Defence

Discordant Borders

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On November 4, 2022, a Pakistan Army soldier was killed in a cross-border attack from Afghanistan on troops in the Kharlachi area of Kurram District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), terrorists from inside Afghanistan opened fire on Pakistani troops in Kharlachi.

On October 23, 2022, a Pakistan Army soldier was killed during an exchange of fire with terrorists from across the border in Afghanistan, in the Hassan Khel Sector of North Waziristan District in KP. ISPR confirmed the incident.

On September 29, 2022, a Pakistan Army soldier was killed in an exchange of fire with terrorists, at the Kharlachi border crossing in the Kurram District of KP. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ‘spokesperson’ Muhammad Khorasani claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the worst cross-border attack by militants in 2022, on February 6, at least five soldiers were killed after terrorists launched an attack from Afghanistan on Army troops stationed in the Kurram District of KP. An ISPR statement asserted that Pakistani troops responded ‘befittingly’, and added that, according to intelligence reports, the “terrorists suffered heavy causalities”. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 10 incidents (including the three mentioned above) of cross-border firing by militants, resulting in 17 deaths (16 Security Force, SF personnel and one militant) and five persons injured (all SF personnel), have been reported till November 20, 2022. Twelve such incidents resulting in 19 deaths (16 SF personnel and three militants) were reported in 2021. There were seven such incidents in 2020, resulting in 11 deaths (10 SF personnel and one militant); seven in 2019, with 22 fatalities (20 SF personnel and two militants).

Since September 15, 2013, when the first such attack was reported, there have been at least another 140 across the border, in which at least 263 Pakistani SF personnel and 75 civilians have been killed, while another 324 sustained injuries (data till November 20, 2022). 88 terrorists were also killed in retaliatory action by Pakistani SFs. The fatalities have increased senior officers of the Pakistan Armed Forces, such as the incident on September 15, 2013, when Major General, Sanaullah Khan and Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef were killed, along with another soldier, Irfan Sattar, in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the Upper Dir District of KP. The then TTP ‘spokesman’ Shahidullah Shahid had claimed responsibility for the attack.

The terrorists have been carrying out these attacks in opposition to Pakistani SFs’ fencing work along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The fencing has also led to clashes between the Armed Forces of the two countries. According to the SATP database, since April 2007, when the first such clash reportedly took place, there have been at least seven such incidents, in which 49 persons, including 33 SF personnel and 16 civilians, have been killed (data till November 20, 2022). In the most recent incident, on November 13, 2022, a Frontier Corps (FC) soldier was killed and another two sustained injuries in a cross-border attack by Afghan SFs, on the Pakistani side of the Bab-e-Dosti gate in the Chaman town of Kila Abdullah District in Balochistan. Bab-e-Dosti has been closed for all kinds of trade and pedestrian movement since.

The border fence and border check post along the Durand Line, the disputed Pakistan-Afghanistan border, has been a major bone of contention between the two neighbouring countries, as well for the militants on both side of the border. Though the conflict over the legitimacy  of the Durand Line – the border imposed by Imperial Britain – between Pakistan and Afghanistan is more than a century old, the recent clashes linked to border-fencing started in September 2005, when Pakistan first announced that it had plans to build a 2,611-kilometre fence (1,230 kilometres in KP and 1,381 kilometres in Balochistan) along its border with Afghanistan, purportedly to check armed militants and drug smugglers moving between the two countries. But Afghanistan raised objections on the grounds that this was an attempt to make the disputed border permanent. After Kabul’s objections, Pakistani authorities temporarily put the plan on hold.

Over a year later, on December 26, 2006, Pakistan again declared its plans for mining and fencing the border, but was again opposed by the Afghanistan Government. The then Afghan President Hamid Karzai stated, on December 28, 2006, that the move would only hurt the people living in the region and would not stem cross-border terrorism.

The attempt to build the fence provoked the first skirmish in April 2007 in the then South Waziristan Agency. Pakistani SFs operating in region made a three-tier security deployment on April 11, 2007, to stop cross-border infiltration by terrorists into Afghanistan and fenced 12-kilometers of the border stretch with Afghanistan. However, Afghan troops tore down the fence on April 19, leading to a gun-battle, though there were no casualties. Another attempt was made in May 2007, when Pakistan erected the first section of a fence in the Lowara Mandi area of the then North Waziristan Agency on May 10, 2007, which led to cross-border firing between Pakistani and Afghan forces, in which at least seven Afghan soldiers were killed. The border fencing programme, meanwhile, was halted between 2007 and 2013, due to intense pressure from terrorists active along the border areas.

Later, Pakistan started excavation work on a several-hundred-kilometres-long trench along the Balochistan border in April 2013. The work has progressed rapidly since.

On January 5, 2022, at a press conference, ISPR Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar disclosed that the fencing work along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was almost complete, while over 71 per cent of the work on fencing along the Pakistan-Iran border had also been completed. Significantly, contrary to Islamabad’s expectations given its long history of support to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, the Taliban regime has attempted to block Pakistan’s efforts to finish the border fence, from the very moment of its accession to power in August 2021. Indeed, this is consistent with the Taliban’s position during its first regime – 1996-2001 – when it refused to accept the Durand Line as the permanent border between the two countries, despite tremendous pressure from Islamabad.

This time around, the Pakistan military establishment was hopeful that they would at least to secure the Taliban’s support to control TTP cadres who, according to Pakistan, were operating out of the bordering areas of Afghanistan. However, developments since have established that both the Afghan Taliban and TTP were two sides of the same coin, and Islamabad’s hopes were misplaced. TTP attacks continue from across the border, despite a Taliban-mediated ‘peace process’ between TTP and the Pakistan Government.

On April 17, 2022, Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar claimed that terrorist elements, including the TTP, were using Afghan soil ‘with impunity’ to attack Pakistan’s border security posts, resulting in the death of several Pakistani troops. He added, further, that these attacks were detrimental to maintaining peace and stability along the border.

A United Nations (UN) report, released on May 27, 2022, highlighted the threat to Pakistan by the Afghanistan-based TTP, the terrorist group which has conducted numerous deadly “cross-border” operations. The report asserted that TTP remained focused on a long-term campaign against the Pakistani state, with several thousand of its fighters based in Afghanistan. According to another UN report, TTP has about 6,000 trained fighters on the Afghan side of the border.

The Taliban Government, however, has continuously denied the presence of TTP on its soil.

Pakistani Forces have retaliated across the border as well. On April 16, 2022, Pakistani Forces conducted air strikes in the Khost and Kunar Provinces of Afghanistan, killing of dozens of people. Local officials in Khost confirmed that the airstrikes were conducted by the Pakistani Forces, but did not provide any further details. According to eyewitnesses more than 40 people were killed or wounded in the attacks.

As expected, after the attack, the Taliban-led interim Government in Kabul started taking steps to shift terrorist groups away from Pakistan-Afghanistan border, deeper into the country. “Some of the groups have already been moved out of our border regions,” an unnamed senior Pakistani official claimed. Pakistan, the official added, though it rejected the approach, did accept the Taliban’s apparent decision to at least hold back the TTP from executing cross-border terrorist attacks. Clearly, however, while there was a temporary dip in such attacks after talks were initiated between the TTP and the Pakistan Government on May 9, 2022, the ‘peace process’ is now evidently dead in the water. According to the SATP database, TTP linked fatalities dropped to 24 in May 2022, in the wake of the peace agreement, in comparison to 54 in April. However, despite the announcement of an indefinite ceasefire by the TTP on June 2, the TTP’s campaign never entirely stopped, with 34 fatalities in June, 35 fatalities in July, 28 in August, 39 in September, 32 in October and 20 in November so far (Data till November 20). 

The volatility at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border can only intensify, as the ongoing Afghan Taliban-initiated talks between the TTP and the Pakistan Government crumble in the face of rising attacks. With TTP cadres filtering back into the tribal areas, Pakistan’s troubles are likely to deepen even further.

