China over the past decades. For starters, various agencies in India including the Army and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs admit the persisting differences over mapping of the area. Coordination incapacities among these institutions have only compounded the magnitude of the problem, something that is well known to the Chinese side! A high level meeting on the Indian side, held between various stakeholders, concluded that “there is a lack of institutional memory in various agencies as well as clear policy on this issue which in the long run has resulted in loss of territory by India in favour of China”. A report by a fact finding mission, as recently as July 2010, has detailed some shocking facts. It states that “China has built 13 airports at the border and most of them including Lhasa, Qando, Nyngchi, Ngaji and Xigaza are operational now. Apart from rail links it has also established several missile points there. It has constructed metalled roads up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and has reportedly deployed two lakh army personnel on the border. It has the potential to move two more divisions to forward areas during emergency. On the other hand there are virtually no metalled roads on Indian border and more distinctly in those areas which are under threat. There are just wind sandy rubble tracks which Indian security forces are using today. Such a road system in no way can serve our requirements during war time. This state of affairs exists both in Eastern and Western sectors of India.” The report further outlines that “China now has 40,000 km road network in Tibet, apart from rail links of 1,118 km, one from Lhasa to Gormo in Qinghai province. This would enable China to mobilise large forces by train and by road onto Indian borders. Earlier, this exercise not only took a long time but also was impossible during winter but the new rail line into Tibet and the expressway have changed the scenario totally.”

It is time that the Indian government woke up to the Chinese threat, before it becomes too late! A state of denial, in the hope of forging better bilateral relations cannot help but offer concessions to an aggressor. Alarmingly, the Indian side remains yet to be strengthened by dependable road and rail networks that could help mobilization of troops and resources in the event of a Chinese misadventure. That Chinese incursions are happening in a very slow and inch-by-inch manner does not mean that they are not happening at all. China is also supplying the local populace with essential commodities and supplies fully aware of the sheer scale of neglect by the Indian side. By doing this, it hopes to gain confidence of the people in the region, another threat that the Government of India must recognize immediately. Furthermore, China’s record of completing strategic projects well ahead of schedule and the fact that contingents of the Indian army need to walk for days together to reach the border are not helping the Indian side in any manner! Required on an urgent footing are the need for constructing a well networked chain of roads in the area, along with the need to upgrade the living and operating conditions of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel, while also involving the local people to form liaisons with the territorial army in order to garner valuable HUMINT regarding the movement of Chinese army personnel. Basic infrastructure and other facilities such as telecommunications and power supply, to name a handful, are severely lacking and need to be worked upon! All of these need to be undertaken and continued very seriously in order to stave off a threat that has been looming large and will one day pose a serious threat to the Indian union!

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WikiLeaks and beyond

August 1, 2010 5 comments

You’d have to have been utterly uninformed if you didn’t notice the storm created by WikiLeaks over the past week in connection with the leaking of some 92,000 classified documents pertaining, among others also to the war in Afghanistan, what the United States terms as the war on terror! Almost everyone in the American administration seems to have an opinion on this, while calling for a systematic effort to comb the intelligence community in a desperate attempt to seal the leak, which is feared to have wider and longstanding implications, so much so as threatening the lives of many American people and their allies, while also seriously compromising their interests at home and beyond!

Come to think of it, founder Julian Assange and team, of WikiLeaks, have not been working really hard to obtain this so called tonnage of information, most of which are already in public domain and knowledge, far from the absolutely classified or top secret types anyone would expect. While the media lapped up the story, publicizing it to no ends and thereby creating a sensation that would perhaps be equivalent to a high-profile assassination, experts are yet to be surprised by this episode, which has now come to be recognized as a fiasco, one that has most certainly been a deliberate inside effort, well-timed to achieve a certain set objective, more so, at the connivance of the American administration and the intelligence community itself! Sharing the beliefs of many experts, several officials within the United States government are also of the opinion that the disclosure by WikiLeaks was a well planned process, aided by none other than senior functionaries within the intelligence community of America, at the insistence of, of course, the top brass of the American administration. Wayne Madsen, formerly with the US Navy and the US National Security Agency (NSA), now a popular blogger, investigative journalist, author and columnist, is known to have told a friend that the disclosure by WikiLeaks is a controlled leak process aided and used by the United States Government run entirely through intelligence networks.

Having spent a great deal of time glossing over the WikiLeaks website, in the past few days, I find that the information so mentioned or offered as part of the leak discloses nothing so significant or shocking, and is certainly not something not already known before. The packet deal consists very little apart from America’s knowledge of Pakistan’s ISI and it’s complicity with various outlawed factions in aiding state sponsored terrorism and the likes, nuances pertaining to the war on terror, notes on NATO operations, and field reports that have been systematically fed into a central repository over a period of time for collation and analysis!

