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Covid-19: Impacts on Pakistan’s Cybersecurity

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The Covid-19 pandemic still remains the most dominant factor affecting global scenario. Neither the superpowers nor the developing countries are spared of its curse. Whole world is in a crisis like situation whether it’s a super power or state like Pakistan, which has already been facing external threat and internal instabilities. Like every other state in the world to continue the routine activities, Pakistan has shifted its workload to online databases. The shift to online forum has increased dependence on internet making the country equally concerned about safeguarding its cyber security  – as safeguards and security systems of our cyber infrastructure are not so protective keeping in view the dynamic nature of cyber security. The government has recently launched its Digital Pakistan Policy which has acquired renewed significance in the current pandemic. Although it is a good initiative to facilitate the public but there are some loopholes that need to be addressed as Covid crisis seems to have prolonged indefinitely. There is a need to adopt effective measures so the weakness in the system can be effectively resolved on priority bases.

The current crisis situation has adversely impacted the educational hubs and other academic institutes which almost stopped functioning for a while. The government encourages the online classes and examination system. This not only helped schools and universities, but the research thinks thanks and other organizations were also able to resume their functions by utilizing online forum. Here the challenge for a country like Pakistan is the provision of fast and smooth internet connections in all the districts of country.  But now days, students of KPK, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan and even in some districts of Punjab are facing connectivity issues. Students have raised their voices through social media forum and student Unions. Other than smooth provision of internet facility, state need to have a robust independent network security systems during Covid-19 because of more dependence on computer and internet networks and keep up with the rapidly changing cyber technologies. Dependence on foreign developed applications like ‘Zoom’ can be harmful in the longer term for privacy. Recently, an intrusion occurred during the webinar of Institute of  Strategic Studies (ISSI) due to non-encrypted internet connection. In encrypted connection the risk factor still exists as the de-encrypted data is retained with the developers who can use it for their self-interest to harm the security of any state especially the states like Pakistan which is still in the nascent stage of acquiring and developing advanced cyber technology related tools. Another such incident occurred wherein the official website of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission was attacked by scammers but later on it was clarified by HEC that it was just that someone just took the screenshot and make changes in its HTML coding and uploads it , which seems to be , that website is hacked . Although this scam   carried out in anger by internal rudiments was not so harmful and serious, but still it’s an alarm to be prepared for the rising threats and technological challenges that could be hazardous. It is, thus a big question mark on the Pakistan’s preparedness to face such challenges in future that could be serious in their nature. 

Covid-19 has quarantined the people inside their homes; activities are limited to internet and computers. This has provided the cyber-criminals with the opportunity to breach the privacy and use it for their own interests. During this quarantine, people to kill boredom are downloading different kind of applications in their mobile phones and PCs and agreeing to give that application access to mobile data. This can be harmful and data of people can be used to cause damage to personal as well as national security, because this is an era of information warfare and any entity or state can take advantage of the data provided to them unknowingly. Cyber criminals and hackers whether they are from within the state or outside; sponsored by rival states can easily exploit the loophole of the existing cyber infrastructure as previously before Covid-19 crises, Pakistani infrastructure has been attacked several times which includes the banking sector as well as armed forces infrastructure. For instance cyber-attacks carried out by Indian organization   Rattle snake on Navy’s Public relations Branch tried to manipulate the statements released by Public relations Branch. Above mentioned attacks carried out by India before Covid-19 were very alarming and threatening to national security. One can gauge the level of threat during Covid-19 when the whole country is working online. There have been efforts to digitize all the sectors of Pakistan with which whole data will be shifted to data clouds. This may lead to losing control over the data because once data is placed online, it will be available to everyone who can then penetrate easily and will be hazardous for national security.

To address the threats to data and preserve its national security, Pakistan needs a workable solution to protect its servers to store such huge bulks of national data. It also needs to maintain backup of the data to be on safer side. It needs to develop its own strong firewall security software against online viruses and Trojan horses to protect the data rather than being dependent on borrowed technologies and software because dependency in such domains in the longer runs can be harmful. So keeping in view the upcoming technological era and Covid-19 has to some added acceleration in the process of doing so. At this very moment, Pakistan needs to have a formalized national cyber security policy as an important pillar of national security.

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Will the enduring Proxy-war be ever ended in Afghanistan?

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Abstract: this paper long-story-short explains a four-decade of Afghan conflict, the causes and effects of the ongoing proxy war in passage of the modern history of the country. Furthermore, this paper elucidates roles and conducts of the major powers in the conflict; it unveils their national security priorities as well, along with their rivalry and disputable foreign policy objectives. The paper also explicates whether peace and stability is achievable or not. Finally, it draws a tragic and upsetting conclusion, which is a black eye not only for the Afghan leadership but also for the global players. Despite no perception of any potential peace in Afghanistan, this paper by no accounts encourages an exodus of Afghan Nation.

