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Growing differences between the Pakistani civil and military leadership with the US administration

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By Shireen M Mazari

On January 17, the supposedly reputable Sunday Times of Britain, published a story by Christina Lamb from Washington – known for her bashing of the Pakistani state – entitled “Elite US troops ready to combat nuclear hijacks”, which was premised on lies and half-truths, derived from sources already proven incorrect in the distant and not-so distant past. Lamb’s story goes that US troops are ready to snatch Pakistan’s nukes if militants get their hands on either fissile material or a nuke itself. The stale premise is that this could possibly be from within the country’s “security apparatus”. It is too bad the newspaper failed to verify its facts – something we in the Pakistani media are constantly being told to do!

Point by point Lamb has either presented or quoted outright lies or distorted facts.

First: She has cited a retired CIA source, who had worked in the US energy department intelligence unit, as declaring that Pakistan had the “highest density of extremists in the world”! Now how has this statistic been acquired? Was any research done? Where did the 9/11 hijackers come from? What do they mean by the term “extremist?” Are those who elect extreme right parties in Europe not “extremists” also? And so on.

Two: The same source is quoted as claiming that there have been attacks on army bases “which stored nuclear weapons” and a suspect source, Shaun Gregory, has been used to substantiate this baseless claim. Yes, army targets have been there but nowhere close to any nuclear base or site.

Three: Gregory had, a while back, written in a US military journal on counterterrorism, documenting three incidents connecting acts of terror in Pakistan to nuclear targets. None of these match the facts on the ground. The first incident was a November 2007 suicide attack on a PAF bus near the Sargodha air base, on the main road and not inside the base itself. This was cited as an attack on a nuclear site since this was a F-16 base and these planes are of course nuclear capable! What logic for a supposedly sound British academic. The second incident cited by Gregory was a December 2007 incident when a suicide bomber blew up at the Kamra air base – again because the F-16s are there so it was assumed the nukes were the targets! But the base is recessed far away from the main aeronautical complex at Kamra which was targeted and where there are neither F-16s nor nukes! The third incident Gregory had cited was the devastating attack at the gates of the POF complex at Wah. But the ignorance of both Gregory and Lamb is revealed by the fact that neither of them seem to know that the Wah complex focuses on conventional weapons especially tanks and APCs and not on missiles or warheads. One can take comfort in the fact that these writers do not know where the missiles and warheads are produced and assembled!

Four: Lamb then goes on to cite a “fourth” attack supposedly targeting our nukes which took place on the GT Road at the turning for Kamra! According to Lamb, even though the Pakistanis have denied that Kamra is a nuke base, Gregory asserts it is. Now how credible is Mr. Gregory? Well, suffice it to say that he has a personal axe to grind with the Pakistani state and that his so-called Pakistan Security Research Unit at Bradford is more on the net than on the ground and many questioned have been raised about the source of its funding, especially for those in the know who are aware of its origins!

As for Lamb’s assertion that last August a 6-man suicide team was arrested in Sargodha but there is some confusion as to whether this was the same group that included the 5 US citizens of Pakistani origin who were arrested much earlier than when the story of their arrest broke in the Pakistani media. Lamb cites the latter case as an additional one and then refers to the map of Chashma that they had. Now what she fails to mention, although as a journalist on Pakistan she should have known, is the fact that the reason the Pakistani authorities have refused to deport these 5 to the US is because they are suspected of working for the CIA – either to infiltrate the militants or to actually gather information on Chashma which the US has desperately been seeking out in connection with info regarding our nukes – and have still not gained much access on this count.

Five: Lamb then in a show of either feigned or genuine ignorance refers to the suicide attack at the gate of the Naval Housing Complex in E-8 as an attack on the “naval command centre.” The latter is not in sector-E-8 at all, which is only a naval residential colony!

Six: She sees the attack on GHQ also as a targeting specifically of our nukes although this would be like declaring that the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon was specifically to target US nukes! So 9/11 made US nukes and their command and control insecure and unsafe by this logic!