The Four Front+ War or World War III: A Sketch

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The dysfunctional, aged President of the United States slowly made his way up to the rostrum in the US House of Representatives. All 535 Members of Congress were in attendance along with US Supreme Court justices, senior military leadership from the Pentagon, plus members of the president’s cabinet. The event was the annual State of the Union address. The venue was the US Capitol building. Tonight, on a blustery January evening, the president’s remarks would focus on the status of the 4+ front war that the United States and its proxies were engaged in, the economic crisis, and the need for sacrifice and tough decisions. Most americans were dealing with food, product and gas rationing. Wage and price controls were in effect. Antiwar protests in America’s big and small cities was a daily occurrence. Crime rates had soared: murder and theft could not be contained. The chamber was somber. No applause took place even when the president was announced by the Sergeant of Arms to the collective assembled in the Capitol building: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.” You could hear a pin drop.

Outside on that unusually cold  and windy night stood one thousand DC national guard soldiers  who had formed a ring around the Capitol building. Machine gun emplacements were stationed at key spots around the building. Snipers from the FBI, Secret Service and the Homeland Security were assigned to the tops of nearby buildings. Missile defense systems were setup atop empty parking lots nearby the People’s House and the Supreme Court. A second ring of security was arranged and this one included thousands from the DC police force and nearby jurisdictions in Virginia and Maryland. Undercover operatives were infiltrating the crowds of protestors who braved the wickedly cold and windy night.

The security forces ringing the Capitol complex could see the glow from fires set by rioters. Those rioters were angry about shortages caused by a war which the US instigated some years back. Stores that carried any food or clothing were being looted despite armed security guard’s presence. The rioters would just shoot them and carry on with the looting. Office buildings were not immune. Groups of Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Homeless and vagabonds had formed militias to carryout their tasks. Fires were set as if to say: “The Roof is on Fire, Let the MF Burn.”

On that freezing January evening, paramilitaries stationed in the two rings ostensibly protecting the People’s House wished they could have been assigned duty to fight the rioters so they could be near the warmth that the fires provided.

One national guard member was looking up at the stars in the sky and thought it was a comet, then there were three more. “Cool,” he said. And as soon as he got the “L” out of his mouth to finish getting out the word “Cool” he noticed a stream of light heading toward one of the comets. The stream of light met the comment and exploded. But now he saw that the other comets were moving faster and towards the Capitol complex. Those in the two security perimeters who had a view of the sky were no longer cold. They knew what was in store for them. Some ran to the streets, some tried to make their way into the People’s House where an underground trolly connects the House and Senate buildings.

A few minutes before the national guard member notice the comets in the sky. The millions around the USA viewing the State of the Union were in for some real entertainment. The president was grabbed and escorted, or rather carried out, and taken to a tunnel that runs from the Capitol building to the Pentagon and White House. Screams could be heard and the elite of the country scrambled around like ants, rushing for the exits or the basement of the Capitol building. Simultaneously the millions in the USA must have been surprised when at the bottom of their television sets appeared, “This is not a test…” Handhelds everywhere began beeping with the same message being broadcast.

The National Security Agency blanked the broadcast but some feeds from the chamber still managed to appear. The floor of the Capitol was like a punk rock mosh pit. Uniformed and suited officials jumping all over each other to get shelter somewhere. Some just stayed in their seats not bothering to move. They knew what was coming. A well known US Army 4-star general, just sat there, not moving an inch. He had waved off his security detail and saluted them.

The 4-Star had protested vehemently in White House security meetings that launching US nuclear weapons at, and on, Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Pyongyang and Teheran would be the worst decision in the history of US governance and would not change the situation on the 4+ fronts that the USA was fighting and losing. It was time to accept the stalemate and rush to the negotiating table before Hell was called up.

A 300 kiloton nuclear warhead had hit almost dead center on the Capitol Hill area.

The national guard member outside who thought they were comets finally realized what they were. He took out his firearm and started shooting at it. He saw a bright light, felt a slight sting and then nothing.

Path to Oblivion Over a No Name Country

The tabletop eggheads in the Think Tanks, the anti-Russian-Chinese-Iranian-Asian racists in and throughout the US government, and military, were aching for a conventional war with Russia and they got that sometime in 2023 after the Russians pushed Ukrainian forces all the way to the Dnieper crushing themas a functional military. Ukraine now had control over the western part of Ukraine. Russia had destroyed Ukraine as a viable nation in spite of the entirety of US NATO support.

“Something has to be done,” the American gangsters in Washington, DC argued. And so it was that in 2023 that the conventional war campaign began against Russia. Expecting total victory and the Russia’s government to fall, US and NATO operatives were put in place through Russia to conduct subversive operations: sabotage and inciting violence and revolution were their tasks. Already the American and Western mainstream media outlets had softened up American minds through their daily print and digital products to demonize Russians and distract Americans from the facts on the ground.  The mouthpieces of the US government and business—the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN and the like—did a bang up job at their tasks. They did so well that that they turned the American public into a collective Chance the Gardner from the movie Being There.

The Beginning of the End

The attack on Russian forces in the east of Ukraine began with the Suppression of Enemy Defenses (SEAD) usingelectronic and networked EA18G Growlers, F-35’s, F16CJ’s who swooped in from the West and south in an attempt to take out Russian S400-500 SAM sites scattered throughout the new Russian provinces in the East.Sea launched US cruise missiles, and high flying B-2/B-21’s made for the skies over enemy territory and plied their wares. Power grids were hit, the Kerch bridge was destroyed. The American pilots in their USAF F22’s and F-15 Grim Reapers kept the skies clear for a time.

On the ground Russian T-90 and US M1A1 Abrams tanks took to battle against each other with mixed results. Accompanying Russian troops was the 9M133 Kornet while US soldiers carried Javelin anti-tank missiles. These two weapons proved to be deadly for the tank warriors on both sides.

The tide began to turn when Russians started to take out USKC135 refueling aircraft and strike US-NATO logistics chains running at sea (ships) and air to ground level (rail-road-parachute drops of gear). The Russians used long range missile fires to do the job. As they typically do, the Russians used their vast territory and knowledge of the terrain to wear down US troops coming in from Romania (101st Airborne) and Bulgaria (British, etc.) The Russian ultimately regained the initiative and began a slow push back push back the gains the US and its proxies had made in Eastern Ukraine. In short, they fought their way back to the banks of the Dnieper thanks to help of other countries unexpected actions that had the result of stretching the US to the breaking point.

It turned out to be a simple problem: The US-NATO alliance could not supply its armed forces or protect its supply chains. The countries of South America, Central America, India and Africa refused to assist anyone. They sat the war out and waited for US-Western hegemony to be defeated.

These and other factors caused the American governing elites to proclaim there was an existential threat to US hegemony and way of life.

Quick Summary: Four Fronts +

The USA had counted on the conflict being confined to Russia-Ukraine but, as usual, the armchair warriors did not think of broader and unintended consequences.

Initially the Russians had difficulties dealing with the US invasion. It needed time to adjust. China could read the writing on the wall and knew that it was next on the sanctions-invasion chopping bloc. China to supplied Russia with thousands of drones large and small, small weapons and ammunition. It secretly sent troops to fight along side Russians on the ground. More importantly it sent some of its aircraft and pilots to muck up American air forces in the skies. The US pilots were stellar but they could not get reloaded with ammunition and fuel quick enough to get back into the fight. Aircraft based on carriers were particularly vulnerable. The US Air Force would often return to land bases whose runways were pocked marked from Russian or Chinese munitions.

Belarus, a Russian ally entered the war from the north pounding into the cities of Kiev and Kharkiv and pushing their way south to hookup with Russian forces,

With the US bogged down in the former Eastern Ukraine, other countries decided to settle scores.

Israel went ahead and conducted air and missile strikes on Teheran’s nuclear facilities, power grids and ports.  It also hit Damascus. Iran immediately responded by launching missiles at the Suez canal and Bahrain (home to the US 5th Fleet). They caused some damage to US war ships incapacitating them in the Straits of Hormuz. They also launched missiles into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The oppressed Shia in Bahrain revolted. Hezbollah invaded Israel with its Iranian proxies. Americans and Russian ground units in Northern Syria started fighting against each either. The Palestinians went into urban warfare mode against Israeli troops and settlers. ISIS remnants took opportunities to kill and loot wherever chaos reigned, which was just about everywhere. Someone in the White House said, “Send in the Marines” to Iran in amphibious attacks. And so they went. The Marines were successful in the beginning taking some territory but Iranians can fight too, and they did. Not since the Korean War had the Marines had to fight against human waves in the thousands.

