30 May 2020

00:05 Hours IST

Somewhere in Rajasthan

Brigadier Ashok Jasrotia from AFSOD was briefing the special operations team. 

“The good news is that a Pakistani F-16 shot down a American MQ-9 Reaper UAV which was flown in from Kandhar for reconnaissance. The better part is that Americans had informed Pakistanis beforehand and they still went ahead and destroyed the drone using American supplied F-16 fighter. Ironic, isn’t it? And the best part is that we’re going to take a large portion of nuclear toys away from Pakis.

There’s some more. Now Americans don’t want to play nice with Pakistanis and are launching everything they can to take care of Pano Aqil. Like us, they have made plans for emergencies like these and are now seeking our cooperation with this. Command thinks that it’s a good idea and our mission is to destroy all nuclear warheads and missiles in the Pano Aqil bunkers. The plan is to hit Pakis from as many sides as possible and be quick about it before they realise what’s going on. 

Now, we are hoping to avoid any hostile engagement with Pakistani troops. We are still trying to get them to let us in and do a joint operation instead of this unilateral operation. But they’re acting very stubbornly. If we are lucky, they may see sense and agree. But if they don’t, which I think is more likely,  they are to be considered hostile and treated as such. All except a handful of Rizvi’s supporters are believed to be serving military personnel. So we can’t expect our troops on ground to waste time deciding their motives and loyalties. If you can safely capture him or a handful of his men who can be extracted safely, you are to do that. If that’s not possible, then just shoot them.

Now for the fun details. Even with withdrawal from Afghanistan going on, Americans still have some good air assets deployed there and some in Masirah, Oman and Al DHafra, UAE. They’re deploying 2 P3C Orion maritime surveillance aircrafts, 1 RC-135W Rivet Joint, 4 EA-6B Prowler and 2 E-3C Sentry AWACS for electronic warfare, reconnaissance, early warning and air-traffic control. For aerial firepower, they have ten flightworthy F/A-18D Hornets, fourteen F-16 block 40 fighters and six top of the line F-22s. Additionally, they have a few armed MQ-9B drones for reconnaissance and air to ground strikes.

 That’s not all, fortunately. They are also open to firing up to 108 Tomahawk cruise missiles from their two nuclear submarines lurking somewhere in the high seas. If some of you don’t know about the equipment I just listed, don’t worry too much. It’s sufficient to know that most of Pakistani Navy and Air Force in the region will be a bit too busy to interfere in what our ground teams will be doing. 

The attack will begin by Americans jamming Paki radar and communications networks using cyber attacks and their airborne EW assets en route. American Global Positioning System has been blocked for everyone else but Americans and it’s equivalent Chinese BeiDuo system will go offline pretty soon over Pakistan too. It’ll not affect us, as we will be using our own NaviC system,. Once the jamming begins we’ll be firing a few Brahmos and Nirbhay cruise missiles on the Paki air defence radars, anti-air guns and SAM systems to clear a path for our ground assault team. 

At about the same time, American fighters will start aggressive maneuvers in their coastal areas and in Peshawar, Swat area trying to keep their air force away from us. A Chinese naval ship and a few suspicious freighters are already docked in Gwadar, so this may prove to be a bit interesting

Even as we speak, our intelligence people are confirming the latest enemy positions using satellites and feeding the data to missile batteries. American Tomahawks will be used for disabling a few key radar sites near coastal areas, a few points up north from there and possible points of resistance at Pano Aqil.  We are pretty sure that the initial missile strikes will damage the runways in a few PAF bases long enough to keep Paki fighters on ground. Americans are planning to use their F-22s to destroy Pakistani Karakoram Eagle and Erieye AWACS if they manage to get in the air.  Our flyboys in Jaguars will drop a few tons of ordinance in Pano Aqil after the initial missile attack to mop up or atleast soften up resistance against the ground assault.  The C-130 transport plane carrying the ground assault team will take off from Jaisalmer as soon as the Jaguars are in air. The paratroopers will exit the aircraft around using HALO and destroy or capture the nukes.

We have one deep cover asset near the mission area who is well trained in special operations himself. We will patch his communication line to the Alpha Team leader a few minutes before the paradrop. We hope that he may be able to recommend good landing spots away from enemy interference. If not, you’ll land at the original places. Once you meet up, he will act as your guide on the ground. You will have to bring him back as his cover will be blown after this.  

Once on ground, you can call in air and missile strikes at will to neutralise the remaining resistance. 4 Apaches helicopters will follow you for Close Air Support (CAS). 2 Mi-25 Hinds are also being rushed in for additional support. Alpha teams will attack the missile storage compound and handle the nukes. Bravo will secure the airstrip for landing of C-130. If airstrip is not secure, then Dhruv and Mi-17 will be sent for exfiltration. We can use Mi-25s for exfil in case it’s required. 

 Remember, your primary mission is to either destroy or get the nukes and their delivery vehicles out of control of Rizvi. They’re suicidal enough to launch them if they think that they’re losing. We are assuming that the Ghauri missiles are fueled already and ready to be launched. Our recon assets are monitoring the bunker and adjoining areas. If a missile is spotted, then we are assuming that it’s about to be launched. You have to destroy them before it happens or mark the target for an aerial attack . 

If nothing changes, the C-130 will take flight at 01:45 hours.

Now, I am open to questions.

Few hours later

Pano Aqil

Paratroopers jumping from the C-130 transport plane could see the flashes of numerous small and a few large fires all over their target area. The passive night vision devices amplified every sliver of light and put a gray and green tint to everything. As promised by Brigadier Jasrotia, nearly all of the anti-air assets of the base had been either destroyed by missile strikes and bombing raids by Jaguar deep penetration aircraft. As they got closer to the ground, they could see pillars of dark smoke rising from numerous places. 

There had been no contact from the undercover operative. It had been realised quite late that his radio might be affected by the massive jamming of all radio communications by Indian as well as American EW assets. Someone had forgotten to tell him the updated frequencies and codes and he was without a way to contact them. But that couldn’t be helped now. If they were lucky, he would be able to find them after their landing. Otherwise the mission was supposed to go on without his involvement.. As the paratroopers reached an altitude of around 1000m, they deployed their parachutes. The sudden deceleration jerked their bodies strongly and slowed down the descent.  

As they got closer to the ground, they could hear the sounds of sporadic gunfire and small explosions not too far from the main landing area. All 65 soldiers had landed within a 300 m circle and rallied quickly. Two sections of 10 men each of Bravo team went towards south-east to secure the airstrip while the rest went northwards to the missile complex.

Missile Compound

Alpha team was divided in four sections of 10 men each with rest five on guard and comms duty.  The compact handheld consoles  in the hands of each section leader marked the positions of every man superimposed on a tactical map of the area with a blue marker. Live enemy positions were marked red and those with confirmed kills were marked yellow. It was a bit like some video games, but real. 

Alpha 1 team approached the missile launch complex from it’s southern perimeter. A soldier opened up a hard plastic case he was carrying on his back and took out a small winged drone with unfolded wingspan of 1.2 meters. He turned on it’s nearly silent electric motor and threw it in the air like a paper plane. It got to an altitude of around 50 meters and started beaming the video feed to a small video console in backpack and to handheld consoles of all section leaders.

Even with it’s monochrome night vision feed, they could see huge craters on roofs of all 9 super reinforced concrete bunkers. All of them had been hit with multiple bombs and all of the roofs had caved in.  Even the concrete around the bunkers was all torn up with more holes than original surface left. Numerous small and a few bigger fires raged all over the compound with acrid smoke billowing upwards in the sky. There were bodies everywhere in the compound as well around it. 

Tens of tanks and armoured vehicles lay motionless all around the site. Most had been blown to the smithereens and a few had dead bodies hanging out of the hatches. Alpha 1 leader thanked the makers of CBU-105 cluster bombs. 4 such bombs, each with 10 infrared guided sub-munitions had been dropped on site disabling most of armoured vehicles brought in by the Pakistani army as well as a few controlled by Rizvi’s troops inside the compound.

Indian troops moved cautiously forward while scanning the area around them with their night vision sights. Suddenly there was a whooshing sound and a mortar round landed around 150 meters north of theml. Then there were three more in quick succession. All four rounds fired were smoke rounds meant to hide movement of own troops from the enemy.  The drone went a bit higher and scanned the area around it with it’s thermal scanners.  It detected thermal signatures matching the just fired mortar tube with four human sized targets around it. The coordinates were passed on to the section of 2 Apaches covering them. Apaches acquired the target coordinates from UAV and one fired 70 mm Hydra rockets at it.The spot from where mortars were being fired erupted in a small cloud of smoke and dust. Apaches did a scan of the area with their own more powerful thermal scanners and moved a bit further to find a convoy of 2 Al Khalid tanks and 4 Talha armoured personnel carriers (copy of American M113) racing towards their direction around 4 kms away. 