Seven: Then a really old issue is raised again – that of the scientist Bashir Mahmood, who was arrested in October 2001, after he had retired from being a power plant engineer in the nuclear power sector, for having met Osama Bin Laden and because he had set up a Muslim charity. Again what Lamb conveniently refuses to mention is that the man had been interrogated and the case had been closed. Certainly he had met OBL but so many CIA people had also been meeting OBL when they thought he could be set up to work for them, before 9/11 of course.

All in all, clearly this story has been planted and Lamb used, once again to put forward lies and factual distortions to drum up a scare about Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Is it also a mere coincidence that the story has come in the wake of the growing differences between the Pakistani civil and military leadership with the US administration? It is unfortunate that a paper like The Sunday Times failed to verify the contents of the story first.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

January 18, 2010 at 11:17 am

Looking Ahead

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Ramesh Phadke
January 12, 2010

Has the time come for India to launch multiple peace initiatives? In the eight years since, the US-led war on global terrorism began on October 8, 2001 against the Taliban and al Qaeda both Afghanistan and Iraq have seen much devastation and regime change and the former is now bracing up for a troop surge. Most analysts are, however, agreed that the United States is neither looking to win the war nor to establishing democracy in this hapless land called Afghanistan. The United States can at best work towards making the region manageable so that Obama can actually begin withdrawing troops by the middle of 2011.

Pakistan has never been happy about India’s presence in Afghanistan even if only for reconstruction efforts. Only recently Prime Minister Gilani told the UK foreign minister Miliband to ‘not include India in the proposed Afghan Council’. North Korea continues to dodge the various attempts of the major powers to denuclearise and at the same time. Iran shows no signs of giving up its uranium enrichment plans. According to some experts, e.g. George Friedman of ‘Stratfor’, military action against Iran by the United States, either alone or in collaboration with Israel, appears to be a distinct possibility in the not too distant future since both Russia and China would not support more stringent sanctions in the United Nations. Should such a war come to pass, the South Asian neighbourhood would be the worst hit. Even if Iran succeeds in only temporarily disrupting the movement of oil in the Persian Gulf, the effects could well be catastrophic for the whole world and China, Japan and India in particular as these countries are even more dependent on Gulf oil.

As if by coincidence, four Indian strategic/military experts have voiced their concern about the possibility of a two-front war with Pakistan and China without giving any specific timeline (Brajesh Mishra at the Observer Research Foundation, Ambassador K.S. Bajpai and C. Raja Mohan in the Indian Express and the Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor at a closed door meeting of the Army Training Command). One does not know why these four decided to raise the issue at this time. Expectedly, Pakistan reacted to the Army Chief’s remarks with characteristic anger. The Indian Defence Minister A.K. Anthony had to ultimately assuage the ruffled feelings of our neighbours by clearly stating that India had no territorial designs and that there was no chance of a war even if some differences existed.

Those looking positively at the new decade have also said that India needed to embark on a more proactive foreign policy including opening talks with Pakistan, China and the United States to consolidate the gains of recent years. Tavleen Singh, who normally holds strong views, has also spoken of peace in the subcontinent. (Indian Express, January 10, 2009). Some also hold the view that Pakistani action against the perpetrators of 26/11 need not be made a precondition to resume the stalled Composite Dialogue. Given the uncertainties in Pakistan, they seem to think that if delayed further, India might not find ‘anyone’ to talk to in that country.

If India indeed considers itself to be a rising power, it cannot be appear reluctant to take new initiatives So, instead of repeating that, ‘India should get its act together’, ‘get its house in order’ or that ‘it lacks strategic thought/culture’, here are some possible options.

