On November 8, 2013, the Hellenic Coast Guard detained the cargo ship Nour M sailing under the flag of Sierra Leone in the Aegean Sea. The reason for the detention was the information that the ship was carrying 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives in 59 freight containers without proper documents.
It is reported that the ship departed from the portof Oktjabrsk (Ukraine) on October 25.According to the ship’s captain, Hüseyin Yilmaz, its final port of destination was the port of Tripoli (Lebanon), and the cargo was intended for the Libyan Ministry of Defence.
On September 7 this year, The Washington Post published an article which stated that Rosoboronexport, Russian agency, uses the port of Oktjabrsk for the supply of arms toSyria and Venezuela. This assumption is supported by the data of March 20-27, 2012 on the delivery of Russian arms (SA-10 Grumble and SA-17 Grizzly surface-to-air missile systems, Smerch multiple rocket launchers and SSC-6 Sennight mobile coastal defence missile systems) by Ocean Voyager and Ocean Fortune ships to Venezuela. Both ships belonged to Kaalbye Shipping International, which is a partner of Rosoboronexport. This company is mentioned in the report of Mike Rogers (Michigan politician, member of the Republican Party), the Chairman of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,as involved in the supplyof Russian arms to Syria.
Reports of the independent research carried out by C4ADS indicate that the port in Mykolaiv Oblasthas become one of the key transit points for the supply of Russian arms to troubled areas of the world.According to the analysts of C4ADS, ships that sail under the flags of Syria and Lebanon are used to smuggle weapons to Syria. Several Syrian cargo ships made more than ten sailings between the port of Oktjabrsk and one of the three major ports of Syria (Latakia, Tartus, which is home to a Russian naval facility, and Baniyas) during the period from January 2012 to mid-2013, although there are no reliable evidence of the presence of weapons on board.
After the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011, Russia has continued to comply with the terms of the previously signed arms contracts, includingones for the supplyof various types of weapons, and abstained from signing the treaty on the arms trade in April 2013. Russian Foreign Ministry insists that the country supplies to Syria exclusively defensive weapons, and, in response to the criticism fromthe United States, pointed out that the supply of SA-10 Grumble air defence systemsis a deterrent that preventsoutside interference into the situation inside the country.
Thus, there is evidence that the Russian Federation supplies arms to Syria,including through the Ukrainian port of Oktjabrsk.
Some sources claim that the detention of the vessel indicates that somebody had given a tip-off about its cargo to the Greek authorities.
After the detention of the vessel by the Hellenic Coast Guard, foreign media have actively supported the hypothesis that the vessel was bound for a Turkish port on the border with Syria, or for a port in Syria. The first were the news agencies of Greece (ANA) and Lebanon (Al-Sharq al-Jadid).The Athenian news agency stated that the final destination was set as Tartus (Syria) in the maritime transport system, which is contrary to the documents carried by the vessel, and to open information databases. Moreover, the information systems, which the Greek media cite, warn that their data are not official, and cannot be used for commercial or navigation purposes, and thus may be inaccurate or erroneous.
In addition, the ship’s captain provided the Greek authorities with the documents thatshowed that the cargo was supplied in accordance with the FOB terms, which means that itceased to be Ukrainian immediately after leaving the port.
The end-user certificates issued by the Ministry of Defence of Libya were attached to the documents, which would ab initio eliminate any questions regarding the destination country.
However, the supply of arms to Libya from Ukraine is contrary to the interests of the Kremlin in the region. On September 2, 2013, Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, said that the illegal flow of small arms into the hot spots in the Middle East from Libya was reported, and 12 countries are involved. However, on September 10, 2013, Sergey Lavrov said that Russia intends to actively cooperate with Libya in the supply of arms, training of personnel and protection of its borders. ‘We see good prospects in developing military and technical co-operation, including supply of arms and necessary equipment, as well as training of personnel for the Libyan army and police.We have also discussed possible projects that will help our Libyan friends to strengthen border security,’ he said after meeting his Libyan counterpart, Mohamed Abdelaziz. So, the Libyan arms market is returning to the area of interest of the Kremlin, which will try to squeeze competitors out of the market.
It should be noted that the detention of the vessel by the Hellenic Coast Guard coincided with the following events:
1. Visit of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych to the Russian Federation.
2. Signing of the European Union Association Agreement in Vilnius on November 28.
3. Transfer of first five T-84 Oplot main battle tanks to the Royal Thai Army, and success of the delegation of Ukroboronpromin promotion of its production in Uruguay (late October 2013).
This may indicate that the staged arms smuggling into the conflict zonecould be part of a planned action against Ukraine,and could be aimed at discrediting the nation’s leadership, and the state as an active participant in the global arms market, forming an unfavourable international image to prevent the signing of the European Union Association Agreement.