The targeting computer of Apaches assigned one Hellfire missile to each of the vehicles automatically and pilots saw the notification in their targeting monocle. Six Hellfires left their launchers on the Apaches and hit all six vehicles on their roofs in top attack mode. All four APCs were blown to bits with their parts spread in circles all around them. The heavily armoured tanks didn’t blow up like the thinly armoured APCs but their top armour was not strong enough to withstand High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) warhead of Hellfires either. Armour of both tanks was penetrated and the ammunition box of the one in lead caught fire causing the stored rounds to explode inside the tank. There were jets of fire shooting from the turret and a loud explosion causing the turret to separate from body and soar 6-7 meters up in the air before landing in a ditch on the side.

Imminent threats neutralised, Apaches then moved back to take positions around the complex to provide reconnaissance and air cover to advancing Alpha teams. The 3.5 meter tall concrete wall had shattered to ground during the aerial attack and two sections passed it easily to enter the compound. Apart from the downwash of Apaches, nothing or nobody was moving. A few trees lay uprooted accompanied by a few dead crows. 

The first attack on bunkers had been done by supersonic cruise missile Brahmos. Two missiles had been allocated to each bunker and none had missed. They had flown only tens of meters above the ground after launch from ground launchers  till they reached the target area. Then they had suddenly gained altitude and dived on their respective targets at 90 degrees angles. The Mach 3 diving speed on missile along with a special bunker buster warhead had bored holes in to the six feet thick reinforced concrete roofs. The warheads had then passed the roofs and then hit the floor forming the roof of actual missile storage room below. Some of them had penetrated the second layer too and exploded causing instant destruction of everything present. Even those warheads which had not completely penetrated the second layer had exploded inside it causing large pieces from the shattered layer to bury everything below. Then a half squadron of Jaguars had dropped one bunker busting Sudarshan laser guided bombs (LGB) weighing 450 kgs on each target.  

A few soldiers put on their closed loop respirators and went close for a look. The  respirators would prevent inhalation of any radioactive particles and toxic fumes of missile propellent. The team deployed another drone equipped with sensors to any radioactive material or leakage and presence of HNO3 (Nitric Acid) and N2O4 (Nitrogen Dioxide). Last two chemicals were used by Ghauri missile as propellants. The drones were specially designed to operate in sites of radioactive and chemical leaks in industrial sites and nuclear reactors by a private company. They were modified for military use by adding a few more sensors, shielding and a bigger power pack. Significant amount of propellants and trace amounts of Uranium-235, the main fission component of Ghauri warheads were detected confirming destruction of atleast six missiles in the compound. Samples from each bunker were collected and the Alpha team started marching towards airstrip. 

As they started the march, the Apaches reported movement of a motorbike in their direction and the fact that it was switching on and off it’s headlights. The pattern was recognised as a basic code assigned to the under cover operative who had missed the party but had done a great job by providing precise positions of Pakistani air defence positions. He drove the stolen motorbike to Alpha 1 section leader and confirmed his identity. He had been using cover name Mohammed Gulfam for less than one year, but it felt strange to use the name with his own countrymen. His original identity as Naib Subedar Anil Dahiya, formerly belonging to Para SF was supposed to stay secret even with the Indian soldiers. 

Alpha 1 team leader looked at him from head to toe and remarked sarcastically, “Took you long enough. We’re almost finished now and moving to exfil point.”

Dahiya reached into his pockets to show a remote detonator, “You should have not jammed all the radio frequencies then. Anyhow, if I had not blown up two bridges before your landing, then you’d have been busy fighting off more than half a mechanised battalion of Pakis.”

Alpha leader scoffed and patted his shoulder. “Good job, I guess. Now let’s get back home.”

Airstrip

The defensive structures around the airstrip had been bombed using precision guided munitions by Jaguars minutes before the paradrop. The soldiers could see the fire and smoke rising from rubbles of a few checkposts, anti-aircraft guns and watchtowers. In a normal attack, the airstrip would have been the primary target and be full of craters to make it unusable for enemy aircraft. But since they needed the airstrip for their own exfiltration, precision guided bombs were used to destroy enemy positions without causing any collateral damage. 

Two soldiers used their handheld thermal scanners to carefully check their surroundings. There was nothing left of the base infrastructure apart from a few piles of twisted metal, shattered concrete and smoke. Like the missile compound, here were a few dead soldiers and around a dozen destroyed armoured vehicles lying around in different places. 

A radio signal was given and second section of two Apache helicopters came rushing towards their direction flying barely 20 meters above the ground. All four Apaches had taken off with a payload of 8 Hellfire missiles and 38 Hydra 70 mm rockets. Some soldiers who were close enough noticed that only 3 missiles remained on one of the helicopters. They had to fight their way in even with the massive ordnance drop earlier.

Bravo team formed a perimeter around the strip after ensuring that there were no hostiles in vicinity.  4 men from the team moved towards the only fortified structure, a single story bunker on the airbase. Two Sudarshan bombs had tore through the thick concrete roof and exploded inside itr turning it into a still smoking rubble of reinforced concrete and steel beams. One soldier took out a geiger counter and checked it’s readings from a distance.. There was a large piece of concrete a few meters from it and when the geiger counter was brought near it, it indicated the presence of alpha particles and plutonium. 

The soldiers stopped their advance towards the bunkers and took a few samples of the soil and concrete piece closest to them. Then they rejoined the security perimeter with the rest of Bravo team. 

After the call of exfiltration by Alpha was placed, the same C-130 flew in low firing chaff and flares as it landed on the airstrip. It was time to go home.

Next Day

NTRO, Pune

“So, what do we know so far?”

“It has been pretty interesting to say the least.  I am reading aloud a list of what we know for sure so far.  Damaged or destroyed aircraft on ground include four F-16A/B of 14 Squadron in Kamra, six F-7 of 17 Squadron in Peshawar,  three F-16A/B of 9 Squadron in Sargodha, five F-7 of 17 Squadron in Peshawar,  eight Mirage-III of 7 Squadron and three Mirage-5 of 8 Squadron in Masroor and seven JF-17 of either 26 or 16 Squadron in Peshawar. Additionally we shot down one Saab Erieye in vicinity of Rahim Yar Khan and one Karakoram Eagle near Pakpattan. Some geniuses from the area have already uploaded the pictures of these two planes claiming that those are wreckages of Indian planes. 

Additionally, air force is claiming that they downed three JF-17 near Sialkot and four F-16s roughly 80 KM north from there. Then there are  three or four helicopters, two JL-8 trainers, two C-130 and  three more yet unidentified wreckages on some of airbases we hit. “ the NTRO analyst barely took a breath while talking excitedly..

The other analyst whistled,”That’s a lot of damage for one night! How sure are you about this?”

“Pretty sure! Don’t miss the two AWACS. A lot of Pakis will be very sore over this.” He laughed excitedly and continued, “The funnier part is that we didn’t even hit  Masroor and Peshawar.”

“Americans did it?”

“Yeah and they have supposedly downed a few more in the air too. We haven’t received detailed information from them yet.”

“Don’t count on getting it anytime soon. Do we have any information or informed guesses of our own about that?”

“It is all so chaotic and there’s so much information from so many sources, We haven’t been able to process even the CartoSat data yet. So there may still be more to come. But we can assume atleast 8-14 more damaged or destroyed planes on ground, perhaps more when we analyse pictures of shelters that were hit. Some important radars and SAM systems were also targeted in a few locations like Sargodha. Someone here is going through latest RISAT (Radar Imaging Satellite) data for more details.“

Indian expertise is satellites is perhaps not as advanced as a few other countries like USA, Russia but it is fair to say that it is quite substantial. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had launched a number of dedicated spy satellites as well as those with dual use in the last few years. Real capabilities of many of these satellites are usually kept confidential but there are some sources which provide a glimpse into this secretive field. For example, CartoSat series of satellites is said to have an optical resolution of 80 cm, but some people believe it to be much higher. RISAT, another spy satellite which is listed as a  earth observation satellite for disaster management during floods, cyclones etc is actually a high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar technology based satellite which can see through to the ground in all kinds of weather conditions. 

Additionally, there are a handful of geo-stationary satellites meant for secure communications for each of three services and a few very specialised satellites like EMISAT which is used for space based electronic intelligence gathering. Services of these satellites are utilised by military as well as intelligence agencies and there are some deliberate ambiguities about their exact roles.

