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Gen. Kayani, Pakistan and 2013

July 25, 2010 2 comments

In what is unprecedented in the history of Pakistan and it’s armed forces, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan has been given a 3 year extension, and will now remain in uniform until 28 November 2013, after Prime Minister Gilani whose tenure will come to a close in March 2013 and President Zardari whose term of office ends in September 2013. Gen. Kayani has since become the second army chief in the history of Pakistan’s armed forces to be given an extension by a democratically elected civilian government, and the first in such a position to accept that extension.

On the evening of 22 July, in a televised announcement, Prime Minister Gilani stated his government’s decision to give Gen. Kayani an extension. Citing the extension as one of absolute necessity, given at a time when the war on terror was being successfully conducted against the many elements who continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, he said: “The success of military operations could only have been achieved under General Ashfaq Kayani’s leadership. He has been involved in planning and monitoring of operations in militancy-hit areas. These operations are at a critical stage and successful continuation of these operations required continuation in military high command. General Kayani is held in high esteem at the international level due to his excellent military leadership qualities and pro-democracy views. In the best interest of the nation, I, in my capacity as prime minister, have decided to give General Kayani a three-year extension in his service from November 29, 2010, relaxing the rules, and after consulting President Asif Ali Zardari.”

As a junior officer, Gen. Kayani briefly served as a military aide to Benazir Bhutto during her first term as Prime Minister. A chain smoker and an avid golfer, Gen. Kayani has earned the reputation of being known as a man of few words. He replaced Gen. Musharraf as the army chief on November 29, 2007. Before becoming the army chief, he served as head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and also as Director General of Military Operations (DGMO). One may recall that it was during his tenure as DGMO that an intense military standoff during 2001-02 between India and Pakistan, as a direct result of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, took place. Gen. Kayani was also known to have been present at the meeting that took place between Gen. Musharraf and Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, prior to the latter’s ouster by Musharraf. In January 2008, shortly after taking over as Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Kayani issued a stern directive requiring military officers not to maintain any contact with politicians. Barely a month later, he ordered the withdrawal of military officers from all of Pakistan’s government civil departments. It was an action that reversed the policies of his predecessor.

The many factors and situations that have led to this extension are very interesting to note, considering the long and disturbing history of interference that the Pakistani Army has been credited with in that nation’s political system. Since the election to office of the present civilian government in March 2008, there have been a number of indications of Gen. Kayani’s warm relations with Prime Minister Gilani and the contradictory in the case of his relationship with President Zardari, which is widely attributed to an air of mistrust that the latter has had for the armed forces, something not very different from that aired by his late wife and former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. Moreover, President Zardari’s initial statements echoing the need for a warm working relationship with India were viewed with a great deal of suspicion by Gen. Kayani and his colleagues in the army.

After assuming the office of the Chief of Staff, Gen.Kayani has been seen as being very assertive in matters concerning the Armed Forces, including the ISI, in a quiet yet decisive manner. He has also been accepting and non-interfering in matters concerning the political governance of Pakistan, which perhaps has earned him and the army a great deal of trust and credibility especially since the aftermath of Gen. Musharraf’s rule, that beleaguered the political establishment of Pakistan. Gen.Kayani, much like many of his senior army colleagues, strongly shares conventional suspicions nurtured against India by the Pakistan army establishment. He quietly fuels his determination to counter India, though not being too vocal about it, knowing fully well that a strong anti-India stance would help him win a deeply entrenched stand within the armed forces. That he has disguised it smartly, away from the glare of the media, shows how well he has played his cards in portraying his image that remains strong and appearing to be credible. His well established relationship with the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, has contributed immensely to strengthening a working partnership with the PLA. However, one can note the characteristic absence in determination to take action against Al Qaeda operatives and their associates in places such as North Waziristan, for instance. Considering his warm bonhomie with the Chinese, he has not hesitated to act against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which poses a threat to China. Barely a day after getting the extension as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Kayani, accepted China’s advise on blasting the Attabad lake in Gilgit-Baltistan, which had flooded a portion of the Karokoram highway connecting the two countries. It is widely believed that Gen. Kayani’s extension would help the Chinese implement certain strategic policies in the terrorist hit region, which is very close to the Indian border. His actions, such as these have constantly proven how well determined he could be if he so chooses.