It is widely believed that the source behind the WikiLeaks story is PFC Bradley Manning, a former US Army Intelligence Analyst, detained for allegedly “transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system” and “communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source.” Manning is also believed to have said that diplomatic documents, in his possession, expose “almost criminal political back dealings” and that they explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail.” Stating that he hoped the release of matter within his possession would lead to “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms,” he reportedly wrote, “everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed.” While WikiLeaks has itself condemned actions initiated against Manning, it has so far refused to confirm or deny Manning as having been a source in the recently conducted disclosure, stating that it has a policy not to name it’s sources citing strict measures of confidence! In a twist following the initial refusal to confirm or deny it’s believed source, WikiLeaks founder and presently it’s editor-in-Chief, Julian Assange claimed that neither he nor his organization had any knowledge of the identity of the person who sent them the classified material, stating that the website itself was created in order to hide the source of it’s data from those who receive it.

This is however not the first time that WikiLeaks has come up with matters of disclosures that it claimed will stun the world, exposing the many cover ups being systematically undertaken by government and administrative officials. Ranging from Standard Operating Procedures of Guantanamo Bay to the membership list of the ultra-right wing British National Party, confidential reports of the United Nations, secret Congressional Research Service reports, intercepts pertaining to the 9/11 incident, reports related to dumping of toxic waste materials in Africa, Oil scandals in Peru and several other interesting material, the leaks of documents pertaining to the American war on terror in Afghanistan is among the many such instances, with the exception of it’s sensitivity considering how high this probably came from! These reports, ranging from the period of 2004 until 2009, detail incidents including friendly fire and civilian casualties, as a result of the various operations conducted within Afghanistan. Also, among the documents leaked are reports that American officials in Afghanistan strongly suspected Pakistan’s actions supporting Taliban militants while on the other hand, accepting huge amounts of American aid. Although publicly known, it is believed that these documents could fuel growing doubts within the US Congress about President Obama’s strategy on the war on terror and it’s effectiveness as American death toll continues to rise.

Interestingly, while the White House, along with senior government bodies in the United States has repeatedly termed this episode as an action constituting the breach of federal law, there has been no talk of any actions against WikiLeaks itself, while only an appeal not to publish any more sensitive material that maybe available in it’s custody! When asked if WikiLeaks could face criminal action, Pentagon officials have simply stated in what appears to be an evasive answer that “historically the leakers have been the ones targeted for criminal prosecution and not those who merely publish the information.” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. This is a whole new world that we are entering into where an organization without any editorial judgment, beholden to nobody, is soliciting classified information from people all over the world and then publishing it, I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer but people are going to have to make judgments about whether there are legal ramifications for soliciting a criminal act.”

In the aftermath of what is being seen as a sensational episode of disclosure, the US President will face a very tough task of convincing the congress to continue funding the war on terror. These disclosures, which have portrayed the on goings of the war on terror in a finer detail, often highlighting the failure of the administration in containing the many threats associated to the exercise, have come at a very crucial time. Because of undying difficulties on the ground and increasing casualty rates, a raging debate over the continued American presence in Afghanistan has begun much earlier than expected. It is believed that within the administration, more and more officials are turning skeptics and privately questioning the American policy towards the war on terror. Elsewhere within the US Congress, leaders are preparing to hold a vote on a very important bill related to financing the war on terror amidst fears that the leaks could incite opposition on the administration’s policies from even within the Democrats. Also geared to be chaired is a Senate panel aimed to hold a hearing on President Obama’s choice to head the military’s central command, Gen James Mattis, who will oversee military operations in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that the documents, released by WikiLeaks, will make it harder for President Obama as he strives to garner public and Congressional support until the end of the year, when he has scheduled a review of the war effort.

So given all of these complications already present and soon escalating, one wonders why there should have been an administrative level complicity in the disclosures made by WikiLeaks, for there seems to be no valid reason why the administration would endanger it’s own position in front of the American people and the Congress! Logically, there cannot be an answer to this unless it is a well concerted plan of the current US administration aimed to facilitate a withdrawal from Afghanistan! Maybe the government conveniently authorized this leak and aided it at the highest possible levels well aware of the furore it would create and therefore pave way for it’s exit from Afghanistan with the least possible political damage while stating the obvious that the war is intensifying in a manner that even the most efficiently coordinated efforts will pale in the face of escalating terror and continuance in such a situation will only drain American resources, lives and cost! An already edgy and driven Congress will be ‘made to understand’ the facts without ever the need for any elaborate explanations and testifying, all thanks to such a grand scale of leaks! With the international media spending such a considerable amount of time and effort in scrutinizing the war on terror in extensive detail, the task of the administration has lessened even more to a comfortable level of being able to convince the world of how unfruitful the pursuit of freedom or peace in Afghanistan can be! And for the general public, overwhelmed by the frantic pace of reporting by news channels over this so called sensationally humongous leak, I doubt if many would even understand that this mass cache of documents mean anything to the point of being able to be understood.