So today there are three versions of the scandal’s causes:
Version No. 1. The events involving the Nour M vessel may be indicative of a special operation against Ukraine to cover a large supply of weapons from Russia to Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria diverting the world’s attentionon the legitimate cargointended for the Government of Libya. According to our estimates, at the time of transportation of the cargo by the Nour M vessel, the Kremlin could ship large quantities of weapons to the official Damascus, and the detention of the Nour M vessel by the Hellenic Coast Guard and the subsequent scandal were aimed to divert attention from that.
So, Moscow, accused of supplying weapons to Syria,is interested in linking the port of Oktjabrsk to the supply of Ukrainian weapons and distancing from the logistics arrangement that uses this port.In addition, the scandal with an accusation of Ukraine of supplying weapons to the area of civil war in Syria would allow to withdraw or to question the similar accusations brought earlier against the Kremlin. Also, such action would undermine the position of Ukraine on the world arms market, disrupt the planned contracts, and squeeze Ukrainian exporters out of the markets where Russia has interest.
Version No. 2. The cargo from Ukraine can be labelled as intended for the Syrian rebels (for instance, Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda associate),which will allow the Kremlin to maintain its position on the supply of arms to Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Version No. 3.Defamation of Ukraine before the third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. Although the vessel was detained on November 8, the opening of containers did not begin until November 11. If the investigation continues at such pace, it can drag on until the Summit in Vilnius. Launching a media campaign to accuse Ukraine of illegal arms sales is also possible.
There is a high probability that the situation surrounding the detention of Nour M is the solution of several problemsand the above versions are interrelated. The effectiveness of using arms scandals to influence the geopolitical and domestic political landscapes, and to drive the competition out of the arms market was demonstrated at the beginning of thenoughtiesduring the notorious ‘Kolchuga (an ESM system) scandal’. Given the extremely tense situationaround Ukraine, the instigators of the scandalmay pursue not one but several goals. If it is true, a large-scale campaign to discredit Ukraine using special methods lies ahead.
Russia points to evidence exposing Kiev’s intentions to use biological weapons
Documents uncovered in the special military operation in Ukraine corroborate the evidence exposing the Kiev regime’s intentions to use biological weapons, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Research Center for Chemical and Biological Threats Dmitry Poklonsky said in the run-up to the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention. “In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” he said – informs TASS.
“We have obtained reports of investigations into a collection of microorganisms that indicate the accumulation of pathogens in unsubstantiated amounts. There are documents confirming the intentions to acquire unmanned delivery vehicles that could be used for employing biological weapons. Considering the non-transparent nature of this work and the absence of any substantiated responses from the United States and Ukraine, we, of course, regard the documents obtained as proof that Article 1.4 of the Convention was violated,” the defense official said.
The documents obtained in the special military operation in Ukraine, including reports by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense, corroborate that the nature of work carried out there frequently ran counter to pressing healthcare problems, he stressed.
“In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” Poklonsky pointed out.
Neither Washington nor Kiev deny the fact of the existence of biological labs in Ukraine bankrolled by the Pentagon, he pointed out.
“It was confirmed by the 2005 agreement between the US Department of Defense and the Ukrainian Health Ministry. Far more questions arise from the nature of the studies being carried out in these biological laboratories and how this work complies with the Convention’s requirements,” the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Chemical and Biological Threats said.
Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS)- The Pandora’s Box of Security Issues
The world, functioning in its numerous forms and dimensions, is primarily perceived and misperceived by individuals through the faculty of the human Mind. A factor that creates a significant difference vis-a-vis human beings and other species is the complex cognitive ability possessed by humans. The mind is fundamentally an expression of thoughts circulated and imbibed through various means of communication. Deconstructing it further, thoughts portray the information consumed by an individual. In other words, this complex combination of the human mind, thoughts, and information shapes and reshapes our psychology.
Psychological war, in this context, can be perceived as a strategically orchestrated arrangement of information derived from variables like history, polity, religion, culture, literature, and philosophy broadly to channel propaganda with the prime objective of influencing and manipulating the behavior of the enemy to further one own interest. The term Psychological war is believed to be coined by a British Historian and military analyst, J.F.C Fuller, in 1920. One can observe that psychological war as an instrument of strategic importance is not of recent origin. Instead, the evolution of this tactic can be traced long back in history since the emergence of the State. It is considered one of the fundamental tools of statecraft and quite often has been put into the application as an instrument of state policy. Drawing a logical parallel, it can be advocated that psychological war has a close resemblance with the ancient notion of the allegory of the cave when applied in the present context.