 D-day in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is overwhelmingly engulfed and hampered by proxy-war roughly for 4 decades, and the country has become a chessboard not only for super powers but also for regional countries and beyond. The cumulative toll of the war on the country and its people is massive.The conflict between Soviet Union-India proxies and Pakistan-US proxies just began, when Sardar Muhammad Daoud Khan took an oath as Afghanistan’s first president in 1973. In the course of his tenure, ISI-CIA backed warlord Gulbudin Hikmatyar launched his first armed face off in the eastern Afghanistan, and meantime the KGB sponsored Marionettes and MSS puppets hurled their surge in the whole country.

As a result, pro-Soviet proxies toppled Daoud Khan`s presidency thru a military coup in 1978, which paved the way for the Red-army incursion. In the decade subsequent the Soviet invasion in 1979, 1.5million Afghans lost their lives, another million were wounded and disabled, 6.2 million took refuge either in Pakistan, Iran and the rest of the world, and 2.2 million more were internally displaced. The fiscal damage caused by invaders during this period approximated around $644.8 billion.  United States, China, Pakistan, Iran as well asArab countries initiated anti-Soviet front, and began to harbor, train, and sponsor and arm their proxies in order to defy pro-Soviet proxies. The armed strife lasted a decade and the so-called freedom fighters/jihadi terrorists caroled ´´war until the end of occupation´´. Thus, the era of invasion dramatically came to an end in 1989, but the proxy war continued, and the self-styled freedom fighter/jihadi terrorists again chanted ´´ war until the end of communist regime´´.

In 1992, the communist led government was ousted, following the super powers (Soviet Union and the United States) total withdrawal from the region.  Awkwardly, the proxy war interred into the new phase and the conflict warmed up among Indian, Iranian, Pakistani and Saudi proxies.

Iran and India supported the Northern Alliance, whereas Pakistan and Saudi Arabia backed Hikmatyar (1992-1996), in the aftermath of such a skirmish capital of the country was effusively ruined, and a 100 thousand innocent Afghans killed and 1000s either injured or disabled, thousands internally displaced and fled to rest of the world.  As Pakistan-Saudi Arabia came short to topple, the northern alliance led government, Pakistan and its Arab and western allies originated Taliban movement in 1994.

In 1996, Taliban movement was able to overthrow the Northern Alliance leadership and conquered two-third of the country, and ruled Afghanistan barbarically, brutally and mercilessly. Hence, Iran, India and Russia instigated counter-measures, called Resistance Front to fight back the Taliban Movement and the proxy war sustained until 2001.

In 2001, the 9 11 phenomena occurred in the US, and the American administration launched a crusade to bring to justice, who took American lives. Taliban movement, which harbored Usama Bin Laden the master-mind of the 9 11 incidence, rebuffed to hand over him to Washington, accordingly, the American Administration commenced a full-scale war against Taliban to get rid of the alleged Islamic Emirate, which ended up with American occupation.

America’s two-decade-long occupation, beginning in 2001, which still goes on resulted the death of 3.500 coalition forces and the loss of 150.000 Afghan civilian and military personnel, in order to achieve purported “Nation Building” and “Democratization”. The occupiers endeavored to bring to power their puppets, via phony democratic process in hope of using Afghan territory for their strategic purposes.

In 2002, Pakistan, China along with some Arab monarchies started to regroup Taliban movement and other proxies to fight pro-American and pro-Indian Kabul regime, due to the strategic divergence with the US, Russia and Iran have also jumped in, to support Taliban’s resurgence ironically with American taxpayers money. The insurgents (proxies) chanted again “the war until the end of foreign/American occupation”.

In 2020, some hoodwinked and naïve policy makers have advised Donald Trump the American potentate to draw down the combat forces, and open negation in order to reach an agreement with Taliban. The settlement was made between the US and the insurrectionaries, the US started withdrawing, expecting that peace will prevail in Afghanistan. Seemingly, peace will not carry the day, since the rebels call for war until dethroning Ashraf Ghani.

Now the question is whether the proxy war will be ended anytime in the future, in other words whether peace and stability is achievable. The experts stipulate (for)an interim-government to integrate Taliban in the political system of the country. Some others enjoin additional approaches to be employed to transform the conflict, including the agreement to rule the country in accordance with a viable model, such as the Swiss model, whereby some representatives choose a leader for a limited time based on performance. Nevertheless, these approaches do not seem to be convincing and substantial, even if all at odds factions reach a comprehensive settlement to form a broad-based government, peace and stability will not be achieved, and the proxy war will be sustained.