It may be recalled that under Gen. Musharraf, the Army and the ISI were much more active against Al Qaeda operatives in the non-tribal areas than they have been under Gen. Kayani. Having witnessed, first hand, the anger of Al Qaeda against Gen. Musharraf owing to the action taken by the Army and the ISI, which resulted in a concerted and powerful campaign by the Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri against Gen. Musharraf and the Pakistani Army, Gen. Kayani has been very tactical to remain aligned to the war on terror in a more superficial manner thereby not angering the Americans and at the same time turning a blind eye to the actions of Al Qaeda forces. Since taking over as Chief of Army Staff, a number of very senior officials from the United States have visited Gen. Kayani aimed to reiterate the need for an unequivocal level of Pakistani commitment on the war on terror. The fact that most of them, including the former CIA Director, Gen. Michael Hayden, former National Intelligence Director, V-Adm. Mike McConnell and former CENTCOM Commander, Adm. William Fallon, have repeatedly echoed their confidence in Gen.Kayani saying about him that he “knows what he’s doing,” just about very well shows how deeply connected he appears to be despite his commitment to the war on terror being anything but unequivocal. Described as a soldier’s soldier by senior military officials in the United States and enjoying a very warm and close personal relationship with the current US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. Kayani is on an even closer footing with the Americans, another reason why he has been endorsed as the best person available in the hemisphere to ensure the continuance of the war on terror. One would be right in suspecting an American hand, among the many, having insisted upon the tenure extension he has just received.

India certainly has enough reasons to be concerned over the extension given to Gen. Kayani. Given his hawkish anti-India stand, which although not vocal, there is unlikely to be any change in Pakistan’s policy of directing terrorism against India. Gen. Kayani, at the pinnacle of his career, enjoying good working and personal relations with both the Pentagon and the PLA leadership, is unlikely to be sidelined and is slated to grow even more powerful, while gaining prominence as a liaison between the political and army brass, not only in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan, although stated to be democratic in functioning, is in truth under the mercy of the army establishment headed by Gen. Kayani. His reassurance and commitment to the war on terror, though flawed, will ensure a steady flow of sophisticated military equipment and money to Pakistan from the United States and an enhanced level of strategic assistance from China which will, without doubt, add to the many threats already faced by India. Gen. Kayani’s persona, unknown and far from being able to be gauged, certainly covers a deep hatred for India which show no signs of mellowing down. The recently concluded talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, are believed to have been scuttled by none other than Gen. Kayani and the army establishment. So long as such a potent force exists within the topmost echelons of the Pakistani establishment, it is certainly difficult to gauge if both nations could attain anything close to a working relationship.

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The Indo-Pak Foreign Secretaries meet – An Overview

February 21, 2010 Leave a comment

About 25 miles from Lahore, in Pakistan, and situated barely meters away from the Grand Trunk Road is Muridke. It is a sprawling campus, complete with a hospital, well appointed residential quarters, a school, a madarasa, a swimming pool, a mosque, vegetable farms, a fish breeding center, and well cut lawns amidst a number of trees.  One could be forgiven for mistaking this complex to be a plush resort. In fact, Muridke is the headquarters of the terrorist organization known to the world as the Lashkar-e-Toiba or the ‘army of the pure,’ the very same outfit that among many other ghastly handiworks, masterminded the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Changing names as often as credible Indian evidence exposes its hardened terrorist designs, it is known by many aliases, some of which are Jamaat-Ud-Dawa, Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awal and Markaz-Dawa-Wal-Irshad. Irrespecitve of the name it adopts, its mission remains the same, and that is to further terrorism deep into Indian Territory in the name of Islamic jihad. In effect, it can be safely said that this organization is largely responsible for almost all terror related activities that plague the Indian union.

Later this week, diplomatic efforts will see the coming together of the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan in an attempt to redraw the relationship either nation shares with its neighbour – largely to talk tough on a serious problem, that being terror. This exercise, if successful, could lay down the foundation for a more composite dialogue in the future that will hopefully improve the level of confidence that both nations need in order to jointly tackle and address a slew of problems they have been facing, ranging from social, political, economic to the most important aspect of security systems.

But before all this is to begin, Pakistan needs to accept the fact that it’s boundaries are haven to many radical elements that threaten not only Indian security but also have been hard hitting on its own democracy. It may choose to call these elements as non-state actors, but the fact remains that these actors operate from Pakistani territory and are funded and aided by parts of the Pakistani establishment namely the ISI and the army. That this is factually so can be affirmed, among other incidents, by what was the brazenly customary presence of the former head of the ISI – Lt. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed at annual conferences of the Lashkar at Muridke. And that is not all. The attacks conducted in Mumbai by the group dispatched to do so on 26/11 in 2008 bore the hallmark of a very well crafted military operation, suggesting that the handlers of this operation were indeed part of the armed brass in Pakistan.