“Hmm. And most of these aircraft were either flying or were in open, right?

“Yes, I think that all aircraft apart from a few Mirage-III and F-16s were in flying condition. It’s not exactly a crippling blow, but it sure is very painful. With their economy, it’ll take them years to make up for the losses. Their F-16 fleet is not likely to get much support or spares from Americans for quite some time after this.”

“Let’s hope so. Send me the data after you finish. Dhumal sahib has called twice already.”

“I’ll send it In 40-45 minutes.”

Defence Review Blog

2nd June 2020, 23:00 Hours IST

Unprecedented joint operation by Indian and American forces 

More stunning details about the daring raid on Pakistani nuclear weapons storage site in Pano Aqil have started trickling in from various sources. Readers of this blog already know about the nuclear threat raised by a rogue Pakistani Major General Qasim Rizvi who was commanding officer in charge of the nuclear facility. He along with still unknown number of followers had taken control of the atleast 6 nuclear tipped Ghauri and 7-8 Nasr missiles with ranges 1200 km and 50-70 km respectively. The warheads on Ghauri used Uranium-235 and had a blast yield of around 35-50 KT, enough to destroy everything within a 2-2.5 km radius. Nasr warhead on the other hand is  meant for tactical uses in a battlefield against the advancing enemy columns. If successfully detonated, it’s Plutonium based warhead is claimed to have a yield between 0.5 to 5 kt with a destruction radius of a few 100 meters to 1 km.

Rizvi had demanded complete withdrawal of Indian forces from Jammu & Kashmir, removal American bases from Afghanistan and handing over control of the Pakistan to a small committee of people chosen by him. It is reported that Pakistani authorities had refused all offers of assistance by NATO and India and had even shot down an American drone sent in for reconnaissance. 

A joint raid was then executed by Indian and American units which then destroyed most of Pano Aqil’s military facilities. It’s being reported that Indian forces had fired 35-40 cruise missiles and sent a whole Jaguar squadron to pummel the base. Role played by US forces has not been disclosed yet. But some defence experts have speculated that one squadron each of F-16 and F-18 deployed in Afghanistan and Oman respectively could have been used along with support elements like AWACS, refuelers and Prowler EW aircraft along with some naval vessels. 

Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Sattar  dismissed most of these claims in a press conference in Islamabad claiming that Pakistani special forces had brought the whole situation under control long before the aforementioned raid happened. He further claimed that Pano Aqil had only four Nasr missiles of which only two were armed with nuclear warheads. He condemned the Indo-American joint operation calling it an assault on sovereignty of Pakistan and Islamic brotherhood. Twitter account of Pakistan armed forces published a picture of two Nasr launchers which they claimed were recovered from the Pano Aqil nuclear bunkers on 22nd August.

Few other defence analysts on Twitter including AlNihiro, BreadAamLatte and PennyDosa have claimed that Indian Air Force hit four other Pakistan Air Force bases in Sargodha, Sukkur, Peshawar and Chabbar. The exact damage to Pakistani defence infrastructure has not been confirmed by official resources, but Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) suggests that there have been considerable damage to Pakistani defence forces. Some local Pakistani accounts have uploaded pictures of what seems to be  wreckages of Chinese built Karakoram Eagle AWACS and of Chinese built JF-17 or American built F-16 mulit-role fighters. A lot of local news channels had reported sounds of loud explosions and fires in the four air bases mentioned but a PAF spokesman dismissed it as mere fiction.  

It’s being reported by many Pakistani news sources that most of the Pakistani internet and communications had stopped working a few hours after the release of video by General Rizvi. As the connectivity is being restored, more images and videos from ground zero are coming online confirming some of the claims made by above mentioned experts. 

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29 May 2020

19:10 Hours IST

New Delhi, India

PM Bisht was about to leave for his home after a long day in the office. His security detail was going over the last minute checks as he waited inside the air-conditioned office avoiding the humid weather. There was a knock on his door and chief of  security crew Abhay Nambiar entered the room along with two other Special Protection Group (SPG) special agents. He spoke quickly, “Sorry for the interruption sir, but there has been an emergency situation and evacuation protocols have been initiated. We need to get you to Air Force 1 as soon as possible.” 

Taken by complete surprise, the PM asked, “Do you know what this is about?”

Nambiar shook his head in negative, “From what I was told, it has something to do with Pakistan. Someone from NSA’s office will inform you on the plane or helicopter.” PM nodded and followed their instructions. They had practised this drill  in the past and it played out just like they had planned.

The three SPG agents escorted the PM out of his office and to the waiting helicopter. He was then taken to Palam airport where a special Boeing 777-300ER designated Air India 1 was already refuelled and waiting. DM arrived just a few minutes after PM and was escorted in after him. The plane took off soon after escorted by two Sukhoi-30MKIs armed with jammers and air to air missiles. The Boeing aircraft itself was fitted with multiple self defence systems like Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM), multiple radar spoofing and jamming systems, flare & chaff dispensation systems and extra shielding for protection against nuclear blasts and Electro Magnetic Pulses (EMP).  Multiple communication systems with redundancies ensured that the plane’s occupants could stay in contact with anyone they needed to. President and some other members of the cabinet were taken to similarly equipped Air India 2.

NSA Dhumal was already waiting for PM via a tele-conference screen from plane AF1 as soon as he reached the plane’s meeting room. “What’s going on Dhumal? Is it China or Pakistan?”  

NSA looked tired on the teleconference screen. “We have an imminent threat from Pakistan. If China is involved in some way, we don’t know about it yet.”

“Imminent threat! What do you mean?”

“NSA fiddled with his tablet and sent images of Major General Qasim Rizvi and Pano Aqil airbase to another screen in the flying meeting room.”It seems like a Pakistani army officer from their Army Strategic Forces Command, one Major General Qasim Rizvi has gone rogue and taken control of Pano Aqil base in Sindh. There were reports of extended firefights and explosions but Pakistanis have cut off all phone and internet access to the area. So we have only limited information till our assets there manage to contact us on radio or something else.”

DM was brought to AI1 in an abrupt manner just like the PM and he was still trying to collect his bearings. He stared at the screens and papers in his hands and muttered, “Great ! As if Chinese and their viruses were not enough, now we have to deal with nuclear weapons under control of their more than just batshit crazy assholes.” He paused for a second, leafed through papers again and asked, “What are Pakistanis saying officially?

“Their Home Minister claimed on a TV channel that there was a large terrorist attack on the base by unknown terrorists with unknown motives. After that there has been a full blackout. Most of their political administration including the PM and most of cabinet has gone incommunicado. Most of the senior military command is supposedly hiding or gone underground too. But we have noticed large scale movement of ground forces and air assets in the area already. But no plane has been seen taking off from the Pano Aqil airbase itself.”

PM exhaled and looked at DM, “We need to start making preparations of our own.”

“Yes, I spoke to General Bharat Samant from Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD) and Air Marshal Arjun Mukund from Strategic Forces Command (SFC). At this moment, it seems like their people will need to get involved before anybody else. Rest of the command will contact us as soon as there is more clarity about the situation.“ DM answered and then addressed NSA, “Dhumal ji, do you think that Chinese are involved in this incident?”

“I’ve been thinking about this and I can’t discount the possibility. However we simply don’t have enough intelligence to be sure about this. Whatever we know about this Maj Gen Rizvi is not very conclusive either. I’ve sent you his file. Our intelligence marked him as competent, a bit aloof and somewhat of a devout muslim. He had turned a bit more religious after the death of his wife, but nothing out of ordinary. Unlike most Pakistani generals, he had the reputation of being honest, competent and upright.” 

“Knowing Pakis as well as we do, it all might just be an elaborate ruse to attack us or get more money from any of their four fathers.” DM responded bitterly.

“For what we know presently, it could be anything. We need to be prepared for all eventualities. Utilise all resources and get all the information possible you see fit. Our defence command and a few others need to be part of the decision making process. I want another meeting as soon as we have more information. I hope we’ll have enough data by then to make informed decisions.” PM spoke to end the meeting.    

20:15 Hours

Pakistan News & Information Service, Sukkur Desk 

BREAKING: Pano Aqil Aqil Military Base Under Siege

We have reports coming in from various sources that a military base in Pano Aqil is under attack by yet unknown assailants. According to civilian eye witnesses in the city, there were multiple explosions and heavy firing in the area. A video sent by a local resident shows two helicopters  at Pano Aqil air base trying to take off and then being destroyed by heavy machine gun fire from the ground. 