Implications of global players’ divergence

In order to answer the above said question, we have to find out the root cause of the conflict, to the best of my knowledge; the Afghan proxy war is deeply ingrained in and intertwined with regional and trans-national disputes, therefore it makes sense to look into each conflictual issues one by one.

Indo-Pakistan dispute

Subsequent the end of British rule in 1947, British-India was divided into two separate nations, India and Pakistan, since then the countries have fought a series of conventional wars, mainly over the region of Kashmir, of which possession has been claimed by the countries. The partitioned, which was based on Hindu and Muslim majorities, caused mass migration and clashes, resulted hostility, violence and bloodshed. Consequently, the first Indo-Pak war took place in October 1947, following assault on Kashmir by Pakistan’s tribal forces. The war lasted roughly two years, which ended up with ceasefire and provisionary demarcation –now called the line of Control.

In 1965, the second Indo-Pak war occurred due to a series of cross-border clashes. The clashes turn to a full-scale war, when Pakistani soldiers crossed the line of control deep into the Indian administered Kashmir in search of starting insurgency against Indian army. The war came to an end, when officials of both countries agreed upon acknowledging peaceful vows.  

A third Indo-Pak war erupted, when Pakistan was further divided into two parts Eastern and

Western Pakistan. As a result, both East and West Pakistan began to tussle, due to the significant

Indian role in the conflict, eastern Pakistani soldiers Surrendered to Indian Army and Western      Pakistan got independence, which now called Bangladesh. In 1987, a nation-wide election took place in India and in Indian administered Kashmir, but the so-called Islamic movements did not acknowledge the result of the election, which eventuated an armed standoff against the Indian rule in Kashmir. Kashmir was acutely polarized, some of the inhabitants demanded independence from India, while the others sought to be integrated with Pakistan. Subsequently, armed résistance broke out, since then Pakistan’s ISI start to train, finance, shelter and sponsor the insurgent groups to fight Indian Defense forces, which has continued until here and now.

Sino-Indian row

Apart from border dispute, which occasioned a Sino-Indian war in 1962, China and India are warming up to contain one another; China has kicked off Belt and Road Initiative. This initiative (BRI) puts China at the heart of the new Pan-Eurasian economic order; the effort has drawn commitments from over 60 countries, and international organizations, and has been described as China’s project of the century.

The massive undertaking is divided into two main components: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. The “Belt” is a series of overland routes that will collectively connect China with Western Europe through the resource-rich countries of Central Asia. The “Road,” counter intuitively, refers to a dizzying sea route that flows around Southeast and South Asia, through Africa, and into the Mediterranean.

In counter measures, India has a continent-crossing plan of Washington-Tokyo oriented (South-Central Asia policy) which is called North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC); the objective is to link India with Central Asia, Caucasus and Europe thru Iran (if Iran is aligned with Washington) and possibly Afghanistan. India has been trying to interweave itself deeper within the infrastructural and economic fabric of Eurasia.

The NSTC is a multimodal trade corridor which extends from India to Caucasus, linking the India Ocean and Persian Gulf to Caspian Sea, which lies from Jawaharlal Nehru and Kandla port in western India to the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran, then go road and rail north thru Baku to the Caucasus and beyond.

The second route goes along the eastern side of the Caspian Sea, connecting the new Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway to amalgamate with the North-South Transnational Corridor.

The third route linking India with Chabahar port of Iran then goes to Afghanistan extends to Central Asia, which is currently suspended due to Washington’s mounting pressure to give it up if not India, will face sanctions. India is a big driver of enhancements to Iran’s Chabahar port. The country (India) is also backing a 218-kilometer road connecting the heart of Afghanistan with a border to Iran, the Kaladan multimodal project in Myanmar, the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR), which goes all the way from Dhaka to Istanbul, the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, and, possibly, developing Trincomalee port in Sri Lanka as well as Delhi-Kabul Air Corridor in order to bypass and debase Beijing oriented Pakistani Corridor.

In the face of American drawdown, there are some speculations India is considering to deploy around 15 thousand troops to Afghanistan to deter threats posed by China and Pakistan and to safeguard its strategic projects in the region. Meanwhile India has consolidated its effort to support Afghan security forces in general and sponsor the Afghan intelligence Networks in particular. As a result of recent  joint actions,  Afghan intelligence Agency (NDS) and Indian intelligence organizations ( IB, RAW, DIA and the inter-service Joint Cipher Bureau),  the Afghan counter intelligence department was able to crack down the active and sleeping cells of Chinese MSS in the capital of Afghanistan.