Therefore, how convenient and cooperative an effort by WikiLeaks and the Government of the United States!

India and Pakistan – Talking progress

July 18, 2010 2 comments

Apparently, the Pakistani side was more bothered about their Indian counterparts being on the phone with New Delhi. A determined agenda to achieve progress didn’t seem to be their priority clearly. One would be surprised to note that during the proceedings of the day, at several times, the entire Indian delegation was left by themselves in Foreign Minister Qureshi’s office while the Pakistan delegation repeatedly stepped out to consult with their bosses. Now, knowing fully well that during such a meeting, consultations with respective headquarters is the norm, one wonders why the Pakistani side attached unnecessary importance and claim to a matter as trivial as this. Clearly, the hypocrisy doesn’t end there.

Ahead of the talks itself, both sides had worked on a number of aspects for discussion including meetings between the commerce secretaries, aimed at resumption of trade. Also on the cards was a high level meeting aimed to iron out persisting differences in the area of water sharing. India subsequently suggested a meeting between parliamentarians of both nations, thus paving the way for a composite and inclusive dialogue, offering much more than just ministerial level interactions. However, the Pakistani side attempted sabotage by demanding inclusion of Kashmir, security and Siachen in the talks without forewarning! One cannot understand the demand considering Pakistan’s long pending action against the perpetrators of the 26/11 episode, to name just one of the many subversive anti-India operations it undertakes from time to time.

On India’s part, it certainly was very right to expect action on the incidents of 26/11 which have now been very long drawn, devoid of any substantial progress. Revelations from David Coleman Headley, about the ISI having financed the 26/11 operation couldn’t have come at a better time. Talks on terrorism and other related aspects such as security, though of paramount importance would not have, at this stage, made any sense, given that Pakistan is yet to take concrete steps to prosecute those behind 26/11. However, one does attempt to understand the difficulty involved in such a step, considering that the ISI and parts of the Pakistan army were complicit in the entire operation, definitely at the insistence or at least the connivance of certain branches of the executive government.

Pakistan’s stubborn stand and refusal to accept evidence against elements such as the ISI and terrorist Hafiz Saeed, aren’t making things easier either. Such a stand not only impedes the peace process that India is wholly committed to, but also brings to the table many questions on Pakistan’s motives. One is led to believe that such a stand devoid of understanding and cooperation is as a result of extensive pressure from within the army establishment of Pakistan that truly is in control of the executive there and avidly intent on bringing the issue of Kashmir on the forefront while aiding factions such as the LeT and the Taliban. What is certainly contradictory, hypocritical and amusing is the fact that Pakistan demands to talk about terror and security without wanting to include 26/11 and the actions demanded of it as a result thereof. Should this not be clearly viewed as one sided, rather lop sided? If Pakistan so desires to commit itself to the process of resolving all burning and core issues, it should begin by reigning in anti-India elements from within, namely the LeT, parts of the ISI and the army establishment. There is surely no issue as critical as that of Pakistan’s overt and covert support to terrorist groups aimed at destabilizing the Indian establishment and it must be understood that no amount of talks or attempts to sew bilateral relations can make amends when Pakistan repeatedly engages in it’s policy of abetting terror aimed at propagating the same within the Indian union.

Also, absolutely uncalled for, during such a level of serious negotiations was the statement by the Pakistan Foreign Minister likening and comparing the remarks of the Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai with those of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, which earned him criticism even from someone so radical as the former ISI Chief Hamid Gul. Mr. Qureshi must understand that the statements made by the Indian Home Secretary were nothing more than what the world already knows about Pakistan, the ISI and it’s role in the 26/11 episode and in doing so, the Indian Home Secretary was undoubtedly justified so as to seek action from the Pakistani side which has long been pending and literally unattended to. Therefore, to make an issue out of something such as this and accusing the Indian side of ill-will with the aim of scuttling the effort is entirely baseless, knowing fully well that the responsibility lies on his government to make amends considering it’s complicity.

