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Is China’s String of Pearls a fact or fiction? What about India’s necklace of diamonds?

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A host of Indian generals, politicians and China-centered media gurus claimed that China was out to alter status quo ante. Planet-Lab-imagery `corroborated’ exhibited pre-incursion and post-incursion positions. India’s Maj Gen (Dr) G G Dwivedi, who commanded a Jat battalion in this sector in 1992, said, “It is part of China’s ‘nibble and negotiates policy’. Their grand aim is to ensure that India does not build infrastructure along the LAC, change the status of Ladakh, cozy up to the US and join the anti-China chorus caused by Covid-19. It is their way of attaining a political goal with military might while gaining more territory in the process.’’ He added. “We used to patrol up till Hot Springs and so did they. The Ladakh Scouts controlled the Galwan valley and did not encounter any problems either’. His troops learned of Chinese patrols from graffiti on the rocks that read ‘Chung ko (This is China)’. Indian troops retaliated by scribbling ‘This is India’ on the rocks.

He interpreted China’s current belligerence as a reaction to ` India’s recent actions of reorganising [disputed] Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and improving infrastructure in the region, Dwivedi clarified, “It [China] has high stakes in PoK [Azad Kashmir] as the $60-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) traverses through it, and it is also the site of the proposed $9 billion Diamer Bhasha Dam, a joint project of China and Pakistan.’’ China’s aim is to ` dominate Durbuk-DBO road, strengthen its position in the Fingers area, halt the construction of link roads in Galwan-Pangong Tso [salt lake] and negotiate de-escalation on its terms (Maj Gen (Dr) G G Dwivedi: ‘Right now, Chinese have an edge, we must neutralise it’. (Indian Express, June 18, 2020).

China’s view:  Chinese media insisted that it is India, not China, who overstepped Line of Actual Control. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, however, reiterated China’s allegation, squarely blaming the Indian troops for the incident. “The right and wrong of this case are very clear and responsibility doesn’t lie with the Chinese side” (Indian Express June 19, 2020).

False allegations corroborated by satellite imagery: India alleged, “An analysis of high-resolution satellite images of the Pangong Tso area in Ladakh shows that not only have the Chinese changed the status quo at the Fingers, the mountain spurs along the lake, but also built `substantial’ structures in the contested region of the Line of Actual Control’. The hills protrude into the lake like fingers and are numbered 1 to 8 from west to east. According to India, the LAC lies at Finger 8, but China points to Finger 4. The May 27 images by Planet Labs show dozens of new structures, most likely tents, that have come up between Finger 8 and Finger 4 on the north bank of Pangong Tso, one of the main points of contention in the current standoff (Satellite imagery shows how Chinese changed status quo on Pangong bankIndian Express, June 6, 2020).

Allegations rebutted by Indian army, ex foreign minister and prime minister himself: However, the Chinese view was confirmed by prime minister Narender Modi. While addressing the all-party conference, Modi said, “Neither have they [Chinese] intruded into our border nor has any post been taken over by them [China]. He added, “Neither have they intruded into our border nor has any post been taken over by them (China)”. He added, “no one can take even an ‘inch of the land’ (China did not enter our territory, no posts taken’: PM at all-party meet on Ladakh clash, Hindustan Times, Jun 19, 2020).

The media had alleged that former foreign secretary Shyam Saran in his 2013 report had stated that China had taken over 640 kilometers of Ladakh territory. But, this allegation was rebutted not only by Saran himself but also by former defence minister AK Antony. (Antony to clarify whether China occupied 640 sq km in Ladakh in April, NDTV, September 06, 2013; also, see NSAB chief denies reporting Chinese intrusions to PMO, Business StandardChina did not enter our territory, no posts taken’: PM at all-party meet on Ladakh clashHindustan Times, Jun 19, 2020). Even `The Indian army denied that Ladakh had shrunk. Change in the river course was cited as a reason for the loss of 500-1,500 meters of land annually (Standoff between India, China troops end in Ladakh after talks: Report, Indian Express, May 26, 2020).

Real casus belli: India is unhappy at China’s unflinching support to Pakistan and Belt-Road Initiative assistance and construction of Diamer Bhasha Dam. At US behest, India is flexing muscle over China. Since 1962, India has been building bridges and constructed roads in the disputed border areas. India wanted faster access to feeder roads to LAC. `Under the phase 2 of the India-China Border Roads (ICBR) project, 32 roads will be built along the India-China border. As per sources, now the government has asked concerned officials to accelerate the construction of these roads’ (India to accelerate the construction of roads along Chinese border: Sources. India Today June 17, 2020).

Coupled with improved road links, India constructed many air bases and airfields in forward locations. Following Galwan melee, India alerted its forward airfields and moved its fighters/bombers there. Even Indian air force chief undertook whirlwind tours of forward fields, including Leh (IAF chief visits Leh, IAF on high operational alert, India today June 19, 2020). Russia is upgrading the existing fleet of the Su-30 MKI to match Chinese aircrafts Su-35 and J-31 fighter jets.