North Goes South

A blistering artillery assault took place on Seoul destroying parts of the city. The US responded with its standard SEAD air attack knocking out the aged SAMs and aircraft North Korea possessed. That was good news but the North Koreans had, for years, built an underground country under the surface. Dropping JDAMs on a mountain tops or slopes where it was thought the Korean military was hiding was a waste of time and effort. The North Koreans may not have been good fighters at first, but they were fanatical and learned fast, just like the Russians and Iranians. They swarmed in human waves over the 38th parallel breaching defense lines there. US and South Korean troops met the advance and pushed back thousands. But as was the case on the Russian and Iranian fronts, the US was running out of ammunition, fuel, food: there just wasn’t enough to kill hundred’s of millions in a conventional war. Hight tech Virginia class subs were chasing inferior North Korean subs under the ocean.

With the US on the ropes losing on the other Fronts and having to transfer fighting forces from one theater to another, China went after Taiwan. The timing was right. Neither the Chinese in the PRC or on Taiwan had done any significant war making. But with three million or more soldiers that the Taiwanese and Americans would face was a mountain too high to climb. With 1.5 billion people in the PRC,  acceptable casualty rates for China would be in the many thousands. And the sheer number of equipment that the PRC, the manufacturing center of the world, could produce was astronomical. With US assistance the Taiwanese were able to hold off most of the first amphibious wave from China, though Chinese Marines were able to establish a bridge head on the shores of Changhua County. Submarine warfare proved to be critical on this front. Virginia attack class subs had their work cut out for them. China had dozens of stealthy diesel subs and the US submariners just couldn’t get them all, particularly when they were trying to defend the SLBM’s of the US fleet. The PRC was able to easily supply its troops on Taiwan as the war progressed.

The + front was in the US homeland. The American public had no interest in having its sons and daughters called up to fight in a Four Front War. As many as 100 million adult Americans opposed the war. Besides their kids would be sent to fight against billions around the globe and for what? Another war the US instigated in 2014?

When millions of Americans heard the news about the destruction of the US leadership in the People’s House, they said, “Good.”

Vintage Hawksley thriller arrives

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A journalist can and often does become a person for all seasons: politician, diplomat, teacher, and of course a best-seller author of fact and fiction. Humphrey Hawksley — HH to some — is in that class. Besides he is a delightful person to know, a great raconteur.

What a cracker of a book- Ice Islands.

First, a disclaimer: Humphrey is a dear friend. But that notwithstanding, I have great respect for him as a reporter. His work as a BBC foreign correspondent has taken him all over the world with postings in Beijing, Hong Kong, Manila, Delhi, and Colombo. He has contributed to ABC, National Public Radio and other networks in the United States and global publication of his work includes the Financial Times, New York Times, Yale Global, Nikkei Asian Review, and others. So he’s no stranger to superpower rivalry, intrigue, and backstabbing – he’s reported on it extensively. Ice Islands may be fiction. But it has the hallmark of authenticity. The inside story of the Ukraine military campaign must have sub-plots inspired by his works.

Hawksley’s protagonist is the hard-as-nails Rake Ozenna who comes from the Alaskan island of Little Diomede right on America’s border with Russia. Little Diomede, I learnt, is a craggy, rough island with a population of around eighty Indigenous Alaskans living less than three miles across a narrow stretch of water from a Russian military base. Rake is a Major belonging to the Alaska National Guard. He is tasked with breaking into the Kato family, a Yakuza crime organization that is turning Japan against the United States. The weak link is Sara Kato, the family’s rejected daughter, whom Rake plans to turn into an informant. He is to approach her at a peace conference on the Finnish Aland Islands in the Baltic Sea. As Rake flies in, assassins murder a delegate who turns out to be the secret son of the Russian president. (We know this.) Sara is implicated. Rake is ordered to get Sara out and keep her safe. The action moves from the Baltic Sea through Washington D.C. to Hokkaido in northern Japan against a broader context of the unresolved dispute between Russia and Japan over the Kuril Islands or Northern Territories.

Sara is not the only female interest in the story: Rake’s old girlfriend, Carrie surfaces as the mental health therapist who analyses Sara (and Rake as well, much to his discomfiture). Rake’s boss Harry Lucas and his ex-wife Stephanie are also important arms of the plot, which has, as its subtext, an American President, John Freeman, who is at war with his executive. Rake has to navigate this maze, and take care of the charge under his protection, who is deeply conflicted – she has an elder brother whom she both adores and loathes. HH’s description of the murder of Sara’s twin brother Kazan – ritual murder carried out by the eldest, Michio, described in grisly detail, because Kazan is considered simply not ‘strong’ enough’ – sickens and revolts Sara. And yet, it is her family. Rake, himself from a dysfunctional family, empathizes.

Ice Islands is full of impressive technical detail which gives it the ring of authenticity. Rake favors a SIG Sauer P226pistol and a smaller 938. He also has a Beretta 92 semi-automatic. His calculations, as he weighs running a police check post with Sara beside him, is masterly tactics that only a trained soldier can appreciate.

I hesitate to say more, for I don’t want to reveal the twists and turns in the plot. Suffice it to say that Hawksley is well-equipped to describe international intrigue. His earlier book, Dragon Fire, paints a nuclear war scenario involving India, Pakistan, and China. In that story, a renegade unit of a Tibetan militia maintained by the Indian Government steals a couple of aircraft and attempts an audacious assault on Lhasa to rescue an imprisoned monk. Simultaneously, General Hamid Khan grabs power in Pakistan and wants to get extreme Islamists in Pakistan to shut up so that they allow him to modernise the country. In Man on Ice (2018), Ozenna helps thwart an attempted Russian invasion of the U.S. Three Russians try to kill Rake during a presentation he’s giving at a Washington, D.C., conference without success. Meanwhile, Carrie is in peril inside Russia, where she has traveled to meet her Vice-Admiral uncle, Artyom Semenov, a specialist in submarine technology. Semenov is hoping to use Carrie to transfer some highly classified state secrets to the West. The operation is botched amid indications that the British embassy in Moscow has been compromised, leading to frantic efforts on Carrie’s part to stay alive. Rake goes to her rescue.

Comparisons are odious. But you can spot Stieg Larsson here, with flashes of Robert Ludlum (who specializes in the central theme of anarchy and chaos), Lee Child of Jack Reacher fame, and also a bit of James Bond. But running through all that is a seam of philosophy and tenderness. He describes a relationship, is not quite extinguished: ‘He rested a hand on each knee, giving her a look which even now melted something deep and undefinable inside her. It wasn’t love. It wasn’t sexual attraction. It was something magazines would find a name for one day.

Read Ice Islands. It is ….satisfying.

The Forsaken Spies: View from Pakistan

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Safeguarding the secrecy of matters relevant to national interest and concealment of facts are altogether two different things; the first one is no doubt very sacred and very sublime but the second one is something which must be taken to task very rigidly and mercilessly. Recently the Qatari Government has arrested 8 so-called ‘retired’ Indian Navy Officers under charges of spying for the interest of Israel and India. These arrested spies were working in Qatar with a private firm and were providing training and other services to the Qatari Emiri Navy commonly known as QEN. The Qatari Emiri Naval Force is considered the strongest naval force of the region in terms of the size of its naval fleet. The said Indian officers were caught in the month of August 2022 for their involvement in spying, espionage and for planning, supporting and promoting international terrorist activities. One of these arrested officers was Commander Purnendu Tiwari who had been honoured with the ‘Pravasi Samman Award’ by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind in 2019. The Pravasi Samman is the Highest honored award usually bestowed upon the Overseas Indians for their services to the country. Tiwari played a key role in the whole story of espionage. The Qatri investigation agencies found him actively involved in transferring data of leading Gulf Muslim countries to Israel and India.

Reports say that while working with Qatar Defense, Security and other Government agencies; the arrested officers had access to classified data and taking benefit of it they started sharing the sensitive information to Qatar’s adversaries; Tiwari was their leader. The most interesting fact of the whole story is that the government of India remained in a state of denial throughout with reference to the arrest of the eight Indian navy officers; just as it remained silent in case of Kalbushan Yadav, the Indian spy arrested by the security forces of Pakistan on 3rd March, 2016. Reports say that the arrested ones are not retired officers; they are still in service and the government of India had sent them to Qatar under cover. The arrest of these eight officers might remain in dark but the wife of one of these officers shared the news of her husband’s arrest in Qatar on social media on 25th October 2022. The purpose of that sharing was to request the Indian authorities to get the arrested ones released.