Having stated during a press conference with visiting British Minister Sayeeda Warsi that he would like to visit India only if talks are progressive and result oriented, the Pakistani Foreign Minister must understand fully well that it is not the Indian side that has been contributory of impediments and the onus to make any future dialogue successful lies on him and the Pakistani establishment by merely taking steps to curb terrorism against the Indian union and refrain from aiding terrorist organizations to succeed in their nefarious anti-Indian designs. If the Pakistani side is intent and committed to address what it calls burning issues, surely it is the party that singularly needs to take steps to do just that rather than expect India to make concessions from time to time in the hope of maintaining a working partnership.

Undoubtedly, there is a level of trust deficit that is widening and Pakistan surely has to be held accountable for mitigating the damage and bringing forth a conducive and positive working environment. Accusing the Indian side of having arrived with a limited mandate is certainly not the way forward when one himself is left with a dangerously limited mindset which does not contain achieving peace in the agenda. Strangely, voicing concerns and commitments after the exercise is over does not amount to progress and certainly underlines a lackadaisical attitude on the Pakistani side, which goes on to underscore that it is not committed to peace or partnership, whatsoever! The Pakistani side, after having effectively derailed the process cannot echo it’s commitment to normalizing ties with India. Such an act is merely as sham, as has always been witnessed in the past despite strong and committed efforts from India. India on it’s part has to up the ante and refuse to enter into dialogue with Pakistan unless there have been steps from the latter that are concrete and measurable. One simply cannot engage with such a faction, that is opposed to peace and dialogue, merely because one’s democratic overtures guide one to do so. Handling Pakistan means India must employ a level of being absolutely firm and unyielding and not allow it’s policy of warmth and friendliness take center stage!

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India & China – The ongoing spat

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment

A war of words between the Asian heavy weights seemed to get out of proportion, with China blaring its thoughts in public domain over Arunachal, Agni, Indian High Altitude Landing Zones and now Kashmir. With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh barely days away from meeting his Chinese counterpart, the bureaucratic and diplomatic machinery is what is ensuring to downplay what both countries have been echoing as opinions and responses to one another’s comments that have been repeatedly emblazoned by the media!

Relations between both countries although not sour, have in no means been warm, something that both nations need to be cognizant of and thereupon workaround to improve the same, if they so desire that is! A war of words is certainly not a formula to extinguish problems that have had long standing contentions in between the two states, particularly when one country feels it appropriate to comment on the domestic matters of its democratic neighbour!

Progressive steps on the part of India to activate and upkeep its high altitude landing bases in regions proximate to the international border is simply a measure of drawing responsibility upon itself to ensure the security of the nation in the face of any untoward threat – much less as a mechanism of offense! History does stand testimony to the misadventures of 1962, which came shortly after India’s commitment to a renewed working relationship between the two nations. China must not view this as a threat and should rather reconcile in the thought that border security is as important an issue to address, as much as one would employ resources to tackle economic and political challenges that a nation may come to face!

That of Arunachal Pradesh is a very serious and committed demonstration by its people with regards to their allegiance, which, even as I write, has been clearly a response favourable to the Indian union. Who visits there and how, is a matter of right possessed and controlled solely by the Indian republic and by no means can be at the whims of a nation that believes it to be in possession of the said territory. Therefore, in this respect, the visit of the Dalai Lama should not be a mention, let alone an issue, to the Chinese, since it is beyond doubt, as it has been all along, that the state of Arunachal Pradesh – despite whatever it’s supposed ongoings of turbulent demographics and politics, remains a sovereign territory of the Indian union!

China’s comments, in the previous days, on Kashmir, calling India to resolve a long standing historical dispute, is uncalled for and unwarranted since it does not have any business to engage in such matters, which are clearly a problem for India considering the repeated sponsorship of cross-border terrorism and the unwillingness to come to the talking table by another nation! Historical or not, the issue of Kashmir is not one that requires interventions by any third-party, much less the Chinese! Calling this an issue left over by history, China has once again demonstrated its desire and frenzy to meddle with affairs of the Indian union, than take cognizance of issues in its domestic area – such as the ones pertaining to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, for instance, better known to the world in the form of the despicable massacres in Urumqi, in the recent past!

Why then should Dr. Manmohan Singh’s comments, to his military commanders asking them to be wary of China, come to be viewed as bewildering, wrong or panicky? Is he not justified in anticipating and thereby wanting to neutralize a threat posed to the Indian sovereign? And more importantly, are the voices of Beijing as a result of desperation? One as a result of the fall of a Maoist government in Nepal, which China attributes to India? And also for India having kept the Tibetan political identity alive?

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!