Meantime India and China are pushing the blame game accusing one another for aggressive actions at the border points, which revitalize the Sino-Indian border dispute.

The sovereignty over two large and various smaller separated pieces of territory have been contested between China and India. The westernmost, Aksai Chin, is claimed by India as part of Jammu and Kashmir and region of Ladakh but controlled and administered as part of Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. The other large disputed territory, the easternmost, lies south of the McMahon Line.

It was referred to as the North East Frontier Agency, and is now called Arunachal Pradesh. The McMahon line was part of 1914 Simla Convention between British-India and Tibet an agreement rejected by China which caused Sino-Indian war in 1962. The border dispute was in somehow resolved in 1996 as part of Confidence-Building measures. 

But tension recently has risen as India has stationed sophisticated military hardware at the border, namely after receiving green signals from Washington and Tokyo, meanwhile India accuses China for acts of aggression at border, India claims, that China has ordered its military unites to be positioned at the crossing line, therefore India has taken reactionary steps.

Iran-Saudi Arabia dispute

The Saudi-Iran dispute originated, when widespread riots and rattles erupted in Iran, which put Iranian at armed standoff. As aresult, the Iranian kingdom was toppled, and the King (shah) fled, and there was a power vacuum in the country in 1979. Thus, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rushed to lead the mutiny, in order to fill the gap. He brought a strategic shift to the Iranian foreign policy, so that he tried to reestablish Iran as a regional power based on Shia Islam to counter-weight Sunni Islam. Although Iran had been a Shia country, but had had a secular regime and Shia Islam had not been promoted as state religion.  Khomeini’s strategic foreign policy shift  was perceived as warmongering by the Sunni Muslim world, and especially by Saudi Arabia, which has customarily declared itself as leader of the Islamic world. Moreover, the country is home for two holiest places –Mecca and Medina—, Saudi Arabia is the Guardian, and responsible to protect them reach out their role in the entire globe especially within the Islamic world. Therefore, millions of Muslim take part at pilgrimage each year, which has added to the importance of Saudi Kingdom as an advocate of Sunni Islam.

On top of geo-political and geo-strategic discrepancy that the Kingdom has with Iran, Saudi Arabia arranges Sunni Islam as fundamental of its foreign policy object, whereas Iran’s forward policy for the region based on the tents of Shia Islam, hence there is divergence of policy objectives, which challenge and contradict each other.  In addition, the countries are oil-rich and overflowed with petrodollars to export their dogmas to the rest of Islamic world, thru both conventional and unconventional measures.

Sino-Russian and USA animosity

Despite significant divergence between China and Russia in both regional and international arena, the countries has striven to expand their cooperation in several directions namely in diplomatic, political and defense realms. China and Russia consider the US as a challenge to the national security of both Beijing and Moscow. The countries are bearing in mind that alignment between Moscow and Beijing is thought to be the best possible measure to deter US hegemonic policy.  Russia and China are working together to the fill the gaps of their military capability, accelerating their technological innovations, supplementing each other’s defense competency to emasculate US global leadership, challenging US dominance in strategic regions as well.

Their joint naval drills are supposed to be projected as a counter-measure to minimize the US capability, and to defy US regional scenario. Furthermore, the countries accelerate their cooperation to erode US military advantages. In order to enhance their efforts, Russia provides China with advanced weapons to remove the US from their backyards. Their joint efforts have put America under immense pressure to reconsider its defense budget and its alleged commitments to advocate a free and open Indo-Pacific.  The countries are doing their best to counter American Democratic measure in form of “color revolutions”, substantiating each other to defend their interests in multidimensional environments, creating norms around cyber and internet sovereignty, and augmenting anti-American elements even radical Islamists to gain the power and expand their territorial control. They legitimize each other’s conducts to persuade swing states to abandon the US.

Moscow and Beijing consolidating their efforts to inter to the new spaces more likely Artificial Intelligence, they strive to offer diverse digital system and other technologies. They also joined hands to disqualify American financial measures in the global economic arena especially bypass the US sanctions and minimize the US ability in financial realm  as part of the US foreign policy objective.