Relevance of Psychological War
Napoleon Bonaparte once said “There are two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the mind.” With the gradual progress of human intelligentsia, the world is and will be shaped and reshaped through the use of technology. The hyperconnected nature of a modern globalized world broadly portrays the image of a collective human consciousness deeply engrossed in the overwhelming nature of technology that reverberates with every emerging aspect of human life. When viewed from the prism of the State as a governing body in the international forum, technology will be the emerging axis of geopolitics since no state and its citizen can exist in silos devoid of the influence of other states. This is primarily due to the free flow of data. In this context, due to the free flow of data, the power of propaganda as a significant dimension of psychological war would prove to be an effective instrument used by the State to further its national interest.
In this contextual framework, the role of conscious manufacturing of narratives under the larger ambit of the idea of psychological war must be given due consideration. In his famous book,The Ultimate Goal: A Former R&AW Chief Deconstructs How Nations and Intelligence Agency Construct Narratives, Vikram Sood unfolds the idea of how narratives are created, propagated, sustained, and refined in domestic countries and abroad to further the national interest. He emphasizes not only the power of information but also the power of disinformation to de-track and mislead the collective consciousness of the nation. Therefore, it is of critical significance for a nation to enhance its understanding of psychological war, considering it a major security issue.
The cost and the expense of war are also major concerns for the State. In this regard, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval establishes the viewpoint that wars are gradually becoming ineffective in achieving political and military objectives and that they are also highly expensive and are gradually becoming unaffordable. He further puts forward the idea of the 4th generation warfare where the operational target of the objective would be civil society. A fair understanding of the 4th generation warfare is of critical importance due to the fact that the modus operandi to target civil society would primarily be through the perpetual use of psychological war. The cost of psychological war, when compared with other forms of war, is abysmally low and also highly effective in manipulating the behaviour of the State. The cost-effectiveness helps it be more sustainable, which can be continued for an extended period of time.
Materialisation of Psychological War
Psychological war is applied by many States as an instrument of state policy. China, in this regard, can be considered a prominent player that has materialized this idea. In the strategic book on statecraft, The Art Of War, Sun Tzu states that “All warfare is based on deception.” China has consciously tried to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of psychological war. The Dhoklam issue in 2017 substantiates how the Chinese government used psychological war as an instrument of state policy to further its national interest.
The hostile approach of Pakistan towards India is not of recent origin. Instead, it is a phenomenon that can be traced back in history during the early germination of the idea of Pakistan when the Muslin League was formed in 1906. After the materialization of this idea by a painful partition of India in 1947, Kashmir became the bone of contention right after Pakistan’s inception as a nation-state. Pakistan, over the years, has become cognizant of the conventional asymmetry between the two nations. Therefore, it has operationalized the path of psychological war in the Kashmir region with a more pinpointed approach of using Twitter as an operational instrument to create misperceptions at a low cost to achieve its objectives.
Psychological War and the Indian Perspective
Taking a momentary glance at the historical evolution of India as a civilizational State, it can be rightly stated that understanding the nature of the mind has been a perpetual theme in the philosophical construct of India. The use of psychological war is not a new phenomenon. The references to it can be prominently found in Indian mythology. In this regard, the epic story of The Mahabharatha is a prominent example.
In one of the instances, Krishna applied this idea of psychological war by disclosing a fact to Karna, which hitherto was kept secret and hidden from him. Krishna, just before the war, unfolded the fact to Karna that he is the eldest son of Kunti, his father is the Sun God, and the Pandavas his brothers. This very fact and the timing of the disclosure of this fact put Karna in a deep psychological trauma that depletes his mental strength. It was at this moment that Krishna offered Karna to join the battle from the side of Pandavas. A similar instance of psychological war used by India was found during The Bangladesh liberation war.
In the context of psychological war, Arthashstra is also a relevant text. It mentions the art of Kutayuddha. In Sanskrit, the word Kuta implies the application of deception, the creation of misperception, and misleading the enemy state; Yudh means war. Kautilya is a staunch advocate of establishing a network of espionage to initiate intelligence and counterintelligence measures as a major security initiative for a state. Therefore, it can be rightly perceived that India has a history of psychological war, which it has implemented to maintain security and stability.
Taking an analogical perspective, if the mechanism of psychological war is like a gun, then information is the potential bullets that are fired from it to target the enemy. The flow of Information can be considered the most important factor that makes psychological war lethal, precise, and effective. Therefore, there exists an urgent need for the establishment of an ‘Information Operations Command’ to tackle the issue of psychological war that is rapidly maturing and enhancing in its nature and methodology, fusing with the 5th generation warfare.