The same pathetic condition of the Indian spies sent across the borders by the Indian intelligence agencies was highlighted by Anand Katakam in an article published on April 18, 2017 in the Hindustan Times. The writer said specifically with reference to the Indian spy Kalbushan arrested in Pakistan, “The Punjab border districts of Gurdaspur and Ferozepur are replete with examples of men who crossed the Indo-Pakistan border for tidbits of intelligence for their handlers. Most of these men are captured by Pakistani security forces and end up languishing in jail for years because most are disavowed by their government. Many are impoverished men who are recruited as low-level informants for multiple Indian intelligence agencies including the R&AW.” Same complaint of helplessness was lodged in 2005 by a former Indian spy Kishori Lal who said talking to the Tribune, “Even if you escape death and are sent back, in your country you die a slow death as nobody is there to own you.”

Shihani and Ibrahim also have the same story to tell as they are also among those countless who serve for the Indian Intelligence Agencies in foreign lands but are left unattended after their arrest. These two were arrested and convicted by the UAE government on charges of spying for India somewhere in 2014-2015. The Abu Dhabi court judgment against Ibrahim said that he was proven of handing over confidential defense information of the State to Ajay Kumar and Rudranath Juha, the two intelligence officers of the Indian embassy. Currently Ibrahim and Shihani are serving a 10-year jail term at Al-Wathba prison. They two belong to Kerala. Their families have been raising their voices since after their arrest that they were used by Indian embassy officials to supply sensitive information. On being arrested, they were denied legal, diplomatic support despite laws mandating assistance from the government of India. According to the Hindustan Times, the relatives of the jailed Indians say they have been made scapegoats. A relative of Ibrahim said talking to media, “There was a lot of pressure from the two embassy officials on Ibrahim to divulge details about the movement of ships at the port. Initially the embassy put pressure on him by delaying the renewal of his and his son’s passports. Later these officials befriended him to obtain details.”

Indian citizen Daniel is also one of the worst examples of those who worked for the Indian Intelligence Agencies but by end of day were discarded like a used tissue-paper and thrown into a dustbin. According to an Indian news channel Pro Punjab, Daniel claimed that he worked for his country’s spy agency RAW, on lucrative promises of money and a government job, and was smuggled into Pakistan in 1992 to carry out the dirty work. He was arrested in Pakistan and had to serve there a four-year sentence. On his release from Pakistani jail and after his return to India, he found no one to take care of him. Life simply became horribly miserable for him. Now he drives a rickshaw to earn some livelihood while his wife works as a maid washing dishes. Moreover, like others belonging to the minority strata of the Indian society, he also has to face a lot of humiliation on daily basis. Maltreatment with the spies who put their lives in danger for their country is something highly pathetic and at the same time India’s efforts of creating problems for the Muslim countries like UAE and Pakistan by interfering in their internal matters is also condemnable.

Views expressed are personal

Balochistan: Rise and Rise of Baloch Rebels

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On October 22, 2022, six Security Force (SF) personnel were killed and another four were injured when the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) targeted an Army convoy at the Zarghoon Ghat area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. While claiming responsibility for the attack, BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch stated that an SF convoy consisting of 10 military vehicles was targeted by the group’s Special Tactical Operations Squad (STOS), adding that at least two enemy vehicles were destroyed. He warned that BLA would continue to target ‘occupying forces’ until their full withdrawal and the ‘liberation of the Baloch motherland’.

On October 21, 2022, four SF personnel were killed and another two injured, when BLA cadres targeted an Army vehicle with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the Izbotki area of Johan tehsil (revenue unit) in the Kalat District. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed responsibility for the attack.

On October 21, 2022, Hafeezullah, a local agent of the Pakistani military intelligence, was killed by BLA cadres in the Zehri area of Khuzdar District. While claiming responsibility, BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed that Hafeezullah was involved in the forcible disappearances of Baloch youth in Zehri and adjoining areas. He added that the BLA would ‘bring to justice’ all other local collaborators of ‘enemy forces’ as well.

On October 19, 2022, a soldier was killed and several were injured when BLA targeted an Army outpost in the Tigran area of Zamuran tehsil in Kech District. While claiming responsibility for the attack, BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch reiterated the attacks against the occupying forces would continue.

On October 7, 2022, one Army soldier was killed and two were injured when BLA cadres targeted an Army post with hand grenade near the Degree College in the Sariab Road area of Quetta. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed responsibility for the attack.

On October 7, 2022, one Army soldier was killed and several were injured when BLA cadres attacked an Army outpost in the Sheh Mardan area of Kalat District. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), BLA-initiated attacks have led to 37 SF deaths in the current year (data till October 23, 2022). During the corresponding period of 2021, BLA had killed 11 SF personnel. The whole of 2021 recorded 20 SF deaths in BLA attacks.

Since August 1, 2004, when the first BLA attack recorded by SATP, five soldiers and a civilian were killed when BLA cadres targeted SF vehicles in the Khuzdar District, at least 171 SF personnel have been killed by the BLA (data till October 23, 2022). On year-on-year basis, fatalities recorded in 2022, with still over two months to go, is the highest in a year since then. The previous high of 31 was recorded way back in 2011. Significantly, BLA claimed that SF fatalities were on a steep and continuous rise since 2019. While no BLA-claimed SF fatality was reported in 2018, there was one such fatality in 2019, increasing to eight in 2020 and spiking to 20 in 2021.

Since August 1, 2004, BLA-linked violence has also led to 146 civilian deaths, including eight in the current year. The BLA claims that those killed were ‘state agents’.

Between August 1, 2004, and October 23, 2022, 147 BLA cadres have also been killed.

Meanwhile, BLA’s growing strength is reflected in the February 2, 2022, simultaneous attacks by BLA cadres on the Panjgur and Nuskhi Army camps in Balochistan. Though Pakistan Government sources claimed only four SF fatalities, Radio Zrumbesh, quoting BLA ‘spokesman’ Jeeyand Baloch, claimed that 45 SF personnel were killed when a ‘martyred’ fidayeen (suicide attacker) rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the main gate of the Frontier Corps headquarters at Nushki, clearing the way for other fidayeen to enter.

More recently, on September 25, 2022, six Pakistan Army officials, including two majors, were killed after a helicopter ‘crashed’ during a rescue mission near Khost in the Harnai District of Balochistan. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed responsibility, asserting that the helicopter had been shot down by rocket launchers.

Moreover, BLA carried out an audacious attack on April 26, 2022, in which at least five persons, including three Chinese nationals, their Pakistani driver and a security guard, were killed when a women suicide bomber blew herself up near a van, transporting Chinese nationals from the Karachi University Hostel to the Confucius Institute in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. A Karachi University spokesperson confirmed that three of the deceased were Chinese nationals. BLA claimed responsibility for the attack. The female suicide bomber, Shaari Baloch alias Bramsh, who belonged to BLA’s Majeed Brigade, was the first Baloch woman suicide bomber.

Indeed, among the major Baloch insurgent groups, such as the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) and United Baloch Army (UBA), BLA has been leading from the front in recent times. Since January 2022, different Baloch groups have carried out at least 68 attacks, out of which BLA alone was responsible for 36.

Comprised mostly of Marri and Bugti tribe members, BLA was formed in response to the growing resentment in Balochistan over the continuous Government exploitation of the province’s natural resources and the neglect of development and welfare. The group has about 6,000 cadre spread across Balochistan and in the bordering areas of Afghanistan. It is currently led by Hyrbyair Marri who is in exile in London. Bashir Zeb Baloch is the ‘commander-in-chief’ of the outfit.

BLA is the only Baloch groups with a dedicated suicide squad, the Majeed Brigade. The Majeed Brigade is named after two brothers, Majeed Langove Senior and Majeed Langove Junior, who carried out suicide attacks in August 1974 and March 2010, respectively. Majeed Senior tried to assassinate then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto when he was on an official visit to Quetta. He wanted to the Prime Minister for his dismissal of the National Awami Party’s government in Balochistan, but Majeed Senior lost his life during the operation. Majeed Junior ‘sacrificed’ himself to save his associates when SFs raided the house where they were staying in Quetta’s Wahdat Colony. Majeed Junior held back the SF raiders to give his associates time to escape. Following Majeed Junior’s death, a BLA leader, Aslam Achu, established the insurgent group’s suicide squad, and named it the Majeed Brigade, currently led by Hammal Rehan Baloch. The Brigade carried out its first vehicle-borne suicide attack on December 30, 2011, when Baaz Khan Marri targeted tribal elder Shafiq Mengal, son of former acting Chief Minister and Federal Minister Naseer Mengal, on the Arbab Karam Khan Road in Quetta. Shafeeq, who had run a ‘death squad’ targeting Baloch insurgents in different parts of the province, escaped unhurt, but 14 persons, including women and children, were killed, and 35 others were injuries.