They have long before tried to de-dollarize the world finical system, which will in turn curtail the US capability in the area of export control. Nonetheless, the US has launched counter measures to limit Sino-Russia cooperation and the threats they pose to Washington. In response to Sino-Russian partnership, the US stationed and installed vigilant technologies all around the countries to curb their liabilities. Additionally, in response to the Sino-Russian joint-partnership, the US adopted a new maritime strategy in December 2020 the three maritime services of the US military – the US Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The strategy elucidates both China and Russia as resolute adversaries, who pose a long-term strategic threat to the national security of the US in the global arena particularly in Indo-pacific domain. In comparison to the old strategies, the new strategy presses on the importance of sea control, which ascribes the possibility of armed conflict with at maritime level. Moreover, the strategy signifies the importance of Coastguard as a part of main element to deter multidimensional threats posed by Sino-Russia. The new strategy also implies and stress on building partnerships and cooperation with other countries to defend the US global perspective.  It clarifies as well that current US defense capability is not sufficient. Thus, the maritime forces ought to be modernized in order to counter Sino-Russia maritime strategy. According to the new strategy the size and shape will boldly change to answer the current and future challenges.

Sino-Russia rivalry

China and Russia enmity lays back to the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER) conflict took place in 1929 between Soviet Union and China, which was the bloodiest conflict of its time. Joseph Stalin played a significant role to neutralize Chinese efforts to recapture the Railway. In order to attain its goals China used both conventional and asymmetric approaches to eliminate Soviet Union control over the Railway. Obtaining green signals from Japan, Stalin forcefully trespassed the region and pushed back Chinese armed forces, which was connoted as a sign of aggression, and ended up with border dispute. Throughout, the history both countries unsuccessfully endeavored to find a peaceful and acceptable solution to the border conflict. Consequently, in 2003 Russia and China signed an agreement to resolve the border dispute. In 2005, Moscow and Beijing finalized the border issue, nevertheless, Chinese leadership still claims that Vladivostok Russia’s Fareast city is part of Chinese territory, besides Beijing asserts that Russia has annexed 350.000 square mile of Chinese territory. Nonetheless, due to American Air, Land and sea superiority, in global level and particularly in Indo-pacific, Asian and African regions, which is considered as threat to the national security of China and Russia. Therefore, Moscow and Beijing agreed upon to build up partnership and cooperation along with filling each other’s gaps in term of defense, aerial, sea and digital technologies, to rule out American Maritime strategic challenges. In addition, kick out the US military forces from their back yards. It is worthwhile to note Sino-Russian cooperation or partnership is not strategic, because is not built on natural basis, rather it instituted on a tactical measure to deter American aggression. It is very conventional term that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, which means Beijing and Moscow have a common enemy “the United States”. Therefore, they disregard their border dispute for the time being, which will definitely be brushed up, when the US is out of the race in the global arena.

According to the management criteria, partnership or cooperation is based on three terms; short term, midterm and long term in other word operational, tactical and strategic, taking in to account the mentioned terminologies the Sino-Russia partnership is operational and tactical then to be strategic/long-term. While China has been shifting its soft strategic measures, the country tries to apply hard power in Central Asia “Russia’s back yard”.  Beijing considers stationing military forces in the region to defend the country’s Belt and Road initiative extended to the region. China wants to safeguard its geo-economic and geo-political objectives thru future military installations in Central Asia. Therefore, Beijing’s motives are irreconcilable with the foreign policy objectives of Moocow for the region, because China pursues to advance trans-Eurasian transportation corridor in order to bypass Russia. Furthermore, China recently built an airport in Xining-Uyghur autonomous district close to Afghan and Tajikistan borders, which is the first airport of such kind in the mountainous area of Badakhshan. China’s initiative in this form, offers Beijing enjoying upper hand to get hold on Natural resources of the disputed region. The country undertook to build extra 25 airports in the region in order to expand its military buildup.  Hence, Russia reconsiders its partnership with China, the balance between Beijing and Moscow is changing in the region.

In addition, Sino-Russian partnership is depended on China’s commitment to full carbon neutrality by 2060. The Beijing will reduce consumption of all fossil fuels, including natural gas, which will definitely play a significant role in future cooperation and partnership between Moscow and Beijing.

China has recently made public that the country will almost be carbon neutral in 40 years; means the country will reduce 65% of its oil consumption and 75% of its natural gas consumption. These assertions will disqualify forthcoming efforts to run a mega-pipeline “Power of Siberia-2” in order to pump Russian natural gas to China. In order to minimize its dependency on Russian Natural Gas, China has diversified its efforts to import natural gas from centrals Asian countries. China made a technological breakthrough in domestic natural gas production, which will in turn reduce Chinese dependency on Russia. In couple of decades, Russia will totally lose its fuel and gas advantages to leverage China. Between 2050.2060, China will independently handle its energy needs, and develop its defense, maritime and digital technology including artificial intelligence. China will increase its defense budget up to 1 trillion dollars. Until 2060, the US will completely be out as a major element of world order.So there would be no need for Russian cooperation, China alone would be in a position to police the world and Russia will become Beijing’s number one geo-political enemy.   