Another area of critical importance in this regard is the pressing need for a ‘National Security Doctrine.’ A national security doctrine is primarily a broad vision of a nation in the domain of its security from an inclusive perspective. Strong inter-agency coordination and refined analysis of security issues are needed.
Psychological war, as a rapidly evolving tool of statecraft in the security domain, acts as a linchpin vis-a-vis the 4th and 5th generation warfare where civil society and citizens are targeted with a perfect blend of technology and information. This makes it a war that doesn’t have a start or an end date. It is fought every minute, and progress can be achieved, even though at a minuscule level, but on a daily basis. Therefore, India as a major player in international politics with two hostile neighbors on its eastern and western border, must hold into perspective the scope, significance, and emerging dynamics of psychological war to keep herself abreast with other states at the international level on the security front.
Growing India Israel Relations: A Threat to Sovereignty of Gulf States
India has developed remarkable ties with the Gulf nations, particularly the GCC, over the past few decades. The significant trade between GCC nations and India and Israel are the main cause. This gradualist approach and efforts on part of India is to include Israel in a broader Middle East policy. Under the Namenda Modi administration, since 2017 Israel is “special and normal” because India has avoided the negative repercussions and no longer have fears opened relations with the Jewish state.
However, the point of concern is that India and Israel’s growing ties must not result in a coalition against Muslims. Modi and Netanyahu have many good reasons to rejoice over their thawing ties. But the gulf countries must discredit them if they use that proximity to advance a common narrative of extreme nationalism, exclusion, and labeling Muslims as the enemy.
Since October 25th, 2022, news reports have been making the rounds in the media revealing India’s involvement in global terrorism. Eight former Indian Navy officers have recently been detained in Qatar on suspicion of espionage and terrorism supported by the Indian government. These spy-officers were arrested in August 2022 for their involvement in international terrorism, espionage, and spying while working in Qatar for a private company and providing training and other services to the Qatari Emiri Navy.
Purnendu Tiwari, a retired (Naval commander) who received the Pravasi Samman 2019 (Highest Indian Award Abroad), was the brains behind the transfer of data from a major Gulf Muslim nation to Israel and India. It has been reported in the media that these Indian officers had access to sensitive information while working with Qatar’s enemies and the Defense, Security, and other government agencies. This is not the first time; India has been involved in espionage operations that violate foreign governments’ sovereignty, though it continues to deny it. International terrorism perpetrated by India has also frequently targeted Pakistan in the past. One such instance is the Kalbushan Yadav case.
The relationship between India and Israel is frequently described as a result of a natural convergence of ideologies between their respective ruling BJP and Liked parties. The BJP’s Hindutva and right-wing Zionism are two ethno-nationalist political movements that naturally discriminate against other races and religions because they are based on the majority populations they serve. In comparison to earlier, more liberal iterations of Hindutva and Zionism, both parties have become more racist. Therefore, by all means, India’s continued close strategic, economic, and security ties with Israel are more ideological than pragmatic.
India should make an effort to protect itself ideologically from the threat of Hindutva becoming the state’s guiding principle and a vehicle for incitement both domestically and abroad. Its exclusivist and discriminatory belief that India is only the property of Hindus is dangerous, especially at a time when Muslim minorities are increasingly being lynched in the name of cow vigilantism.
Today, the Gulf is an integral part of India’s ‘extended neighborhood’, both by way of geographical proximity and as an area of expanded interests and growing Indian influence. However, as a result of escalating anti-Muslim sentiment and the Hindutva movement’s flawed ideology, the BJP, government is arguably facing its most difficult diplomatic challenge in its nine years in office. A few years ago in 2020, Muslim nations were outraged by Nupur Sharma’s (a BJP official) insulting comments made during a TV debate about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Islamic-majority nations voiced their opposition through tweets, official statements, and by summoning Indian diplomats. The BJP was compelled to take action against the party officials for posting a screenshot of offensive tweet.
Subsequently, Princess Hend al-Qassimi of the UAE then made a rare public statement in response to the rising Islamophobia among Indians, saying in a tweet, “I miss the peaceful India.” She did this after she specifically called out a tweet from an Indian resident of the UAE as being “openly racist and discriminatory,” reminding her followers that the penalty for hate speech could be a fine or even expulsion. These statements come after the Islamic world, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged India to act quickly to defend the rights of its Muslim minority and expressed concern about how the BJP treats Indian Muslims.
This suggests that the relationships New Delhi has worked so hard to build over the past few years drawing on the efforts of the previous administration is now seriously in jeopardy. India’s diplomatic achievement is starting to fall apart due to domestic developments that target its 200 million Muslims. The flagrant mistreatment of India’s Muslim communities now jeopardizes New Delhi’s carefully crafted Middle Eastern diplomacy, particularly with regard to the Gulf States.
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