Subsequently, the Majeed Brigade went into dormancy due to lack of funds and recruits, and it took the group seven years to carry out its second suicide attack, when a bus carrying Chinese engineers was targeted in Dalbadin in August 11, 2018. Aslam Achu’s 22-year-old son, Rehan Aslam Baloch, executed the attack. Majeed Brigade suicide bombers also hit the Chinese Consulate in Karachi (November 23, 2018); Gwadar’s Pearl Continental Hotel (May 11, 2019); and the Pakistan Stock Exchange (June 29, 2020).

Apart from Majeed Brigade, BLA has a formed STOS, which works directly under Bashir Zeb Baloch. and is tasked to monitor and eliminate Army officers and their local collaborators. Recently, on July 13, 2022, STOS abducted Lieutenant Colonel Laiq Baig Mirza along with his cousin Umer Javed, near the Warchoom area of Ziarat District. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Jeeyand Baloch claimed that Mirza was ‘arrested’ in an ‘intelligence-based operation’ for his direct involvement in the Baloch genocide, and grave human rights violations, including enforced disappearances of women and children, among other crimes. Mirza was later killed when an Army Quick Reaction Forces team tried to rescue him. Two days later, his cousin Umer Javed’s body was recovered.

One of the longest surviving Baloch insurgent groups, BLA has increased its operations against SFs and ‘state agents’. The outfit is likely to intensify its operations in days to come, justifying the escalation on the grounds that the Pakistani state has failed to meet the genuine demands of the Baloch people.

Views expressed are personal

China: Xi 3.0 – An Indian Viewpoint

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The third term for Xi Jinping with key loyalists elected to the Central Committee as well as the Central Military Commission facilitates fostering his agenda in the political, economic and from the Indian perspective importantly in the foreign policy and national security domains.

Here is an overview of the likely impact for India

Unprecedented Third Term

On Sunday October 23, the Communist Party of China (CPC) unveiled the top leadership with Xi Jinping elected as general secretary of the CPC Central Committee at the first plenum of the 20th CPC Central Committee following the Party’s twice-a-decade national congress.

Xi led Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang and Li Xi onto a red-carpeted stage at the Great Hall of the People noted Xinhua.

The unprecedented third term, established Xi as the second most powerful leader in China’s history after Mao Zedong assuming greater salience even than the legendary Deng Hsiao Ping the architect of China’s modernizations.

With Xi at the helm in China after 2012, the aggressive security policy in particular that has been adopted has led to confrontations on the India China border a part of which is the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.

Xi’s pursuit of the Chinese Dream also includes reclamation of what is perceived by China as sovereignty over territories which have been “lost,” when China was weak. Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh are the two major claimed areas which are a territorial part of India.

While under Xi’s tenure as the Chairman of the Central Military Commission amongst other hats that he wears, markers for modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been set for regional domination by 2027 and global primacy in 2050.

Reclamation of Claimed Sovereignty

A related issue to reclamation of sovereignty is violation of treaties with India which have maintained stability since the 1990’s and broken the status quo in 2020 by occupation of areas which were accepted as on the Indian side of the LAC.

The clash at Galwan in June 2020 may have been incidental and avoided but the fact that the PLA was prepared for the same ass evident from circumstances should act as a post event warning for India.

Some of the areas as the Kungrang Nallah which have been traditional grazing grounds for Yak and Sheep yielding Pashmina for the heardsmen in Ladakh for years have been converted into a buffer zone.

As the newly formed CMC now includes Xi loyalists with experience in the Western Theatre Command – the theatre that faces India, ‘sovereignty reclamation,’ could be a key agenda of the third tenure of the President and Chairman of the CMC thus creating challenges for India’s security.

CMC Packed with Loyalists

As Ananth Krishnan has highlighted in the Hindu, General He Weidong has been named as the Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) replacing retiring Xu Qiliang. General Zhang Youxia continues as the first ranking — Vice Chairman and continues even though he is beyond the retirement age. General Xu Qiling is appointed as one of 205 members of the Party’s new Central Committee a prestigious post in the party hierarchy and is also head of the joint staff department of the CMC.

Krishnan highlights that the three generals who will remain key decision makers of the PLA have also served in the Western Theatre Command (WTC) and thus would be well versed with nuances of management of the LAC.

The CMC directly controls the operations on the LAC in the Xinjiang and Xijang border districts sidelining the WTC.

Supported by Foreign Minister Wang Yi on an extension and promoted to the Politburo the Wolf Warrior diplomacy of which he is the architect is expected to continue to keep Indian foreign policy establishment on their toes.

Xi National Security Agenda

Earlier in his Report to the Congress, General Security Xi had highlighted his national security agenda. Xi said that national security, “is the foundation of national rejuvenation, and social stability is the premise of national prosperity. We must unswervingly implement the overall national security concept, put the maintenance of national security throughout the entire process of Party and state work, and ensure national security and social stability”.

Important to highlight here is the efforts to link the process of the Party and state work in a unified manner to ensure national security and social stability. This has been the emphasis of Xi through his tenure for the past decade wherein party-government-military unity has been emphasized.

Xi Jinping started by stating that modernization of national security systems and capabilities is essential not only to safeguard national security but also social stability

Comprehensive Security

Xi Jinping embraced the concept of comprehensive security for the country with widened scope of national security stating that the whole purpose of security was ensure safety of the people. This could be achieved through political and economic security as the foundation implying stability of the party and the economy are the core principles/ This is guaranteed by ensuring military, scientific, cultural and social security, “and the promotion of international security as the basis to coordinate external security and internal security, homeland security and national security”.

He goes on to add the importance of “Traditional security and non-traditional security, self security and common security”. Coordination and consolidation of “national security and social stability,” was important to, “build a higher level of safe China, and ensure new security with a new security pattern. development pattern”. Thus adapting to a comprehensive security model is the panacea for China for the future

People’s Liberation Army (PLA)

Five minutes into his speech submitting the Report to the Party, Xi went on to the People’s Liberation Army called for a “new situation for the modernization of national defense and the army.”

Relevant here is the fact that substantial reforms have been undertaken by the PLA as per directions of Xi Jinping since 2013 which include streamlining of the Central Military Commission, central institutions for higher direction of war and creating geographic theatres. Further refinement in these is desired essentially to increase the operational efficiency and achieve national security goals.

Xi Jinping then went on to outline the objective of building the PLA into a world class army where the Party has absolute control over the military.

Ideological reforms or loyalty was to go side by side with, “Modernization, the modernization of the military organization, the modernization of military personnel, and the modernization of weapons and equipment, improve the strategic capability of defending national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and effectively fulfill the mission and tasks of the people’s army in the new era”. Attracting talent to achieve these objectives was outlined.

Importantly Xi emphasized again the loyalty of the Army to the party to, “ensure that the barrel of the gun always obeys the party’s command”.

Organisational Reforms of PLA

On the organizational front he called for improvement and implementation of, “system and mechanism of the chairman responsibility system of the Military Commission,” implying possibly of greater role to be played by him in decision making as he is the chairman of the CMS. Discipline eradication of corruption were also emphasized. Given the removal of a number of senior commanders of the PLA for corruption, the campaign is expected continue, even though detractors claim that commanders who were not loyal to Xi were implicated and removed which is difficult to verify.

Operational Modernisation

In the final minute or so Xi Jinping talked about the operational facets of PLA modernization to include strengthening training and preparations, “improve the people’s army’s ability to win, innovate military strategic guidance, develop people’s war strategies and tactics, build a strong strategic deterrent force system, increase the proportion of combat forces in new areas and new qualities, and further promote actual combat military training”.

Towards this end, building of new domain forces with combat capabilities, UAV, networked information and joint command and control in the operational areas of “reconnaissance and early warning, joint strikes, battlefield support, and integrated logistics support,” a translation provided by Manoj Kewalramani at Tracking People’s Daily Substack states.