Turkish and Indo-Greek-Saudi potential conflict

Although Greece and India are separated by great geo-political distance, the countries cooperate and collaborate on many issues, and work closely to deepen and further, expand their bilateral ties, since Turkey pledged to harbor, train, and sponsor and arm Kashmiri separatist jihadi terrorist groups under the auspices of Pakistani ISI. The recent strategic developments have highlighted semi-dormant areas of common Indo-Greek security interests and concerns. The incentive for such a convergence between India and Greece caused by the hastily growing strategic cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan to utilize jihadi terrorism as a tactic to promote their foreign policy objectives, which occasions hypothetically risky destabilization potentialities in the eastern Mediterranean and South Asia.  From now on, it is clear that Erdogan’s Turkey is an obvious threat not only to Mediterranean, but also to South Asia and even to global peace and security. The Turku-Pakistani alignment has materialized a distinct threat to both Athens and New Delhi making Indo-Greek strategic cooperation a natural outcome of desire of both countries to secure and foster their strategic interests. Pak-Turku axis made Saudi the strategic ally of Pakistan during cold war and thereupon withdraw economic and strategic sponsorship, and join Indo-Greek alliance. Since then the countries even added Sudan exploring how to strengthen multilateral security cooperation with other states that share similar concern about Turku-Pakistani flexing their muscles in the Mediterranean, red sea and Indo-pacific region and South Asia. The partnership among Greece, India, Saudi Arabia and Sudan put immense pressure on the US to make Turkey give in the preplanned sale of T129 Atak Helicopters to Pakistan, because American technology is part of the aircraft design, the Turkish company selling the helicopters must first secure the US export licenses before delivery can take place.

Indo-Russian Split

New Delhi and Moscow have been enjoying fruitful bilateral relations since dozens of decades almost in all occupations, this relationship meaningfully turned to a strategic cooperation in 2000, since then the countries have been holding annual dialogue to further bilateral relations. For the first time, from the time when, the strategic cooperation emerged, Moscow called off the annual summit, initially due to Delhi’s participation in the Indo-Pacific initiative and Quad, whereby the country is more inclined towards the US hub in the region, which could assumingly pose a threat to the alleged Sino-Russian strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Furthermore, the Ladakh Standoff between China and India made Moscow choose to gradient towards Beijing, although the head of the Carnegie Moscow Center Dmitri Terin proclaims that Russia will not choose between Delhi and Beijing, while Russia looks at the world differently. In addition, it is in Moscow’s interest to encourage a multipolar region in which several powerful axes exist he added. Despite India is a sales market for Russian products especially military ones, and the country’s export to India reaches 8 Billion USD. Alternatively, Sino-Russian bilateral trade had crossed $110 Billion, China is a huge sales market for Russian energy, agricultural and military products, and China’s share increased to 18 percent since 2013, which was 16 percent thereupon.

China even overtook Germany to become Russia’s largest trade partner. Therefore, Moscow should choose between New Delhi and Beijing, so Russia chose China rather than India. Hence, India has no other choice, but setting up a strategic partnership with the United States and its allies. Consequently, the alignment between China and Russia, on the other hand cooperation between India and the US will widen the gap between Moscow and New Delhi, which will definitely have adversarial implication for the entire region.  

Conclusion: in accordance with the analysis, the proxy war may last 100 plus years, and the countries will keep the ongoing war taking place in Afghanistan. They have chosen Afghanistan, since the country is primarily, no man’s land and its inhabitants are cheap and sucker to be taken on board, hired and utilized as fodder in favor of any local, national, regional and trans-national state and non-state actors or institutions.

Promoting their foreign policy objectives thru Afghanistan serves more or less to avoid direct confrontation among rival countries. Imagine once the war or direct confrontation takes place between India and Pakistan, Saudi and Iran, Russia and China or the US and China, what may happen needless to say, devastation of the entire region. Having had both tactical and strategic weapons, their application definitely jeopardizes global peace and security. Therefore, they have preferred to launch and lengthen the Afghan proxy war, while they have vested interest and stake in maintaining the status qua in order to uphold their foreign policy objectives. Unfortunately, the underdogs and scapegoats of this bloody war are only Afghans, thus I hesitate to say that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires; rather it is the graveyard of Afghans themselves. 