Today, after years of patronage and unconditional support to groups like the Lashkar, Pakistan has lost all control over them and chooses to echo to the world it’s utter helplessness in reining them in, in the hope that the international community will be overcome by the incidents within it’s borders and thus accord some sympathy. What it has done is create a dangerous network of well trained people who can lie low until the opportune moment and carry out a debilitating attack when needed. One such incident was witnessed in Pune, India, a few days ago, on 13th February, when an explosive device claimed the lives of 15 innocent people! Sleeper cells, hidden deep, and forever vigilant and abreast of their ideology are being used to threaten the secure fabric of India, and their handlers in Pakistan have sworn to step up the ante in a more violent manner. This is precisely what Pakistan needs to be cognizant of and admitting to when it’s foreign secretary Salman Bashir meets his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao, in just a few days.

It needs to understand and accept the responsibility for the existence of such an elaborate network of sleeper cells and sincerely work towards dismantling this apparatus in the hope that this scourge is controlled, for any and all dialogue in a composite manner can only be initiated after the problem of security is addressed. Furthermore, the Pakistani establishment must refrain from falsely implicating India for its security woes, which in effect have been as a result of it’s involvement with radically fundamentalist elements operating unchecked within it’s periphery.

Why then is India not right in going to the table with minimal expectations and focusing primarily on issues such as terrorism and security? Why must Jammu & Kashmir be a part of the agenda? India is surely justified in voicing its concerns over what has come to be known as the Karachi Project – a scheme being orchestrated by the Lashkar and its collaborators in the ISI to engineer attacks across India with the help of fugitive jihadis. Besides, there are growing inputs of cadres being given systematic arms training in Pakistan, something that is conducted by the LeT and sponsored by the ISI.

For now, one needs to be cautiously optimistic on how these talks would set guidelines for the future, and more importantly what they will bring as a result thereof! It is certainly foolish to assume that long standing issues can be solved with just a round of talks – they will not! Issues can only be solved by measurable actions and those need to emanate from Pakistan in the form of clamping down on terrorist camps and their infrastructure. But this is more deep rooted than one can imagine, since the complicity of the Pakistani establishment is significant here, by virtue of the working relationship the ISI shares with the Lashkar and many such groups. Such an arrangement has a lot of Anti-India sentiment written all over it and for that to change will take more and just a conscious effort.

Until then, many exchanges will happen over the table. One only hope that they remain over the table and not across the border!

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!

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!

Pakistan's call to ban nuclear weapons – An Analysis

August 13, 2009 6 comments

One would need to take a very cautiously optimistic approach while welcoming Pakistan’s call to ban nuclear weapons! Cautiously optimistic approach because, it remains to be discerned whether its nuclear arsenal is well within the control of the elected government! Besides, the statement that it “subscribes to the goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and has always played an active and constructive role in the conference” should be seen as one among the many last ditch face saving attempts by a desperate nation embroiled in a state of terror which was created, financed and proliferated by its own agencies, who now are, in part, working to control the menace.

Probably intended to convey to the world of a reviewed intention in the arena of nuclear politics, Pakistan has, with this statement too, been ineffective to assure the international community in convincing them of its intentions which largely remain unclear and uncharacteristic to the extent that they are unbelievable! British envoy to the Conference on Disarmament, John Duncan said, “Pakistan’s stand was disappointing as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council; the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain as well as Iran, North Korea and Israel, back the consensus.” Sweden, which is another member nation, currently in position of holding the European Union’s revolving presidency has termed Pakistan’s stand as a procedural maneuver, aimed at stalling any significant agreement on reducing weaponry, which in essence is a treaty to halt production of fissile material. One wonders if Pakistan is merely responding to a veiled comment by the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi asking the forum to expedite talks on a treaty to halt production of fissile material used to make nuclear weapons, which has been seen as partly aimed at it?

Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions began largely as a measure to counter a perceived Indian threat and it continues to remain a non signatory of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It is easy to see why Pakistan is playing ball in a forum, whose significance, rather insignificance so far has been non-achievement of consensus to chart a treaty to reduce production of fissile material. Pakistan is neither a nuclear power nor is it a signatory of the NPT, as mentioned before. However, given the current situation and flux that is has come to witness, it is important for it to take a stand on terrorism and associated concerns, nuclear weapons in particular. By calling for a ban on nuclear weapons, Pakistan has schemed a two fold objective, the first being a sound byte to the International Community on how its policies are focused on committing to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons and secondly a pressure on the Conference of Disarmament to further play footsie on the fissile treaty, opinions on which could now be divided, even though realistically speaking, the envisioning of a world free of nuclear weapons is largely Utopian, and cannot attain practical application! By echoing such a stand, Pakistan is doing nothing to change its current posture or policy, which unlike India’s does not hinge on a no-first strike! To make matters worse, the nuclear arsenal is controlled and commanded by the Pakistan army and not by the civilian government, which is unlike India, where such a system is overseen by the Nuclear Command Authority which comprises the Prime Minister and other key functionaries of the government, apart from echelons of the Armed Forces.