Another witness reported sounds of heavy gunfire at  a military facility 1.5 km from the airstrip and atleast three pillars of dark smoke rising from the area. After the initial reports, authorities have initiated a full blackout of the region and blocked all kinds of civilian communications and traffic. Electricity supply to most of the city has been cut off increasing panic among the civilian population. But people who were trying to get out of the city were sent back home by Pakistani army personnel patrolling the roads. At the same time, there were reports of unusually heavy air traffic at some nearby airport.

   Many defence analysts claim that Pano Aqil is used by Pakistani armed forces as storage for their nuclear weapons and is considered to be highly secured. Some reports suggested that the attack was planned and led by a senior officer commanding the base. One spokesperson from Sindh’s home ministry claimed that an installation in the cantonment was attacked by terrorists and the situation was under control. But everyone including the federal government and Pakistan Army have refused to provide further details.  

21:55 Hours

Skies Over Madhya Pradesh

A large screen played a video of bearded Major General  Qasim Rizvi talking to the camera in his full military attire. He spoke in Urdu using a calm measured voice.

“My name is Major General Qasim Rizvi and I have served Pakistan as an army officer for 35 years. I started as a Lieutenant and worked my way to the post of Major General after decades of sacrifice, and hard work . There is not a single person who can raise doubts over my integrity, honesty and loyalty to the nation and islam.  In our army, there were many others even more dedicated people than me who sacrificed everything they had for betterment of Pakistan and glory of islam. But sadly, people like me are now a vanishing minority. We are punished because we care about the country more than the bank balances of our senior officers. Pakistani army  and politics have become tden of a few power hungry and greedy elites who just use their privilege to squeeze out every single paisa from the bones of our long suffering masses.

Most of the politicians are just a tool in hands of these corrupt armed forces officers and in most cases, even more spineless and corrupt. They’ve all abandoned islam and Pakistan for their imported liquor, carnal pleasures, suitcases full of cash and mansions in the west. They rile up masses in name of country, the martyrs, Kashmir, islam and even cricket. But their only motive is to just grab as much money as possible for their lives of sin and debauchery.

I am an devout muslim and a patriotic Pakistani. My grandfather didn’t choose to live in Pakistan just to be a servant of liars, thieves and slaves of the kafirs. I know for a fact that the majority of my countrymen share these feelings but feel powerless to take any action. 

I request such patriotic muslims to consider me their representative and allow me and my companions here to truly liberate Pakistan and add stars to the glory of islam. If you are watching this video, then it means that my companions have succeeded in first phase of our campaign. We now control our own Islamic atom bombs.  The weapons in our control are enough to wipe out crores of kafirs in India, Israel and their friends in a few other places. 

We really don’t want to use these weapons and cause so much suffering anywhere. If we were bloodthirsty terrorists like they’d like you to think, we’d have already fired the weapons months before. But all we want is development of Pakistan and glory to islam in peaceful way. For this purpose, we have decided upon a list of demands that each party mentioned here has to fulfill. Every single point is carefully chosen and completely non-negotiable. Non-compliance of any single order will result in us unleashing everything we have.

1. This regime led by the incompetent puppet PM Sohail Niazi be dismissed and replaced by a military board comprising of three selected honest officers .If this order is not fulfilled within 24 hours, then our men will arrest or nuetralise all members of Pakistani cabinet. If you think that you can save yourself by increasing the security, then think again. How can you be sure that the bodyguard is not my man or the cook will not poison your breakfast?

2. All military officers mentioned in the list I’ll read out in the end should resign of their own accord and handover control of their commands to us. Conditions are same as previous point 

3. Americans need to withdraw from Afghanistan within 10 days. We want to hear this announcement of complete and unconditional withdrawal in 12 hours. We don’t care if they negotiate with “terrorists” or not. Refusal to comply will result in strikes on all their bases and Afghan allies in the region.

4. Indian forces deployed all over Jammu and Kashmir should disarm and retreat to their mainland. Muslims of the state shouldn’t be oppressed by guns of Hindus. If this doesn’t happen in next 72 hours, then every Indian city under our reach will turn into a pile of radioactive ashes. And trust me, I am on a very short fuse with this one.

Now my dear countrymen, knowing you as well as I like to think I do, I know that many of you will be happy with these steps. Then there’ll be a few who think just this is not enough. You will rightly say that I should’ve demanded that Jews go back from Palestine, Americans stop their military operations not just in Afghanistan but our whole Arab lands; and there is so much more. But my dear Pakistanis, I am but a single old man and facing huge odds. The fact that you are watching this video itself is such an improbable miracle that I have to ask you for help.

 It’s very likely that I and many of my companions on this mission may not survive. But I want this holy jihad to go on with your contributions. I know not all of you can pickup guns, but I implore those who can to do so. Those who really can’t, please pressurise your politicians to do the right islamic thing, abandon the path of unislamic debauchery and become true muslims. Report and confront the traitors within us. If we all work together, then we’ll see Pakistan at it’s rightful position as the head of worldwide Dar’ul Islam.

Allah Hafiz

PM rubbed his eyes tiredly and looked at the video conferencing screen. There were expressions of confusion on faces of all the people. He took a sip of water and asked, “So what do we do know? Any ideas?”

NSA spoke first, “From what we know, Pakistanis have stored 4-8 nuclear tipped Nasr missiles on 1-2 launch vehicles  with range of 50-70 km and 400 kg payload in Pano Aqil base. It’s nuclear warheads are low yield type,  0.5 to maximum 5 kilotons.  Pakistani doctrine envisages their use against our massed land troops in a Cold Start type attack. If fired from Pano Aqil base, it’ll not even cross the border. It’s major threat is it’s radiation rather than the yield. Missile’s size is so small that Pakistanis need to pack a lot more than usual Plutonium to have nuclear fission. 

Then there are 4-6 Ghauri (Hatf 5) ballistic missiles with claimed range between 700 to 1200 km depending upon the warhead size which can be between 700 and 1200 kg. Yield of these nuclear warheads can be 35 kilotons. We are not sure how many of the missiles are armed with nuclear warheads, but even a conventional warhead on our bigger cities will cause thousands of deaths.

Ghauri is a copy of North Korean No Dong 1 while Nasr is based on Chinese WS-2 multiple launch rocket system. We don’t have to worry about Nasr right now, but it is possible in theory that it’s smaller warheads can be mated with Ghauri missile. We don’t know if it’ll work in real life or not, but our plan of action assumes that it will.”

He then paused to take a breather and started again, “We have been trying to get in touch with Pakistani authorities through all available channels. Their Prime Minister’s office says that it’s Pakistan’s internal matter and that they’re in control. He himself refuses to talk to us claiming that it’s to comply with safety regulations. Lt General Hafiz of  I Corps and the 2nd in command of Pak army virtually threatened that he couldn’t control his subordinates if we even considered taking military action. His General refused to even take our call and has made three calls to China already. Even the US defence secretary couldn’t get him to comply with his demands..  

So we have two options now. Either we wait and trust that Pakistanis will sort out this problem themselves or we take some action ourselves.”

Our intelligence sources on the ground reported sounds of more gunfire just 20 minutes back. So I don’t think that they are in control and it’s highly unlikely that they’d allow us to do anything in their territory.” 

“So it means that they’re trying to take back control of the nuclear weapons, right?” PM asked in a hopeful tone. 

“After what Hafiz said on the phone, I am not sure about what is going on in their minds. Maybe they’re sincerely trying to neutralise Rizvi, but going by their mentality I can’t help but fear that they can use this confusion to launch a few missiles at us and claim that it was done by non state actors.”

Chief of the Army Staff General Gopal Gurunath spoke next, “Our intelligence suggests that Pakistani military is rushing a large number of soldiers to Pano Aqil and has enforced a no fly zone over the whole country. Also the statements through their official channels are very confusing. They don’t want any intervention by any foreign power and are claiming that they can handle the situation themselves. If we can get them to cooperate, then neutralising this Maj Gen Rizvi and his bunch of lunatics shouldn’t be that difficult. But this high level of alert, their opposition to foreign intervention and  involvement of Americans and conditions on Chinese border complicates the situation.“   

PM nodded and asked, “Any update from AFSOD yet? Do they have everything for the mission?”

CDS Rajinder Singh spoke from his station at AF2, “Special Operations teams are on standby and ready to move in as soon as an assault plan is approved. Air Force is almost done preparing flights for air cover and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD). Pakistanis seem adamant on keeping us out at all costs. So the first phase will involve SEAD and precision air and missile strikes using conventional warheads. Then the ground assault troops will do a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) insertion right in Paro Aqil to destroy the remaining missiles and personnel.“

SEAD operations in a full scale war involve destruction or atleast temporary disabling of enemy air defense systems like Surface To Air Missiles (SAMs), radars, AWACS, air defence guns, command, communications and control facilities. Most common types of SEAD operations involve destruction of enemy radars, communication facilities  and other systems using Anti Radiation Missiles (ARM). These missiles can track electromagnetic emissions from a wide variety of sources and guide themselves to the target.