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Iran is becoming more desperate – its terror threats should not be ignored

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Citing two unidentified senior US intelligence officials, the Associated Press recently reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has intercepted communications in January which exposed emerging terrorist plots from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). According to the report, in January the IRGC discussed carrying out a “USS Cole-style attacks” (a reference to the October 2000 al Qaeda suicide bombing of a US guided missile destroyer which killed 17 American sailors) on Fort McNair to kill General Joseph M. Martin, the vice chief of staff for the US Army.

According to the intelligence officials, the recent threat was one example ofthe Iranian regime’s apparent commitment to seekingrevenge for the January 2020 killing of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s terrorist Quds Force. A number of senior officials of the regime, including the current commander of the Quds force, Esmail Qaani, have already threatened to carry out terrorist attacks on US soil for the same purpose.

“So long as there is a man around the world, he is ready to punish the cowards who did this,” Qaani said on January 1, 2021, adding, “With this crime you have committed, you have created another objective for all the free people in the world, and rest assured that someone, even from inside your house, will respond to your crime.”

He also tweeted: “We warn the US President, the head of the CIA, the Secretary of Defense, the US Secretary of State and other US officials involved in the assassination of Martyr Soleimani that they must learn the secret lifestyle of Salman Rushdie because the Islamic Republic will avenge Martyr Soleimani’s blood that was unjustly shed.”

The Fort McNair plot cannot be dismissed as mere talk or bravado.

From the assassination of Iran’s last pre-revolution Prime Minister in Paris in 1991to the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina in 1994 to many more such attacks in foreign cities, Iran’s regime has consistently carried out extraterritorial terror attacks and assassinations against its enemies.  

In October 2011, the Iranian regime plotted to kill the Saudi Ambassador in Washington DCby bombing a restaurant that he frequented. The Iranian agent in charge of that plot, a permanent resident of the US, had planned the terrorist operation in cooperation with a Mexican cartel. He pleaded guilty and confessed that he was working at the behest of the IRGC and had received approximately $100,000 as a down payment.

In June 2018, multiple European authorities thwarted a plot to set off explosives at an annual international gathering in support of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), near Paris. In addition to tens of thousands of expatriates, the event was also attended by hundreds of political dignitaries from the US, Europe, Canada and throughout the world. The investigations established that the NCRI’s President-elet, Maryam Rajavi, the keynote speaker of the event, was the main target of the plot, whichcould have been one of the bloodiest terrorist events in European history and would have most likely claimed a large number of Western lives.

The mastermind of the plot was a senior Iranian diplomat who was acting as Iran’s Third Counselor in its Embassy in Vienna. Assadollah Assadi was a veteran officer of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and had activated two MOIS sleeper cells for the operation. He personally brought the explosives – 500 grams of TATP and a detonator – on a commercial flight from Tehran and handed them over to the would-be bombers, an Iranian-Belgian couple, in a Pizza Hut in Luxembourg.

Assadi and his three accomplices were arrested in Belgium, Paris and Germany and were put on trial in Belgium last November and convicted in early February. Assadi received a 20-year sentence for plotting to commit terrorist murder and still faces additional charges in Germany, where his arrest took place. Assadi was by no means the first Iranian diplomat to come under suspicion of terrorism, but he was the first to actually face prosecution for it in a European court.

That arrest yielded a substantial amount of evidence regarding Assadi’s further activities in Europe. In the years leading up to the 2018 terror plot, he had apparently cultivated a network of assets spanning at least 11 European countries and had delivered cash payments to many of them.

It is safe to assume that some of them were involved in gathering intelligence for the MOIS in Europe that could be used for future terrorist plots.

It would be naive and dangerous to write off the threats from Tehran as mere propaganda. Prudence and vigilance dictate that counterterrorism and counter-espionage activities against Tehran have to be intensified, while its network in the West should be dismantled and prosecuted. But that is not enough.The West must also put policies into place that will continue a trend of accountability and challenge the Iranian regime over its past and ongoing behaviors.

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The Italian job: A russian spy story in Rome

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The Carabinieri, Italian military police, said the suspected spy in Italy’s navy was discovered after a long investigation led by AISI, Italy’s domestic intelligence bureau.

They detained an Italian Navy captain together with a Russian military official on suspicion of spying.

To start this narration we have to tell what Russia did last year to “help” Italy during the first covid Pandemic by the “From Russian with love“ operation.

The Russian army on 22 March 2020began flying medical help to Italy to help it battle the new coronavirus after receiving an order from President Vladimir Putin, a goodwill gesture that Moscow labelled “From Russia with Love”.

Giant Il-76 military planes began taking off from an airbase in the Moscow region after Putin spoke to Italian former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and agreements were later reached between respective defence ministers.