Technology and weapons, organization and composition of forces, training and law based governance of the military was emphasized.

A special emphasis was devoted to strategic planning with a view to, “consolidate and improve the integrated national strategic system and capabilities, strengthen the construction of national defense science, technology and industry capabilities”.

Mobilisation, reserves, caring for retired service personal and military government civilian unity was emphasized.

Conclusion

As Xi remarked at the closing of the 20th Congress, “We are fully confident and capable of creating new and even greater miracles on the new journey of the new era — miracles that will amaze the world.” “We must remain confident in our history, exhibit greater historical initiative, and have the courage to fight and the mettle to win,” he said to, “forge ahead, and unite and lead all Chinese people in striving to fulfill the goals and tasks set out at the 20th CPC National Congress”.

India must follow up on the tasks set by the 20th CPC National Congress in the foreign policy and security domain and be prepared to protect its national interests.

Views expressed are personal

India: Agniveer is killing regiment traditions

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Gorkha Training Centres, like other training establishments, where recruits are trained have been out of work for more than two years as recruitment was suspended due to COVID though it was possible to recruit and train with suitable precautions just as festivals, religious gatherings, election rallies, elections and so on were being held. The government took a calculated risk with manpower shortages in combat and combat support units and saved funds on recruitment, training, and salaries for over two years. 60,000 soldiers become pensioners annually. The downside: operationally deployed units were deficient on average of 80 to 100 men. Some infantry battalions deployed in friction points in East Ladakh were short of roughly a company strength that is 100 soldiers.

Agniveer has altered beyond comprehension the concept of recruitment – a cross between voluntary service and conscription. With few jobs going, the military has been turned into an employment avenue. Only Army Medical and Dental Corps and Electric and Mechanical Engineers have been excluded from Agnipath- a fait accompli. The political leadership which understands little about camaraderie, esprit de corps, and regimental ethos, unfortunately, has begun to take whimsical decisions. Sadly no one including Service Chiefs dared to question Agnipath: they were just so scared.

A major problem that should have been foreseen has arisen in the recruitment of Gorkhas. Nepal has shifted the onus on the decision of four-year recruitment to the next government following elections on 20 November. Being a national security issue related to the 1947 Tripartite Agreement on Recruitment, more thought and discussion were needed, said the Nepalese government. Just as in India, there are few takers for Agnipath, in Nepal too. Nepal does not generate jobs for its skilled and unskilled youth. That’s why nearly one-third of the country of 30 million is outside the country and gainfully employed. Remittances from them, tourism, and recruitment in the Indian Army constitute the mainstay of the economy. Like in India, Nepal has a residual Maoist problem led by NetraBikram Chand. Similarly, several armed and unarmed groups are lying doggo in Madhesh. The last thing Nepal wants is hundreds of demobilized Agniveers injected into society. It is a difficult choice that the next government will have to make. They are known to politicize the recruitment of Gorkhas into the Indian Army.

There is a new self-created structural problem among Gorkha regiments. Previously 100 per cent of Gorkhas recruited hailed from Nepal. And many on retirement settled in pockets between the Chenab and Teesta rivers – the extent of the erstwhile Gorkhaempire. These Gorkhas are called Indian domiciled for purposes of recruitment and their share of recruitment has gradually increased, from 30 per cent to 40 per cent, while the remaining 60 per cent comes from Nepal. In 2016, a Gorkha battalion with 100 percent Indian-domiciled Gorkhas was raised on an experimental basis. 6/1 Gorkha Rifles was unique when it was born but later, it became difficult to sustain as Indian Gorkha recruits did not meet standards, even after lowering them. The failed experiment has led to a shortfall of Indian Gorkhas being met from Nepali Gorkhas. This lacuna has infected other Gorkha battalions as the 40 per cent quota for Indian Gorkhas is not being met. So instead of enhancing the quota of Nepali Gorkhas from 60 to 70 per cent, in its warped wisdom, the Army let other Gorkha regiments like 1 GR, 5 GR, and some others recruit Kumaonis and Garhwalis instead. 11 Gorkha Rifles,( late Gen Rawat’s Regiment) it is understood, refused to induct other ‘pahadis” to maintain the purity of KirantiGorkhas.

The government of Nepal is likely to decide by December whether it will allow Gorkhas to become Agniveers. Army Chief Gen Manoj Pandey told reporters after returning from a goodwill visit to Nepal where he was made honorary General of the Nepal Army, a historic tradition unique to India-Nepal relations, that if Nepal does not decide in time, their vacancies will be redistributed. To whom; he did not say. But it will be safe to assume Nepali-domiciled vacancies could go to Indian Gorkhas, who are already stressed by standards, and/or Kumaonis and Garhwalis for which there is a precedent. If Nepal decides not to opt for Agniveer, it will pose a serious problem for the future of the seven Gorkha regiments and the Gorkha Brigade as a whole. Were this to happen, it will be a big blow to the “Gorkha connect” and India-Nepal relations. New Delhi must fire on multiple cylinders to save the integrity of Gorkha regiments and the 75-year-old tradition.

CDS Gen Anil Chauhan, who is a blue-blooded 11 Gorkha officer is to shortly review Agnipath, especially the contingency if Nepal says ‘no’ to Agniveer. He will act in the national interest in recommending to Prime Minister Modi who has in the Nepali parlia to exempt the Gorkha regiments from Agnipath. This is vital for India-Nepal relations.

World can’t remain silent on Myanmar’s ‘Nuclear Ambition’

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If Myanmar acquires nuclear capability, it would be disaster for South and Southeast Asia. All regional countries would be facing security threat from Myanmar directly. Nuclear Myanmar is going to direct threat to not only for all regional countries. South and Southeast Asia is going to be vulnerable permanently if Myanmar continues to pursue its long-cherished nuclear ambitions. Definitely, the military junta would use the weapons against various ethnic rivals, and insurgents. Not only so that, but the whole Southeast Asian region would also be volatile, and unstable for the stupidity of the Myanmar junta.

Myanmar’s aggressive behavior would be growing day by day. Recent border tensions between Myanmar-Bangladesh are the best example to understand and realize that. Myanmar’s military is so brutal, and cruel that it has been carrying out airstrikes on its people. Thus, the nuclear weapons in the hand of the Myanmar military are more dangerous than North Korea even.

For example, the foreign ministry summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to Bangladesh, Aung Kyaw Moe, on September 18, 2022, for the fourth time in protest of the troubled neighbor’s continuous violations of Bangladesh’s air and land space in recent weeks. Myanmar has been embroiled in a civil conflict since mid-August, and throughout this time, shells have crossed the Bangladesh border. On September 16, a mortar bomb launched from Myanmar exploded in a Rohingya camp, killing one 18-year-old and injuring five others. Additionally, on September 3, military aircraft from Myanmar conducted coordinated shooting attacks from fighter jets and helicopters while in Bangladeshi airspace, putting the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) on notice.

One of Bangladesh’s closest neighbors is Myanmar. Unfortunately, the nation does not behave in a very neighborly manner. In a raid on the Rakhine state on August 25, 2017, the Myanmar army massacred the Rohingya community and burned their homes on fire. More than 700,000 Rohingyas fled this cruelty and sought refuge in Bangladesh. Thousands of Rohingyas have previously traveled from Myanmar to Bangladesh at various points in time.1.25 million Rohingyas are currently listed as living in Bangladesh’s numerous refugee camps. Releasing them has been difficult for Myanmar. Bangladesh is obligated to pay. Bangladesh has been the victim of numerous lies from the nation.

Myanmar has consistently infringed on Bangladesh’s sovereignty. This is a big surprise. At the border, no state has the authority to infringe on another state’s sovereignty. This is obviously against international law, standards, and traditions. The government of Myanmar must take into account the cordial ties between the two nations. It must keep in mind that Bangladesh is a sovereign nation and that firing shells into the border by itself, whether on purpose or accidentally, is unacceptable. Myanmar has no right to infringe on the territory of another state. In the international community, this mindset is unacceptable.
An agreement signed by Myanmar’s military regime and Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation to jointly assess building a small reactor in the Southeast Asian country underscores the junta’s long-term pursuit of nuclear weapons, analysts said.