Dedicated Electronic Warfare (EW) aircraft or normal aircraft equipped with EW pods can temporarily disable enemy defence systems by  jamming and spoofing their communications, radars and targeting systems.  There are a few other ways of SEAD too like laying out a relatively safe corridor for the strike force by use of large chaff clouds, dedicated missions against AD systems using conventional bombs and so on. 

HALO is a way to deploy paratroopers in enemy territory by having them jump out of the airplane at high altitude and opening their parachutes at low altitudes, usually around 1000 m. This type of approach is accurate, stealthy and  helps evade visual detection or by radar. Another approach is High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) which is less stealthy but the personnel can travel for nearly 60 km after the jump. 

“What about extraction of our ground units?” PM asked.

“There is an airstrip within 2 km of our main target area which can be used by our C-130s. If we are unable to secure that, we have some Dhruv and Mi-17 helicopters standing by as the back up plan.” 

“Will it work?”

“It’ll have to, one way or another.” 

Air Chief Marshal Laxman Maadhav spoke next, “We have made battle plans for situations like this before. We can destroy most of that base within 6-7 hours.”

“What will be the guarantee that the nuclear weapons stored there will be destroyed by your strikes?” 

“In a joint air and ground mission, chances of success are fairly good. Our air and missile strikes can make sure that everything related to missile launch infrastructure will either be destroyed or made unusable for a few days atleast.  We’ll need boots on ground to be doubly sure.”

“What about casualties on our side?”

“We are expecting a few losses..” ACM Maadhav answered simply. 

There was a momentary pause as people in the meeting pondered over the odds of ground troops and pilots surviving the mission. Traveling over a 100 km over the heavily fortified region back to the safety of Indian border would be as difficult a task as getting in.

“If we do this, then what stops Pakistanis to use it as an excuse for declaring a war? We can’t really hope to inform them before assault asking for cooperation. They’ll most likely inform the terrorists themselves even if they’re not doing anything themselves.” DM asked no one in particular. 

ACM answered, “We can’t really wait for or trust their word that the nukes are safe. Although they’ve never made it public, it’s common knowledge that even division commanders have nuclear authorisation in Pakistan. We have to assume that Rizvi and perhaps one or more officers working with him have the launch codes.  Our country is under imminent threat of nuclear attack and we have to take every possible action to defend ourselves. There is no need to ask for permission from any other external party. This incident has shown that Pakistani military and political leadership is incapable of even basic nuclear safety measures. Ideally this room should have been discussing the full neutralisation of all Pakistani nuclear assets all over the country. Not just this one small site.”

“You’re right, ideally we should be considering full denuclearisation of Pakistan. Home Minister spoke in support of ACM.  “But there’s a lot going on including tension with Chinese. All this could also be a ploy to divert our attention from some other mischief or even provoke us into an attack and cry victim.”

NSA shook his head, “Pardon me for interrupting, I am not disagreeing with you. But I need to point out that all available evidence makes it seem that it’s a real crisis. There has been a bloody combat, our operatives have seen injured and dead Pakistanis and there are eye witness accounts of Pakistani PM and 2-3 other ministers rushing out of their houses escorted by military. Then you saw the video of Major General Qasim yourself. Chances of it being a false flag operation are very low. Apart from that, there is a bigger risk of loss if we treat it as one.”

“And it doesn’t need saying that Rizvi managed to take control of Pano Akil with full support of many serving personnel of Pakistani army. There has been a mutiny and there’s no way to know which faction of their army is fighting for what purpose. For all that we know, all are hostile to us.“ DM added his input.

“Will we need to divert any resources deployed in any other sector to Pano Aqil? Anything about Chinese?” PM interrupted the increasingly hypothetical discussion. 

CDS shook his head, “Presently we don’t need to do anything like that. I have a gut feeling that Chinese will try to take advantage of this situation. We should not divert attention from them  no matter what happens in Pakistan.”

DM got a notification on his secure tablet. He read it and whispered something to the PM. They talked in hushed voices for a minute and  then PM addressed the participants, “We have an incoming call from American Defence Secretary. We’ll resume this meeting again in 20 minutes.”

22:45 Hours

PM looked slightly relaxed as the meeting reconvened. He streamed a list of American military assets on the shared screen and spoke, “We had detailed talk with US President and Defence Secretary. They are proposing a joint military operation to take care of this threat. This list I’ve shared is the military hardware that they can deploy in the next 2 hours. They’ll be providing air support and help with precision attacks in a few places. They want our help with ground assault and air support in certain sectors. 

General Singh, I need you to assign a high ranking team to work with Americans right now and prepare an attack plan accordingly.I am assuming that it will free up some of our resources to finish  some of our other objectives related to current situation, right? “

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16 April 2020

Beijing.

Sachin Kumar was happy that he had managed to take a day off to see the city and take some pictures after a long time. He had bought his Canon mirrorless DSLR few months back after he was posted to the Indian consulate in Beijing. After settling in his work routine, he had made it a point to go out in the city to take pictures of tourist sights, buildings and people whenever he had time for it. Only thing he couldn’t do was bird photography which pinched him a bit as he had bought a very expensive long zoom lens for it. He had spent 2 months in Beijing looking for birds to photograph in the city and it’s outskirts without any success. It was only after a local employee had told him about the Chinese habit of capturing and eating local birds in various kinds of soups that he had stopped carrying his heavy zoom lens while on his photographic expeditions.

He was on yet another city discovery walk by himself  trying to get some good pictures of  Beijing National Stadium after dark. Someone in the embassy had marked out a good spot on his paper map of the city from where he could get the kind of shots he wanted. He had been in the same spot for about an hour taking pictures and waiting for light to change for different types of shots. There were 3-4 people like him doing the same things with their own cameras and phone cameras. 

He was fiddling through the camera setting trying to set up the best settings for his next shot when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see a Chinese man dressed in civilian clothes he had never seen before. He had been approached by many tourists in the past who’d ask him to take their photos with their cameras. So he assumed him to be yet another such tourist who liked a regular picture better than selfies. “Yes hello, how can I help?” he  spoke in his broken Mandarin.

The Chinese man replied in fairly good English, “What are you taking pictures of?”

Kumar showed him the screen of his camera, “This Stadium building! Quite interesting, right?”

“Any reason why you are taking so detailed pictures of the building?” came yet another question.

“I like taking pictures of buildings among a few other things and this one is quite beautiful.” Kumar replied.

Chinese man stared at the stadium in background and then at the screen, avoiding any kind of eye contact even while talking. “Do you know that a City Parade will start from there next week?”

Kumar just shook his head, “No idea about that.”

“And what do you do for work? Do you have any id?” Came another question.

Kumar was starting to get irritated, but asked a question of his own, “May I know who you are and why are you asking me this?”

The Chinese man  took out his ID card with the logo of Beijing Police displayed prominently and the rest of text in Chinese, “Superintendent Liu Wenqing, Beijing Police.”

Kumar was slightly concerned but took out his own wallet to show his ID,“I am Sachin Kumar,  Second Secretary at Indian embassy in Beijing.”

Wenqing took the ID from Kumar’s hand and took a long hard look at it. He then lit a cigarette and spoke casually, “Gather your things Mr Sachin Kumar.  You’re coming with me.”

Kumar stood his ground, “May I know what I am being charged with? I have diplomatic immunity and I was not doing anything illegal.”

Wneqing looked at him in the eyes for the first time since the conversation had started, “I didn’t make a request, but ordered you. Come quickly.”

Kumar shook his head, “If you don’t like me taking pictures of the stadium, I’ll leave the place immediately. But you can’t arrest a diplomat, that too just for taking pictures that hundreds of tourists do everyday.”

Wenqing took a deep drag of his cigarette and made a signal. Three men in plain clothes who had walked in slowly from a distance suddenly rushed in. Two of them forcibly handcuffed him and the third searched him. They took out his wallet, phone, keys and sunglasses and put it in a bag. Kumar shouted in surprise and anger, but two swift punches to the ribs left him breathless and writhing in pain.  He was dragged to an unmarked car and forced to get in. Two of his captors took seats on his both sides and other two sat in front.  

Once in the car, Kumar tried to talk again, “Let me make a call to my office.” Wenqing reached back from passenger seat in front and blew cigarette smoke in his direction. “Go ahead Mr Kumar, call whoever you can.”