By resuming the stalled dialogue with Pakistan India can achieve two major foreign policy objectives. First, it will silence the hard-line elements in Pakistan and also in Jammu & Kashmir, at least for a time. Second, the Obama administration, facing its own challenges, will be encouraged to view India as part of the solution and not the problem. It is important for India to get its relations with the United States at nearly the same level as they were during the Bush years. It may reduce infiltration attempts and also help improve the situation in J&K. It may also help give additional audibility to India’s concerns on future climate change talks. While China’s hard-line posture on border and other issues is seen by some as a direct reaction to the India-US partnership, but in fact, India’s gains from this relationship are already reaching a point of diminishing returns which is certainly not a good sign.

India should also begin to talk with China on ways to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. It is possible if not likely that when the United States finally decides to leave the country a loose coalition of various stake holders including the Taliban with support from Pakistan will rule Afghanistan. But to assure the world that it would not permit terrorist activity on its soil the future government will have to be supported economically. What better way to do that than both China and India working together for its comprehensive reconstruction? Surely, Afghans of all hues would be more ready to welcome India and China, two regional powers that are already engaged in building that country’s infrastructure and economy. The benign and positive presence of China will also remove any residual insecurity from Pakistani minds about India joining the effort. China may also feel more secure if the new government in Afghanistan helped block the movement of extremist elements into Xinjiang.

India should also intensify its contacts with Iran to help avert any precipitate action against that country by either the United States or Israel. If that happens the jihadi elements across the world would be encouraged to intensify their actions, further destabilising the already fragile situation. It would, therefore, be worth the effort to co-opt China and even Russia to facilitate such talks. India could then mount pressure on the United States and Israel to abandon their plans for a military solution to the Iran nuclear issue. Barring a few ‘neoconservative elements’ the American people will surely heave a sigh of relief at the prospect of peaceful relations with Iran. Surely, they do not want to send their sons and daughters to start another war.

There are also new if tentative attempts towards nuclear zero (Global Zero). However halting and even impractical the process might appear to sceptics, there is a strong consensus across the world to at least start moving towards nuclear disarmament. While there would undoubtedly be many hurdles and major procedural/verification problems on the way; de-alerting, delegitimising nuclear weapons and adoption of No First Use (NFU) by all Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) would be a salutary first step. Countries like North Korea might not agree but can be coaxed into it once other major players take the lead.

India, in the early years, showed extreme reluctance to go nuclear even though it kept its options open. It is widely known that Homi Bhabha had assured the then Indian Prime Minister that his scientists could produce a nuclear weapon in a mere fifteen months from the time a go-ahead was given. Yet it was only in 1974 that India finally did the 8-to-10 kiloton test and called it a Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE). Until 1983, when India began its Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), it had no worthwhile delivery systems and even that took another six years to launch its first Agni missile in May 1989. In 1988, the Rajiv Gandhi government had also attempted a joint initiative with Sweden to start the process of nuclear disarmament but perhaps it was before its time.

Last year, there were reports that Pakistan’s arsenal had already surpassed that of India’s and there was a major controversy about India’s fusion weapon test having been a ‘fizzle’ but the Indian leadership did not show signs of excitement or panic. While India is no doubt trying to develop a nuclear triad, its pace of progress is anything but fast. Although, qualified in 2003, its commitment to NFU has not diminished in real terms. Both India and Pakistan continue to unfailingly exchange information on their nuclear establishments under the agreement signed in 1988. India has thus never shown an inclination to unnecessarily expand its modest nuclear arsenal.

India must take a major initiative to reduce the nuclear temperature in South Asia and indeed the world by offering a freeze on its nuclear arsenal at the present levels provided Pakistan and China followed suit. The United States and Russia and other NWS could then be asked to at least agree to a NFU followed by deep reductions in their arsenals in good time.

Haven’t India’s current moves to improve relations with Bangladesh received good press? While some ‘hyper-realists’ may dub these suggestions as ‘surrender’ to China and the United States, it is better than doing nothing. In any case, there is little to lose. Inaction on India’s part may prove worse as events gather their own momentum. It is said, “God gave man two ends; one to sit on and the other to think with. Ever since, man’s success has depended on which end he uses the most; heads you win, tails you lose.”