Myo Thein Kyaw, the regime’s minister of science and technology; Thuang Han, minister of electric power; and Alexey Likhachev, chief executive officer at Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, signed the “roadmap for cooperation upon its own citizens” while they attended the Eastern Economic Forum on Sept. 5-8 in Vladivostok. Junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing oversaw the signing of the agreement.
The deal would further Russian-Myanmar cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, and assess the feasibility of a small-scale nuclear reactor project in Myanmar, Rosatom said in a statement issued Sept. 6.
The same day, the junta announced that it would use nuclear energy for electricity generation, scientific research, medicine production, and industry.

There is no doubt Myanmar has a nuclear program. It sent scientists, technicians, and army officers to Russia for training in recent years. And Moscow has agreed to supply Myanmar, formerly Burma, with a small nuclear reactor for civilian use. The question is, why is the world silent in this regard? Why did ASEAN not raise the concern this time?

Myanmar (Burma) has been carrying out rudimentary steps toward developing nuclear weapons, a documentary released in June by an opposition group alleges. The documentary by the Democratic Voice of Burma featured information provided by Sai Thein Win, a former officer in the Myanmar army. Win claimed to have been deputy manager of special machine tool factories involved in Myanmar’s secret nuclear weapons efforts and ballistic missile development program.

The opposition group also issued a corresponding report on June 3 featuring an analysis of Win’s information by former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector Robert Kelley. Kelley claimed in the report that, taken collectively, the technology featured in Win’s information “is only for nuclear weapons and not civilian use or nuclear power.”

Burma’s nuclear ambitions, spotlighted by last month’s announcement that Russia has agreed to help the regime build a nuclear research facility, date back at least seven years. In December 1995, the junta signed the Bangkok Treaty, banning the development, manufacture, possession, control, stationing, transport, testing, or use of nuclear weapons under the terms of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Five years later, after a visit to Moscow by Burma’s minister for science and technology, U Thaung, the junta’s nuclear plans became clearer” The junta’s recent confirmation that it will build a small-scale nuclear power plant in the next few years caps Myanmar’s long pursuit of nuclear technology dating back to early 2000.

The Southeast Asian country’s two-decade-long journey to nuclear capability was made possible by Russia after a series of engagements that accelerated under the current junta and its military predecessor.
Though the current regime insists nuclear energy would be used for peaceful purposes in Myanmar, which has been hit by chronic electricity shortages, many believe this is the first step in a plan to utilize nuclear energy for military purposes including the production of nuclear weapons.

In 2009, it was reported that Myanmar was suspected of having initiated a nuclear weapons program. If such a program does exist, Burma’s technical and financial limitations may make it difficult for the program to succeed. The United States expressed concern in 2011 about potential violations of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), though by 2012 these concerns had been “partially allayed.” Burma has faced persistent accusations of using chemical weapons.

In 2007, Russia and Burma did a controversial nuclear research center deal. According to them, “The centre will comprise a 10MW light-water reactor working on 20%-enriched uranium-235, an activation analysis laboratory, a medical isotope production laboratory, silicon doping system, nuclear waste treatment, and burial facilities”.

According to an August 2009 report published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Burma had been working to develop a nuclear weapon by 2014. The reported effort, purportedly being undertaken with assistance from North Korea, involves the construction of a nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facilities in caves tunneled into a mountain at Naung Laing, a village in the Mandalay division. The information cited in the newspaper story reportedly originated from two high-ranking defectors who had settled in Australia.

On June 3, 2010, a five-year investigation by an anti-government Myanmar broadcaster, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), found evidence that allegedly shows the country’s military regime began a programme to develop nuclear weapons. The DVB said evidence of Myanmar’s nuclear programme came from top-secret documents smuggled out of the country over several years, including hundreds of files and other evidence provided by Sai Thein Win, a former major in the military of Myanmar. A UN report said there was evidence that North Korea had been exporting nuclear technology to Burma, Iran, and Syria. Now, Russia supports Myanmar’s nuclear program openly.

Based on Win’s evidence, Robert Kelley, a former weapons inspector, said he believed Burma “has the intent to go nuclear and it is… expending huge resources along the way.” But as of 2010, experts said that Burma was a long way from succeeding, given the poor quality of its current materials. Despite Kelley’s analysis, some experts are uncertain that a nuclear weapons programme exists; for example, the Institute for Science and International Security notes ambiguity as to whether certain equipment is used for uranium production, or for innocently producing “rare earth metals or metals such as titanium or vanadium.” The U.S. expressed concern in 2011 about possible NPT violations, but by 2012 stated that its concerns had been “partially allayed.”

Myanmar signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on September 26, 2018, but has not ratified it.

On 15 December 1995, ASEAN Member States signed the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ Treaty) as a commitment to preserve the Southeast Asian region as a region free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The Treaty is also known as the Bangkok Treaty. Through this treaty, ASEAN reaffirms the importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and in contributing towards international peace and security. It also marks the establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in Southeast Asia – one among five NWFZs in the world. The other four NWFZs are in Latin America and the Caribbean, South Pacific, Africa, and Central Asia.

The Protocol to the SEANWFZ Treaty welcomes the signing and early ratification of the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), which will contribute to the promotion of the realisation of a Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. Efforts are underway toward the accession of the NWS to the Protocol.

Myanmar’s attitude is contradictory to the Protocol to the SEANWFZ Treaty. Whatever may be the truth, the fact remains that nuclear Myanmar is not in India, China, or all neighbouring countries’ interst. They cannot afford to have another nuclear power along its border. Other regional countries would definitely feel insecure. The direct nuclear threat from Myanmar would destabilize the whole region in the long run. If nuclear deterrence works, then the arms race is a must in the region. Myanmar’s this dangerous ambition would take a relaxation from all stakeholders in the region. West should join with all regional countries and ASEAN to pressure Myanmar to give up its nuclear (weapons) ambitions. They must take action like in the Iran case, Otherwise, the world is going to see another nuclear threat in the Southeast region. Instead of developing nuclear weapons, the world must compel Myanmar to focus on bringing back democracy and resolving problems like HIV AIDS, human trafficking, rape, drug abuse, child soldiers, forced labour, ethnic crisis, refugee issues, and corruption. All bordering and neighbouring countries of Myanmar must be cautious in this regard.

The only peaceful course of action is for Myanmar to promptly implement appropriate measures to cease all forms of unwelcome behavior in the border area in order to preserve regular ties between the two nations. All regional countries must raise the issue in international community to stop Myanmar to commit such heinous activities.

CIA Assassin in Castro Plots Dies

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4 mins read

Rolando Cubela, a Cuban revolutionary who plotted with the CIA to kill Fidel Castro, died in Miami in August, his passing unnoticed in the English-language U.S. press. While the U.K. Telegraph ran a (paywalled) obituary, neither the New York Times or the Washington Post has reported the death of a man whose rise and fall once convulsed the governments of Cuba and the United States and generated headlines worldwide. Rolando Cubela Secades was 89 years old.

I heard about Cubela’s death independently from three friends in Miami who heard the news from his family. He was living in a Miami nursing home until he passed, they said. Cubacute, a Spanish language news site in Miami, quoted Cubela’s sister saying he had died of a respiratory infection.

The son of a tailor from the provincial city of Cardenas, Cubela enrolled as a medical student at the University of Havana where he emerged as a leader of the rebellion against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. In October 1956 he gained notoriety for assassinating Col. Antonio Blanco Rico, a top military officer, in a Havana nightclub. Cubela won glory in December 1958 when his Revolutionary Directorate forces joined with Fidel Castro’s July 26 movement to win the decisive battle of Santa Clara, which toppled the Batista regime and brought Castro to power.

Amid a struggle for control of the University of Havana campus, Cubela was elected president of the student federation, a politically powerful position. At first he was a revolutionary firebrand, celebrating the closing of a pro-American newspaper and the defeat of the CIA-trained brigade at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. But as Cubela became disenchanted with Castro’s hard left turn to one-party socialism, he turned on his former comrades.

In August 1962, he met with two CIA men in a Helsinki nightclub. “He said he was not interested in risking his life for any small undertaking,” the CIA reported “but if that he could be given a really large part to play, he would use himself and several others whom he could rely upon.” Known by the code name AMLASH, Cubela subsequently underwent secret training at a CIA safe house in France.