It is interesting to note Pakistan’s demands, at the Conference of Disarmament, which include general nuclear disarmament, guarantees from nuclear powers that they would not attack non-nuclear states, banning nuclear weapons from outer space, and the fissile cut-off pact. Given the stance that Pakistan has almost suddenly taken, one wonders, pondering over several questions that have arisen as a result. Is Pakistan firstly capable of weapons grade nuclear delivery? If so, is the nuclear arsenal in safe hands? Is there any threat to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in the coming future?

As for the Geneva based Conference on Disarmament, which is a UN body, I would not attribute much to its actions until a concrete agreement has been hammered out, speaking of which I’d like to remind the readers of a series of timeless haggling over the past 12 years that have largely stalled its activities and agenda! Now, as I write this post, word is that ‘the way forward has been finally achieved,’ a path to begin negotiations that have been frozen for a long time now!

So much for hard bargained progress!

Fake Indian currency printed in Pakistan

August 5, 2009 6 comments

The Times of India carried a front page headline a few days ago that pointed to an ominously disturbing fact that the worth of fake currency circulating in the country is an estimated Rs.1,69,000 crore! Of this, the authorities have been able to seize a paltry Rs. 63 cores while the remaining amount still remains at large! As if that was not enough, people across the nation are at loss when they find ATMs spewing out counterfeit currency, a claim that is not very seriously taken by banking authorities, often leading to end consumer loss.

While the government, banks and people are fully aware of the problem and its massive scale, they find themselves ill-equipped to counter the problem, primarily as a result of inefficient detection mechanisms. To make their problems worse, the counterfeit currency being circulated currently is known to match up to 95% with its legitimate counterpart, making tracing and detection even more difficult.

The origins of fake Indian currency and can be majorly traced to Quetta and Chakala in Pakistan, where the ISI engages in extensive printing activities and then proliferates the product to a half dozen East Asian and Arab countries, from where it is redirected to India and neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It is believed that the ISI, in complicity with the Pakistan government and elements of the D company, has for a very long time now engaged in the production of high-quality Indian counterfeit currency largely aimed at destabilizing the Indian economy and also using the produce to fund terrorist operations within the Indian subcontinent.

Indian counterfeit currency is printed on security paper in Pakistan or friendly nations leading to its dissemination in India via routes that are believed to be untraceable. However, Indian agencies, already aware of this arrangement have been keeping an eye on these designated routes for sometime now with a small measure of success.

The quality of such counterfeit currency is said to be so high that their tracing and detection is very difficult. Besides, fake currency is transported into India using bona fide travellers as couriers, most of whom travel for this very purpose! Hyderabad and parts of Kerala have become places that are a hot bed for arrival of fake Indian currency from Arab nations, often via labourers who, in search of a better livelihood travel to these nations and in the process end up becoming transport mediums.

Intelligence agencies in India are baffled at the numerous trafficking routes employed by couriers bringing counterfeit currency to India, and the southern part of the nation too is no exception to this malaise. In fact, the prevalence of fake currency is estimatedly higher in this region given its proximity and access to regions in the United Arab Emirates. It seems that the most popular denomination to be replicated is that of the 500 rupees, which is so done to proliferate a larger volume of currency in the system. Experts suggest that the precision involved in replicating currency is so meticulous that their detection is virtually impossible, thus making the process of tracing them extremely difficult.

With the problem growing multifold, India is expected to take up the issue with the Interpol and also ask certain European nations to keep a watch on Pakistan based imports pertaining to security paper and ink. Sleuths in the intelligence machinery are convinced that the ISI has recently asked the Pakistan government to import additional currency-standard printing paper and ink from companies located in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland to further its Indian currency printing exploits.

A highly placed official said that “after using the country’s normal requirement for printing its own currency, Pakistan diverts the rest to its ISI with the intention of destabilizing the Indian economy by pumping in as many Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICNs) as possible into India and also to fund terrorist organizations. It has been involved in printing and circulation of the fake currency notes with the help of the organized crime network of Dawood Ibrahim and others.”