Kumar received a punch to his side of his head leaving him dizzy and shocked. For the first time in his life, he feared for his personal safety. But there was nothing much he could do in the car. 

19 April, Beijing

China United Television & Information Agency 

Two Indian spies arrested in Beijing  

Amidst growing tensions between China and India, Chinese security agencies have arrested  two senior Indian diplomats on charges of spying and espionage. Two men from Indian embassy, a Second Secretary named Sachin Kumar and Air Attache Group Captain Gautam Pant were arrested by officers of internal security with some incriminating material which included maps, memory sticks, cameras, encrypted phones and some sensitive documents.

One of the spies was arrested as he was doing reconnaissance in front of Beijing National Stadium which is going to host a CCP Rally in a few days. Both men have been handed over to Ministry of State Security and taken to an yet undisclosed location for interrogation. A spokesman from Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the illegal activities of Indian embassy and declared the two men persona non grata. It’s expected that they will be extradited from China within 3 days. 

With these arrests, China has busted a massive spying and propaganda ring spearheaded by these two men in China for infamous Indian spy agency Research & Analysis Wing. More details are expected to come out once the data in memory sticks and phones confiscated from the two spies is analysed.

After the news about the arrest of two spies was released, a crowd of 350-400 Chinese citizens laid siege to Indian embassy in Beijing forcing it’s closure. Riot control police was deployed after the crowd turned unruly and damaged some embassy property. Some people have reportedly been hurt and hospitalised in the chaos.   

Indian consulate in Shanghai has ceased all official functions this morning. Chinese staff of the office was told to stay home pending further instructions. It’s still unclear when they will resume normal duties.

A spokesman from Indian External Affairs Ministry declined all charges about the spying activities of the two embassy staffers and criticised their arrest and subsequent actions. He demanded immediate release of the two officers and more protection for Indian embassy and consulate.   

Same Day, New Delhi, India

“This is simply not unacceptable at all, sir. Chinese have gone too far with this.” External Affairs Minister Piyush Vajpayee was uncharacteristically angry. 

Defence Minister Maadhvan Kamat  was no less riled up,  “They’ve arrested our diplomats on made up charges and are most likely torturing them for a fake confession. These two are not even spies for real! What exactly do these morons want to prove or do by arresting diplomats on made up charges?”

“You both are preaching to the choir. Let’s decide what should be our plan of action for now. We can’t jeopardise safety of our people in China by any rash action.” PM Angad Bisht tried to cool down tempers.

“An eye for an eye, that should be a good start.” DM replied after having a sip of tea.

“An eye for an eye” PM said  contemplatively, “But how? Arrest some of their people here and send a murderous mob to 50-D, Chaanakyapuri? (Address of Chinese Embassy in New Delhi). 

By the way, what did Jil Ron say?” PM asked, referring to the demarche issued to Chinese ambassador earlier in the day.

”Nothing of substance really, just the usual platitudes he is so good at.” DM replied and shook his head in frustration.

There was a knock on the door of the meeting room and personal assistant of NSA Ajay Dhumal furtively walked in but stayed near the door. Normal protocol stated that no such interruption was to be allowed except in a truly exceptional case. Dhumal got up to talk to him and sent him outside after hearing his message. “Seems like some of our Chinese friends from 50-D are making a run for it. Their plane has made a request at the airport for flight clearance and fuel.” 

EAM seemed unfazed, “Do we know who is going to be on the plane yet?”

NSA Dhumal nodded, “Some of them, yes. Three Secretaries, one Attache, two employees  from their visa section and some family members. Atleast two of them are confirmed spies. What do we do? Shall we let them leave?”

PM Bisht shook his head, “Of course not. Tell the airport to refuse permission for take off and fuel supply.”  

DM and NSA exchanged a look which led to PM remarking, “And you have already done that. Good! We also had some input about some Indian citizens with links to them. Are we doing anything about them?”

DM Dhumal nodded, “I’ve already set the ball rolling. CBI is submitting chargesheets against National News editor board and some comrades from Socialist Party Of India. We already have more than enough dirt on them to keep them in courts and hopefully jails for atleast a few years. After their statements in support of China in last few days, there is no need for us to play nice.

As far as some other moles are concerned, we’ve increased surveillance on some and started to whack a few. We don’t want Chinese to realise that we’ve penetrated their spy ring so soon.”

“Good, do as you see fit. What can we do to get our people back safe and sound?” PM asked.

EAM Vajpayee seemed to have calmed down a bit and answered, “As long as we have their people here, they can’t do much to our people there. I highly recommend that we tighten the screws here. Once they see that we are going to match and perhaps even overmatch their moves, they’re sure to back down. None of these mandarins have the stomach for real action when their own butts are in line of fire.”

NSA Dhumal warned in his customary manner, “Although I approve what EAM said, I must remind everyone present in the room that there is a real danger of this progressing far beyond an ugly diplomatic spat. Whatever we are doing are calculated risks but there is no reliable way to be sure.”

 PM nodded, “That’s true, but we need to draw a line in sand and start to take some visible actions. Their bullying has gone on for far too long. They are just testing our resolve with childish moves like these. If we don’t reply back in the same tone, I’m sure that they’ll do something worse next time. 

Apart from that, what’s our status with Tibetans?”

“We are taking it slow after the spy bust in January. The main mole arrested was just an aide to someone close to PM Kalsang, but it’ll not be a stretch to assume that Chinese now know what we are doing with respect to recognition to Tibet as an independent country. I also talked with Major General Vats last week and he assured that the 7 battalions of new Tibetan Army will be fully trained and equipped by end of June. We can start moving them in to Tibet after that or declare their existence, depending upon the conditions then.”   

“That’s good, let’s not waste too much time doing that. We need to finalise date of declaration about Tibet after the troop movement starts.”

“We also need to make a decision about Maldives. Shall we issue another package or keep it as it is  for a while?” EAM said while displaying a copy of the letter sent by Maldivian finance minister.

The letter thanked India for the USD 110 million soft loan and requested assistance with more projects in coming months.

Maldivian economy was reeling due to collapse of tourism industry caused by Corona virus. Chinese saw it as a perfect opportunity to put more pressure on them and demanded payments for their projects and loans in the small island nation. China had financed infrastructure projects worth USD 1.5 billion as part of its Belt & Road Initiative during the reign of Maldivian President Abdul Gayoom. 

He had sought to increase ties with China by snubbing India and favouring Chinese companies in all major projects in the country. One major such project was USD 500 million island airport project which was awarded to a Chinese company even when it had lost out to an Indian competitor in the tendering process.  His reign was marked by numerous allegations of money laundering, corruption and illegal sale of Maldivian islands and other assets to foreign interests. During the last year of his term, he had put all major opposition politicians in jail and sought to postpone the elections via an amendment to the constitution.   

Indian regime saw this move as a coup by China who wanted their puppet to stay in power indefinitely.  After a request for help by the main opposition leader and former president Ibrahim Wahid, India intervened by exercising it’s long standing diplomatic and intelligence influence. NSA Dhumal had led the mission personally and had managed to get the political prisoners released from custody and attempt to modify the constitution were defeated in the national assembly. There were unconfirmed reports of Chinese trying to land a battalion worth of troops in Male in support of Gayoom,, but no information was released about what had actually happened to their transporters carrying the troops.  All three governments had dismissed the reports calling them rumours. 

Wahid won national elections in early 2019 with near 60% of votes and took oath as President. Gayoom was caught by Maldivian coast guard as he was allegedly trying to escape in his yacht and tried in court for multiple charges of corruption and illegal use of power. The court found him guilty of most charges and he was imprisoned for 17 years and permanently disbarred from fighting elections.

Since then Indian and Maldivian governments had worked closely to repair the relations between two countries. Maldivian government investigated some projects started by China during Gayoom’s trial and found out that quite a few were awarded without following due process and benefitted members of Gayoom’s regime and Chinese companies instead of Maldivian economy. Many such projects were renegotiated or were put on hold if no middle ground could be found with Chinese. 

As expected, Chinese had not taken this lying down. They had slowed down work on their projects and started putting diplomatic and economic pressure on Wahid regime. Maldives’ economy was in a bad shape after the spread of Corona virus and resulting collapse of tourism industry and they were finding it difficult to pay back the due loans to China.

Indian government had seen this as an opportunity to increase it’s goodwill and had extended a credit line worth USD 300 million along with a currency swap agreement of worth USD 250 million. But Maldives needed still more assistance for a new saline water treatment plant and a 100 MW solar power plant which were held up after the Chinese contractors working on them were disqualified for having used corrupt means to grab the projects and using sub-standard equipment. The latest letter requested Indian assistance with the delayed yet vital projects.