The Kremlin said Putin had expressed his support for Italy’s leaders and people in the extremely difficult situation they were facing and had heeded an Italian request for help.

Italy is one of the countries within the European Union and NATO with the warmest relations with Russia. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a good friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Giuseppe Conte had expressed his sincere gratitude for the steps Russia had taking to support Italy at such a tough time for it,” the Kremlin said one year ago.

In order of this telling we have to explain the Russian “guide line”.

Russia has tried to cultivate close ties with NATO and European Union member Italy in recent years.

It asked Rome to help persuade the EU to lift sanctions imposed over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine from Crimea in 2014 – although those sanctions remain in place.

TV footage released by the Russian Defence Ministry showed a column of at least seven military vehicles, including large trucks, waiting to be loaded onto planes.

During this period in March 2020, was evidence for most Italians mass media “no control over the Russian military troops during the sanification operations in the territory of northern Italy”.

Many intelligence experts have wondered why such freedom was allowed…. Much concern was also received from American intelligence agencies.US administration has shown that it does not think this libertine behavior in NATO territory. An operation definitely that some here believed raised security fears given the large number of military officers sent in.

The Italian government chaired by Mr. Giuseppe Conte was very close to both China and Russia in 2020. A strategic mistake that has now been corrected by the new government of Mr. Mario Draghi, who strongly affirmed that his mandate will be in line with the themes of Europeanism and Atlanticism.

Italy today, The Italian Foreign Ministry later said it had summoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Razov over the case.

“Carabinieri, the Italian military police, intervened during a clandestine meeting between the two, caught immediately after the transfer of a document by the Italian officer in exchange for a sum of money,” the police force said in a statement on March 31.

Russia’s embassy in Rome confirmed that an employee of its military attache’s office had been detained, adding that “details of the case are being clarified.”

It also expressed hope that “the case will have no effect” on Russian-Italian relations.

Police said the meeting between the Italian frigate captain and the Russian official took place late the previous day.

Both are suspected of “serious crimes tied to spying and state security,” according to the statement.

It said the Italian officer was taken into custody, while “the position of the foreign national is still under consideration in relation to his diplomatic status.”

Relations between Russia and NATO member states have been hit by a number of spy scandals in recent years amid heightened tensions between Moscow and the West.

Bulgaria for example, an EU and NATO member like Italy, expelled two Russian diplomats last week after six people were arrested, including several defense ministry officials, on suspicion of spying for Russia. Italian fighter planes were involved in a NATO operation to intercept Russian planes over the Baltic Sea on Monday.

Earlier this month, relations between Moscow and Washington sank to a new low after U.S. President Joe Biden called the Russian president a “killer,” leading Putin to say: “It takes one to know one.”

Which consequence will have this spy story on the relationship between Italy and Russia?

To start Italian media are describing the incident as the most serious since the Cold War.

Immediately the UK stood in solidarity with Italy in “exposing and taking action against Russia’s malign and destabilising activity that is designed to undermine our NATO ally”

We have to remind the Draghi’s speech, during his assignment as Prime Minister, was very clear, Italy will always have an Atlantic and pro-European policy.

Last but not least, in line with the double-track line decided within the EU and NATO (firmness on principles and deterrence, accompanied by dialogue and engagement). Italy will support the need for an inclusive approach that encourages Russia to work together to find shared solutions to major global problems, but from today with an different point of view, the cold war is back in Rome, a great present from Russia for the Biden administration.

It’s self-evident that for a number of European countries Russia primarily represents a security concern – not one part of the problem, but the entire and only problem. Traditionally, observers attribute this view to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which have historical reasons of anxiety vis-à-vis Russia. In fact, the list is not fully exhausted by those countries, even though apprehensions elsewhere can be weaker and are not expressed too vocally like in Italy, but after today Rome will be more cold with Moscow in the middle term for sure.

As rightly emphasized by Russian scholar Vladimir Baranovsky, “among the challenges that Europe is facing in terms of organizing its own security space, the most serious one could be defined as alleviating concerns in and about Russia”

Finally, if NATO and the European Union are to remain value-based institutions – and there are no reasons to imagine otherwise – sooner or later they will have to think about how to bridge the value gap in relations with Russia.

The dilemma is easily solved, on a theoretical level, if the objectives are united within a single political framework. A good example of this approach can be found in the recommendations of the high-level expert group on NATO’s new strategic concept, which state that allies “should endorse a policy that combines reassurance for all alliance members and constructive re-engagement with Russia ”and that the goal of cooperation must be pursued “while also guarding against the possibility that Russia could decide to move in a more adversarial direction”

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