The existing fleet of Su-30 will be upgraded to the level of `Super Sukhoi’ with long-range stand-off missiles with a range of 300 km; adding more powerful EW and jamming systems, high-performance engines, multiple ejector Rack, and AESA radar. Five fly-away Rafale aircraft, with India-specific enhancements, have landed at Ambala, and 31 more are on their way. The Rafale jets will be based at Ambala Air Base in Punjab and Hasimara Air Base in West Bengal.

India is developing Andaman and Nicobar as a strategic outpost to monitor rival Chinese naval activity in the Eastern Indian Ocean. It has set up an integrated surveillance network there. The Indian Navy has been developing the Strengthening anti-access capabilities in the Andamans.

The myth of China’s ‘string of pearls’:  String of pearls, in geostrategic nomenclature, refers to the Strait of Malacca, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Maldives, the Strait of Hormuz and Somalia and includes Bangladesh and Myanmar in Chinese strategy. The emergence of the String of Pearls is believed to be China’s growing geopolitical influence through concerted efforts to increase access to ports and airfields, expand and modernise military forces.

But, the USA has over 800 naval bases while China has only two that is Mombasa and Djibouti, aside from controversial Hambantota (Sri Lanka). Yet, the US propaganda is that China is setting up bases along the sea lanes from Middle East to South China Sea. The bases have dual objectives to protect energy and strategic interests.

USA’s ring: Doubtless the USA is the dominant super-power in the Indo-Pacific region. Majority of the littoral states,  including India. Australia, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea are under American influence.

The USA has powerful naval bases at Diego Garcia, Busen, Guyan Island, Yongson base (South Korea) and Okinawa (Japan).The USA has stationed its littoral combat ships at Singapore besides accessing facilities of Vietnamese port Cam Rank Bay.

The US has terminated special treatment agreements with Hong Kong in response to China’s `actions to deny freedom to the people of Hong Kong’. Houston consulate was closed ` because it was a den of spies’.  

China’s disputes:  The USA is flaring up China’s dormant maritime disputes over some islands in the region (Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines). In East China Sea, there is dispute between China and Japan over islands of Diaoyu and Senkakus islands.

The USA assures China’s rivals that USA would be their `security provider’ in moment of need. The major stakeholders in the region are the USA, China, Australia, ASEAN countries, Japan and South Korea.

To block China’s ascendancy, all littoral states including Japan, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea and other middle ranking regional powers are modernizing their navies.

India’s necklace of diamonds:  As a US proxy, India is building a ‘Necklace of Diamonds’. This is a China r encirclement strategy. India is expanding its naval bases and is also improving relations with strategically placed countries to suffocate China.

India’s Strategic Bases include: (a) Changi Naval Base, Singapore: In 2018, Prime Minister Modi signed an agreement with Singapore. The agreement has provided direct access to this base to the Indian Navy. While sailing through the South China Sea, the Indian Navy can refuel and rearm its ship through this base. (b) Sabang Port, Indonesia: In 2018, India got military access to Sabang Port which is located right at the entrance of Malacca Strait. This strait is one of the world’s famous choke points. A large chunk of trade and crude oil passes on to China through this region. (c) Duqm Port, Oman: In 2018, India got another military access after Sabang Port in Indonesia. The Duqm Port is located on the south-eastern seaboard of Oman. The port facilitates India’s crude imports from the Persian Gulf. Indian facility is located right between the two important Chinese pearls, Djibouti in Africa and Gwadar in Pakistan. (d) Assumption Island, Seychelles: In 2015, India and Seychelles agreed upon the development of the naval base in this region. This gives the military access to India. This base is of strategic importance to India as China desperately wants to increase its presence in the African continent through the maritime silk route. (e) Chabahar Port, Iran: In 2016, Prime Minister Modi signed an agreement to build this port. India reneged on a promise to complete it under US pressure. Iran had to replace her with China.  (f)  New naval bases are being developed in the Mongolia Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) with Japan.

India is maintaining good relations with Vietnam and has so far sold Brahmos Missile and four patrol boats to the country. Bangladesh and Nepal are slipping out of India’s influence, but Bhutan is in India’s grip. India scuttled China’s  claim over the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan.

Inference: India’s provocations may inadvertently lead to a war against China. India’s frenzied war preparations are a source of serious concern to China. The USA is unlikely to contribute foot-soldiers to such an eventuality. Some of China’s diamonds are weary of India’s pugnacity. For instance, Bangladesh is getting closer to China.  Bangladesh is unhappy at India’s non-compliance of Teesta River Accord, and anti-Muslim (Bangladeshi) Citizenship Amendment Act.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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Russia points to evidence exposing Kiev’s intentions to use biological weapons

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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.

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Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS)- The Pandora’s Box of Security Issues

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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

China

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.

Pakistan

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.

Conclusion

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.

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Growing India Israel Relations: A Threat to Sovereignty of Gulf States

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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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