DM Kamat scoffed, “Isn’t this solar project the same one for which an Indian company had bid the lowest, yet was elbowed out?”

EAM nodded, “Yes, it was done by Gayoom. This was one of the charges he was convicted of.” Then addressing the room he asked, “I think we should say yes. They’ve agreed to award the project to the same Indian companies if we offer favourable loan terms.”

DM read through the Maldivian letter, “Aren’t we extending ourselves a bit too thin here? We’ve already spent around USD 900 million on Maldives, 790 on Sri Lanka and 440 on Mauritius  just in the past one year. And there’s no guarantee that we will recover our investments, more so if Chinese manage to install their puppets in these countries yet again.

We still haven’t managed to solve the Nepal issue yet. Bangladeshis have asked for more money too, Afghanistan definitely needs stuff worth 600-800 million, Same with Myanmar and we may have a Bhutan problem soon. We can’t be seen throwing money to anyone who asks for it.”

EAM mentally rolled his eyes but answered patiently, “Not disputing what you said, but it’s not like we are just giving them free money all at once. All these aid packages, loans and lines of credit are spread over months and years. Most of them are investments in industrial projects, infrastructure and high visibility and goodwill projects such as colleges and hospitals. The goodwill that we earn from this more than just pays for the monetary investment we make.

Chinese are spending many times this number in a single country and are on verge of making a number of them their vassals. We can’t be counting paisas when our allies turn to Chinese sphere of influence enmasse.”

DM conceded, “You’re right. All I was asking is If we can afford it.”

“I will get Deshmukh ji (Finance Minister) to look in to it and see what we can do for Maldives. I don’t think it should be a problem.” PM spoke and changed topic, “Any update about Nepal?”

NSA Dhumal shook his head, “Nothing really important that needs to be discussed right now apart from a few political things. The alliance between NPS and NCP has started to show friction as predicted. A group of NPS legislators have threatened to withdraw support for the alliance or resign, but their numbers are not that strong yet to bring the NPS-NCP alliance in to minority. ”

EAM showed a pie chart of seat share in the Nepalese assembly on the screen, “The rebel faction still needs 12-14 more legislators to pose any serious threat to the alliance. ”

“I don’t really disagree with you, but you are missing the fact that most of NCP is Chinese proxy. They are playing it slow and not making the same mistakes they did in Maldives among a few other countries. But I can bet that they are just biding their time and will cause more problems for us very soon.” NSA raised his objections. 

“That’s also very true.” PM observed. “So what can we do about this?”

“We have adopted a wait and watch attitude but keeping our options open.  We’ll not do anything in the short term if the Uttam Maharaj plays nice after our latest approach. But if and when he does, we will get him kicked out without letting the rest of Chinese stooges any close to the power centre. “ NSA spoke quickly, “And if you’ll have my opinion based on many intelligence reports, it’s just a matter of when, not if. Chinese will definitely do something to needle us through their Nepalese proxies. We just don’t know what and when.”

PM thought about it for a moment and looked at DM, who nodded his approval to what NSA had said. “You have my permission. Keep our options and eyes open in Nepal, but don’t take any rash decisions.”

“We also need to talk about Saudis.They have kept us busy since last few days.”  EAM spoke hurriedly and shared a document with the room.

For a long time, Pakistan sold itself as the mercenary to Arab countries, acting as the self-proclaimed guardian of ummah and the sole Islamic nuclear power. A lot of Arab nations employed Pakistani in their defence forces and funded Pakistani military in return.One of the Pakistani dictators, Gen Zia-ul-Haq commanded a Jordaninan army division in a bloody fight against Palestinians in 1970 leading to deaths of more than twenty five thousand Palestinians, most of them unarmed civilians. Some people had noticed that Jordaninans and Pakistanis had killed a lot more Palestinians in 10 days than what Israelis had in 20 years. Pakistani pilots had also flown sorties in Arab campaigns against Israel. 

Many analysts believed that Pakistani nuclear program was financed by Saudis in return for transfer of some nuclear tipped missiles. Saudi investment in Pakistan was quite a more diverse affair than just financial and military. Ever since Pakistan had adopted a full fledged Islamist ideology under Zia-ul-Haq, Saudis had pumped in billions of dollars promoting their brand of strict Wahabi Islam by way of direct financing, construction of mosques, seminaries and propping up islamist mullahs and politicians which promoted their ideology. This meant that Saudis had a lot stronger grip on Pakistani internal politics, religious affairs and civil society than most people gave them credit for.

Even as Pakistan jumped from one sugar daddy to another, grip of Saudis on what it could do remained strong yet hidden as most analysts felt uncomfortable analysing role of islam in the power play. Saudi money and influence played a big role in this too. They were not very pleased when Pakistan started shifting its allegiance to China and Turkey. All of Islamic world was willing to overlook and even condone  Chinese atrocities on Uighur muslims, but their tolerance ran thin when Chinese started to expand their influence in their backyards. Although the two countries shared good relations, Saudis  were not happy with how Chinese were gaining power in Pakistan with their money and weapons. They had curtailed their financial and diplomatic support to Pakistan knowing very well that China with all it’s money could hope to have as strong a grip on Pakistani psyche as them.

Indian policymakers had realised the fact and were using the fact to counter Pakistan. A number of trade deals and military pacts signed during last 3-4 years had made Saudis more appreciative of Indian concerns too. Even as Saudi society remained in the vice like grip of the royal family and their islamic edicts, their actions in international forums were a bit more progressive.  Unlike in past, they had voted against Pakistan on numerous forums and had supported Pakistan’s blacklisting due to its support for terrorism. The fact that Saudi promoted Wahabi ideology had played a huge role in the rise of islamic fanaticism in Pakistan was a point neither acknowledged nor discussed. 

Over the last few months, Indian diplomats had persuaded Saudis to go slow on their economic assistance to Pakistan. Collapse of oil prices and Saudi desire to have a few allies outside of islamic world had also played a role. NSA and EAM had multiple meetings with their Saudi counterparts and hammered out a number of trade and security agreements. Under US pressure, India was being cajoled in to distancing itself from Iran, a mortal enemy of Saudis. So as India bought more oil from Saudis, latter was more than willing to address Indian security concerns.  EAM wanted to get inform about Saudi offer of emergency sale of 30 million barrels.

“30 million barrels at USD 46 each, that’s a lot of oil at above market prices!” DM exclaimed. 

“Yes, but they are kind of desperate right now. Russians are not agreeing to OIC proposed oil production cuts, Corona has nearly crippeled the world economy and are willing to undercut them even more. Saudis want to get rid of as much oil as possible before oil prices collapse even further.”

“That’s all right. But why should we buy more oil now when it’s going to sell for much lower in a few weeks?”

“They’re willing to stop all monetary aid to Pakistan and support our pending motions in UN and other agencies. If they get on our side here, then UAE, Qatar and most of OIC will likely vote in our favour too.” EAM smiled and looked at PM. He had spent a lot of time courting most major factions in he Arab world and his work was finally bearing fruit, “Additionally, this purchase will fit nicely with our project of upgradation of national oil reserves.”

PM looked at his watch and paused for a moment before speaking. “If finance people approve it, I don’t have any objection. It’ll be good to have as much reserves as possible in conditions like these.” 

I think that’s enough for this meeting. I have to reach Tawang by 6 pm.”

Global News

Cooler heads prevail in an ugly diplomatic brawl

Tensions between China and India which started over the arrest of two Indian diplomats in Beijing in last week of July seem to be cooling down. The stand down happened when India removed the barricading of Chinese embassy in New Delhi following the same move by Chinese authorities in Beijing and Shanghai. Chinese secret police had arrested two Indian diplomats and what India alleged in a chain of illegal actions, detained and tortured them in custody. Following news of the arrest, a Chinese nationalist mob had attacked Indian embassy in Beijing with rocks and petrol bombs. Several Indian embassy staffers were injured in the attack and were forced to seek medical attention within embassy premises as the mob refused to let any vehicle out of premises. 

The two arrested diplomats who were declared persona non grata and were seen at the airport boarding a flight while handcuffed with visible injury marks on their faces. Some of the eyewitnesses at the airport claimed that the Chinese security personnel escorting the diplomats were unduly violent and unruly with their prisoners. 

Following this, India had refused fuel supply and permission to fly for the Chinese aircraft that was supposed to bring a handful of diplomats and their families back from New Delhi. Some of the Chinese embassy personnel who had reached the airport were confined in there and denied permission to either board the aircraft or go back to their accommodations in the city. India had also accused three Chinese embassy staffers including one First Secretary of being Chinese intelligence agents. They were detained from their residences and held up in custody of local military intelligence unit. One of the diplomats was injured when he suffered a fall down the stairs in his apartment while trying to escape from Indian security agents sent to detain him..