Although detection is difficult, the Indian government needs to step up its vigil and seek active human intelligence on this myriad chain originating from Pakistan and systematically dismantle the operation over a period of time. Perhaps the newly created National Investigation Agency (NIA) could be entrusted to oversee this in coordination with other intelligence agencies. Assets within Pakistan, if any could be tapped to obtain detailed plans involving couriers and their routes. Monitoring of traffic from Nepal, Bangladesh, the UAE, Sri Lanka and other South East Asian nations need to be stepped up in an effort to curb this problem.

Having said that, the time and resources that need to be allocated in breaking this operation will be a huge challenge that the Indian government will face while embarking upon methods to solve this issue!

Two to Tango – Russia & America

President Obama’s first visit to Russia as Commander-in-Chief of the United States is very significant. There’s a lot of mending of fences to do and a relook at strengthening bilateral relations that needs to be done on a serious footing. That apart, the two countries need to underscore the need to work together very closely in areas such as combating terror, which is a growing threat to many nations and their people. Their first meeting ahead of the G20 summit in London, held earlier this year, will certainly help them bond well and one hopes for it to be that way considering the extensive areas of cooperation their nations need to engage in.

The Bush administration viewed its Russian counterparts as hawkish and chose to remain wary in their interactions with Moscow, an action that fueled a number of cold war type instances that may have come to be, thankfully not, given the maturity with with each side has handled the other in particular.

The American pull-out from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972 is not so distant in the past to be forgotten, but even fresh is the Russo-Georgian conflict which was dragged into the purview of the NATO of which Georgia is a member nation. The summer of 2007 also saw some tense moments with the United States announcing plans of building an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and a radar architecture in the Czech Republic, both nations being former Warsaw Pact members. While United States cited this as a protectionist measure from any nuclear attack that may originate from the soils of Iran or North Korea, Russia rebutted the explanation and tested a long range intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24 and backed it up with a serious view that it could position its missiles towards Poland and the Czech Republic in the event of an American go-ahead of the stated plan.

Although President Putin’s warnings that American actions could turn Europe into a “powder keg” did not come true, for good reasons, a war of words between both heavyweights ensued with each side choosing to articulate its right of stand in the backdrop of a tense situation that could have lead to some deadlock among them signalling the beginning of a new arms race and power play, the least of which the world wanted at the time.

Vladimir Putin’s Iranian visit aimed at discussions of Russia’s aid to Iran’s nuclear power program in the backdrop of an American call for military action against Iran which Russia firmly opposed, prompted Bush to state a direct message to Putin that “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” A sharp witted Putin retorted comparing American plans to put up a missile defense system near Russia’s border as analogous to when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba, prompting the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Just as the missile defence plans were getting each nation into a tirade of words with each other, Russia intervened in Georgia, when Georgia invaded South Ossetia. It did not help that senior Georgian officials acknowledged to have started the war in the region which prompted a certain Russian response. Georgia being part of NATO was viewed as a significant standpoint in the now faltering Russo-American relationship. While NATO members howled at one of their member nations being attacked, Russia staved away any attempt to stall the invasion by an external force and firmly drew the Georgian misadventure to a close within a remarkably short period of time.

More recently the joint naval exercises between Russia and Venezuela have fumed the White House and the State Department owing to their regard of the latter as a nation not aligned with the interests of the United States. The recently concluded missile tests by North Korea has brought the United States and Russia together in their condemnation of the act which both view as a cause for any nuclear engagement that may take place.

With all this as part of a turbulent background, both leaders clearly have to do a lot to work their way towards warming one another in arriving at a consensus regarding many issues that form part of their cooperation agenda. For starters, their views on North Korea are encouraging, but this is just the beginning. There is a simmering Pakistan aided by the United States in the War on Terror, an exercise that seems to be headed nowhere with no clear agenda in place. Iran continues to be a serious issue which still needs a lot of sitting-down-to-talk! The issue of jointly eliminating pirates in Somali waters is also in the backdrop and requires ongoing commitment and participation from both sides.

On the economic front, a lot needs to be done to arrive at an agreement in many spheres aimed at staving off the effects of the global recession which has affected the world at large. General Motors which last year setup a plant in St. Petersburg is now in hot water back at home. Its is believed that American investment has been growing at a rate of fifty percent a year and two-way trade between Russia and the United States now exceeds $26 billion, and two-way investment is approaching $20 billion, all of which is good news.

Caviar, wine and curry later, both leaders must aim significantly at laying the framework to improving two-way cooperation that will foster good relations with each other, paving way for partnerships like never before. That in place, Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club and governor of Chukotka, can focus on making rich pickings off his £80m investments in the world’s largest drilling exercise aimed at creating a tunnel between Russia and the United States, a Tsarist vision lying unattended to since the early 20th century! It makes better sense not to build a real bridge between the two nations as desired by the current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.