In a series of meetings in Paris in the fall of 1963, Cubela said he was ready to act against Castro himself. “If you can’t get rid of the rabies,” he told one of his CIA handlers, “just get rid of the dog.” He only needed a weapon. Deputy director Richard Helms approved sending a pen, fitted with a poisoning mechanism, to Cubela. On November 22, 1963, an undercover officer was showing the pen to Cubela about the same time President John F. Kennedy was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas.
When Cubela learned of JFK’s death, his CIA handler reported that “Cubela was visibly moved and asked ‘Why do such things happen to good people?”

Cubela continued to plot with CIA agents through 1965. Although Helms would always deny the AMLASH operation was an assassination plot, Carl Jenkins, a CIA military trainer, said in a 2021 interview that he supplied the rifle that was sent to Cubela in Cuba.

Thanks to an undercover agent in Miami, Cuba’s intelligence service got wind of Cubela’s intentions and Cubela and a co-conspirator were arrested in February 1966, and charged with plotting with the CIA. Cubela’s trial attracted reporters from all over the world, drawn by a story rife with betrayal and intrigue.
On the stand, Cubela was contrite, admitted that he had planned the “physical elimination” of Castro while personally falling apart.

“I was carrying around a series of preoccupations and contradictions, the product of long struggle after the triumph of the Revolution,” he said, perhaps referring to his recurring nightmares about Col.Blanco Rico, the man he assassinated in 1956. Cubela said he fell into “a disorderly life, a life of parties, cabarets, a completely insane life. I was decomposing and deteriorating.”

Sentenced to death, Cubela was spared when Castro let it be known he didn’t favor the death penalty for his former comrade. “Among revolutionary men,” Castro said, “nothing can replace the bond of the beginning. Cubela’s sentence was commuted to 25 years, which he served in La Cabana, the fortress overlooking Havana Bay while serving as a doctor for his fellow inmates.

Double Agent?

Cubela was still in jail a decade later, when U.S. congressional investigators first learned about CIA plots to kill foreign leaders. The disclosure of the AMLASH conspiracy roiled Capitol Hill and the CIA, leading to the creation of a Senate select committee, led by Sen. Frank Church, which investigated the CIA for the first time.

Cubela’s revolutionary background and Castro’s leniency bred suspicion that Cubela had been a double agent informing the Cuba leader of the CIA’s plans to kill him. “Was AMLASH actually a conscious double agent for Castro?” asked a Washington Post report in 1976, “or was he perhaps so transparent and emotionally exploitable that he unwittingly provided an equivalent service?”

Castro denied that Cubela was a double agent and CIA director Helms said the same thing, about the only subject the Latin revolutionary and the urbane spy chief ever agreed on.

Freedom

Cubela didn’t like to talk about his past, according to Santiago Morales, a fellow prisoner. When Morales came down with tonsillitis, Cubela arranged for an operation and the two men became friends.
“Everybody liked him,” Morales, who now lives in Miami, recalled in an interview. “He had no special privileges. We talked a lot but, as a rule never got into details of our reasons for being there. … He told me …. about being interviewed by Raul Castro in prison.”

Morales says he got the impression that Cubela believed Raul Castro had intervened with his brother to spare his life.

Cubela and Morales were released in August 1979 along with several thousand political prisoners as part of an agreement between the Carter administration and the Castro government. Cubela moved to Madrid where he married and worked as a cardiologist. In 2005, he participated in two demonstrations organized by the Democracia Ya Platform, one of them in front of the Cuban Embassy in Madrid.

He later moved to Miami to be closer to his children.

“He was done with politics. He didn’t want to go back,” Morales said. “He had a good life. He was a great guy. But he never got rid of his past. Cubela spoke only in passing about his execution of Colonel Rico, Morales said, but it remained painful.

“It’s one thing to kill not knowing who you’re killing, but when there’s a name and a family and a pleasant human being—and they say he [Colonel Rico] was a pleasant human being—it hurts. And it didn’t lead to a happy ending,” Castro, not Cubela, prevailed in the struggle for power.

“In the end, I think he had been beaten by the events,” Morales said. “It was a miracle he was alive.”

This article was first published on Spy Talks, click here to read the original

Gen Chauhan: The right man as India’s new CDS

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Better late than never aptly reflects the appointment on 28 Sep of former Lt Gen Anil Chauhan the diminutive and hard-as-steel Gorkha officer as the second CDS 10 months after Gen Rawat’s death, just when the grapevine was suggesting that the government would let the post expire following proddings by defence bureaucracy and sections of the IAF unhappy with it. In June, when the government enlarged the eligibility to include retired three stars, it became apparent that Lt Gen Chauhan was the government’s choice. Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar has retrieved some of his turf ceded to CDS who is senior several notches senior to Defence Secretary as a four-star and head of DMA. Mr Kumar was appointed as Military Advisor, former Lt Gen Khandare who was earlier NSA AjitDoval’s military advisor. Subsequently, Lt Gen Chauhan became MrDoval’s military advisor for nine months where he was nurtured for CDS..

A very senior General informed a veteran journalist that the next CDS would be from Uttarakhand. This followed a blog by strategic affairs commentator Bharat Karnad where he quoted sundry sources including the NSA to affirm the appointment of former CNS AdmKarambir Singh as the CDS. He said it was proper to appoint an officer from a service other than the Army to be CDS to assuage fears of the other two services. Last week, Indian Express Delhi Confidential mentioned about “uniqueness of Uttarakhand” as one district, PauriGarhwal, has produced luminaries like Gen Rawat, serving NTRO chief Anil Dhasmana, NSA AjitDoval, former Coast Guard chief Rajendra Singh and now Gen Anil Chauhan. What is the secret, it asks.

Still, it is curious that Gen Chauhan’s appointment was “until further orders’ and not till attaining the age of 65 – the age limit for CDS. This injects an element of uncertainty about the longevity of his tenure. Relevant are comments by defence experts about a “government in a hurry” for the transformation of higher defence structures when it patiently waited ten months to find the right man for the job while he was available in NSA’s secretariat. The selection of Lt Gen Chauhan follows the government’s practice of carefully choosing service Chiefs.

Much has been written about his life in 11 Gorkha Rifles following the pattern of his regiment’s senior, Gen Rawat. He has authored two books ‘Aftermath of a Nuclear Attack’ and the ‘seminal Military Geography of India’s Northern Borders’ making him unarguably, India’s China expert. Editor of Force magazine, Pravin Sawhney said that as DGMO he endorsed the uniqueness of surgical strikes repudiating the Congress party’s claim that six similar strikes had been conducted during his time. According to Sawhney, Gen Chauhan while Eastern Army Commander, strongly endorsed the government’s intent to promulgate CAA and NRC as it would enhance national security. Sawhney contends that he has been appointed CDS for his expertise in counter-terrorism and for implementation of Agnipath.

Ten days before he became CDS, Gen Chauhan made an impassioned inaugural speech at Bharat Shakti’s defence conclave on Collaborative Approach to National Security and outlined its three key ingredients: territory, people and ideology, and values. He emphasized that national security was the responsibility of each and every citizen, civil society organization and think tank. While the government was responsible and accountable for national security others were part of the collaborative approach that he called ‘extended scope of national security. Earlier this year, Mr Doval had stirred a hornet’s nest when he extended the scope of national security.

The debate furiously engaging veterans about defence reforms have turned into sequencing: among capability building, jointness and theatrisation. The absence of a National Security Strategy which the DPC or IDS was to make and which the government thinks it already has unwritten, is the singular void troubling the strategic community. No White Paper or SDSR or even a Capability Review has ever been done. At present jointness is equated with upending or joining plans rather than joint planning. The IAF continues to grieve about the dilution of airpower after theatrisation, given it is stuck at between 28 and 31 fighter squadrons for the last two decades instead of the self-authorized 42 squadrons. The capability gap with China is increasing as we delay epochal defence reforms and make believe that Make in India is made in India. Without political intervention, which must include guidance, Gen Chauhan’s task of curating consensus is formidable. A review of Agnipath is vital and eradicating the colonial legacy must start within government including the police. Modernisation needs technology, which needs money.

As a fellow Gorkha and well-wisher of national security, I wish Gen Chauhan a full and fruitful term as CDS to complete Gen Rawat’s unfinished mission. I trust and am sure he will remember unique to India, the military’s three ideals: being professional, secular, and apolitical.