A spokesman from Chinese foreign ministry later alleged that their diplomats were  beaten in custody, but their Indian counterparts rubbished the allegations calling them delusions of a bully with a perpetual victimhood complex. 

Following the removal of barricading, both embassies are expected to start basic work from tomorrow though it’s not clear if either country will reduce it’s embassy staff. A senior Indian bureaucrat from Indian EAM had hinted of such a decision a few days back. China will be forced to do the same if India goes ahead with such a move. 

This incident had sparked a global fear about a war between the two nuclear armed countries. A lot of analysts had expressed their fears over an imminent war as the two countries had a lot of other disputes going on related to territory and trade among a few other issues. A lot of people on social media have expressed their happiness over the deescalation. Though a large number of people from both countries have been calling for stronger measures and even war to teach the “enemy” a lesson.  

Citizens of both countries had engaged in a virtual war over the latest conflict on various social media platforms. A lot of websites in both countries were hacked and defaced by self-proclaimed nationalist hacker groups from both countries, Since China has a closed internet system, most of the Chinese users on platforms banned in China like Facebook and Twitter were not as numerous as Indians. Chinese social media like Weibo on the other hand, had only pro-Chinese posts. Both places had a large amount of racist and hateful content against the other. Some of it has been deleted and many users banned for hate speech in India, but there are no reports of any such action in China so far where internet is strictly controlled by the CCP regime.

This propaganda war is still going on even after recent developments and is unlikely to cool down anytime soon.

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Few thoughts over so much “analysis” of Armenia-Azerbaijan war, effect of drones on modern warfare & how it figures in Indian context.

First, Armenia which was on receiving end:

Turkish TB-2. One of few drones used by Azerbaijan


1. Armenia had only ancient Soviet era defense systems  Strela, Buk & Osa, that too in very small numbers spread over a very large area. Their air defense and battlefield radar surveillance capability was virtually non-existent.


 2. Even Amrenian S-300 PM were 35 years old and were designed for defence against cruise missiles & aircraft. This old tech can’t engage more than a handful of targets at a time and was never designed for defence against small drones. Even most modern defence systems are vulnerable to saturation attacks that Azeris did.

S-300PM-2 Favorit chứng minh không thể bị gây nhiễu điện ...
S-300PM

3. One of the strongest AD against drones is Electronic Warfare and Jamming. Low tech drones with limited LOS used by Azeris can be jammed fairly easily. Yet Armenians lacked even this basic EW warfare capability.

4. Almost all of Azeri hits were on isolated Armenian targets which had low to nil AD cover. 

5. Only aircraft which can shootdown drones in  Armenian Air Force are 4 Su-30SM and 15 Mi-24.  Total of 4 jets and 15 old helicopters is not even barely enough,


6. Only comparatively strong air defence systems that drones have been able to penetrate successfully in last few years is Saudi. There, it was mostly due to incompetence and unpreparedness.

Now about India. 

India sure lacks cheap attack drones in large numbers. Yet it doesn’t mean that we need to start panicking and start cycle of emergency purchases. For one, India has a fairly robust defense system and second, drones are not the unstoppable wonder weapons that many people think they are.

1. Indian troops are using cheap drones for surveillance for many years now on LoC and LAC. Just go through news reports of drone shootdowns in the region. Majority of these drones can be brought down by machine gun fire. A vast majority of cheap drones rely on navigation line of sight which is more often than not a luxury in mountainous borders.


2. Most of these quadcopter type drones are virtually unusable in high altitude areas due to thin air, cold and strong winds.


3. India is already using multiple advanced Indian, Israeli and now American drones including a few armed ones like Harpy for many years. DRDO and private sector are involved in R&D and production of different types of such drones.

4. Unlike Armenians, Indian AD systems include multiple layers of radars, EW systems, guns and SHOARDS like AD guns, shoulder launched missiles and supported by their long ranged counterparts. Even Indian navy has more combat enabled aircraft than few countries like Armenia combined. Some dedicated anti-drone systems have already been deployed like Ashlesha, Bharani radars and a yet unnamed portable anti-drone system by DRDO. 

DRDO's anti-drone defense system
DRDO’s anti-drone defense system


In nutshell:

  1. Are drones a serious threat? Yes. But not as much as they are to weak countries like Armenia or incompetent types like Saudi Arabia.
  2. Are we doing anything about increasing our defensive & offensive capabilities wrt drones? Yes.

South-West Tibet

Rinchen crawled slowly on his knees and elbows and stopped just short of the edge of cliff. He was wearing three layers of insulated clothing under his special snow and ice camouflage, yet icy wind still managed to chill his bones. The fact that he was lying on an ice cold rocky surface didn’t help either. He cleared his throat softly and wiped his nose under the mask. 

“So tell me once again Pema, why are we freezing our ass off here on this icy cliff for two days in such suicidal conditions when the same job can be done by UAVs and satellites.”

“If you manage to not get us killed in next 4-5 hours, you’ll see for yourself.” 

“Oh believe me you jerk. I certainly don’t wish to die here on this cold as fuck mountain. I do have a girlfriend I’d like to see again back home.”

“Yeah and maybe lose your virginity too.”

“I lost that with your girlfriend. Didn’t she tell you?”

“I’ve only had a boyfriend, that’s you.”

The idle chatter of two SFF soldiers was broken by sight of a small dust cloud in the distance. 

“Target in sight.” The attitude of two soldiers changed instantly to mission mode. Pema adjusted the focus of his high power binoculars to get a better look while Rinchen reported the update via a secure communications console. Feed from Pema’s binoculars was being fed to the communications console and streamed to Indian intelligence centre hundreds of kilometers away. They watched the convoy come closer over the mountainous roads and stop at an open flat spot in between the mountain peaks. 

“4 launchers, 5 what seem like radar vehicles, 14 supply trucks, 3 troop transports, 6 mounted ack-acks, (slang for anti-aircraft guns) and they are all stopping in the reported coordinates. So one whole S-400 battery to defend just this sector.” Pema spoke softly.

“I hope that they don’t ask us to go and destroy all that stuff there now.” Rinchen put gloves back on his hands and rubbed them to get them to warm up again. It was difficult handling the small buttons with thick gloves, so he had taken them off. 

“Well, if we want to stop Chinese supply lines and hit them where it matters, SAM batteries like these need to go. By the way, did you notice that they have a full company worth of soldiers deployed just for perimeter defence? I can see a few RPGs too. They’re not taking any chances. ”

“Yeah, let’s just hope that they don’t feel like coming in our direction or deploy their UAVs over us.” 

A handful of Indian reconnaissance teams like them had placed a few cleverly hidden sensors on  surrounding peaks over the last few days. Many years back, CIA had employed Tibetans to deploy sensors to spy on Chinese nuclear weapons program. “Somethings really don’t change much.” Rinchen thought to himself and switched on the console again after observing completion of radar deployment process by the Chinese crew. The sensors collected whatever radio frequencies Chinese were using for radars and communications and sent it to the console operated by Rinchen. The data was then encrypted, compressed and transmitted via satellite to Indian control center at random intervals. Whole thing had been planned carefully over months to prevent the enemy from detecting the transmission and it’s source. Even if they managed to detect the radio traffic by some blind luck, they were more likely to dismiss it as some normal radio interference or reflections rather than a spying device. Indian familiarity with this series of missiles helped a lot. 

With tensions rising everyday both India and China were doing their best to be prepared for war. This reconnaissance mission was just one of many such similar ones under progress of being planned by both sides. Indian police in Sikkim had arrested three men a few days back under suspicion of being Chinese spies.Chinese too had arrested a number of people in Tibet as well as a few other provinces under charges of spying. Some of the arrested people were spies indeed, but most were not. In China, with no proper justice system, it didn’t matter much. Suspicion and circumstantial evidence was more than enough for years in a jail or even execution. The best the two men could hope in case of capture was a firing squad. 

It had been made very clear to all the recruits on their first day of training. Out of forty volunteers and after a year of training, only eight had been chosen for cross-border operations inside Chinese held territories. Each one of them had accepted the mission knowing very well that their chances of dying were much higher than that of survival. Pema and Rinchen had been operating in Tibet for two weeks and expected to stay for perhaps four more. 

This mission of monitoring Chinese anti-air assets was one of many in their list. Now that they had completed it, they were free to move on to the next one. The two man team would leave the equipment behind to let it operate for six to seven months before it needed a new battery.

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