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The way in which the Russian intelligence services operate

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Obviously the security system of the Russian Federation was made up of the remains of the KGB, which had been deliberately and perhaps unreasonably disbanded in 1991.

 A large part of the “Committee” was destroyed without any plan and then some KGB elements were redistributed in other agencies or even in other non-intelligence offices, by always trying to put the offices and the security apparatus in competition with each other.

 A reasonable idea, but to be used in a non-exclusive way.

It should be noted, however, that after the Cold War the Russian Security Services were rebuilt and changed on the basis of the American model.

 Not because the United States had won the “Cold War”, but because it still had as many as 17 different services in operation – and this is was a mistake also there.

Nevertheless, even before 1989, the end of the global confrontation had already weakened and marginalized the Western structures.

 The political intelligence unit in the United States was abolished in 1985, as was the General Intelligence Division of the FBI.

 In Great Britain the unit against “subversive activities”, known as F Branch, shifted from MI5 to counter-terrorism. The basic criterion there – which seems questionable today – was to operate counter-espionage only domestically and espionage only abroad. The divide and rule strategy of politicians over the intelligence services. But also a guarantee of inefficiency and information “holes” one after the other.

Post-communist Russia, however, did the same: the KGB was dismantled, with the Border Troops assigned to another ad hoc Agency and the communication troops to FAPSI, another new Agency, while the secret bunkers were largely removed or assigned to a simple office of the Presidential Administration.

However, the system born of the KGB’s disintegration imposed authoritatively lasted until 1998.

 In 1991 Yeltsin also tried to establish a single Ministry for Security and Internal Affairs – an old reform that had been started by Stalin in 1953 before the Constitutional Court stopping it.

Certainly no country can currently afford such a concentration of power as the one resulting from a Single Service. Especially the kleptocratic ruling classes or, as often happens in the West, the completely incompetent ones. Or both.

In this case, the long war between the ruling classes and the intelligence Services would be won by the latter.

It is not necessarily always a bad thing.

 The threats to Russia, however, were not particularly strong in the early 1990s – hence the Russian intelligence Service could be changed quite radically, albeit with the due bureaucratic slowness. And without too much damage, except for the lack of news about the relationship between the operators of the klepto-liberal transformation of the economy and the ruling class. It is not strange since it was exactly the goal it was intended to be achieved.

 The “liberalization” of the post-Soviet Russian economy was the aim, while the mandatory silence of the intelligence Services or their participation in the klepto-system was the means.

Most of the KGB, especially the section related to counter-espionage, was rebuilt as Federal Security Service (FSB).

The First Central Directorate, dealing with foreign operations and espionage, became the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

 The 6thand 8thChief Directorates of the KGB, already operating in electronic and signal intelligence, were merged and reorganized into a new Agency, the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI), based on the explicit model of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

 The 15thChief Directorate of the KGB became the Presidential Directorate for Special Programs, responsible for the protection of the country’s most secret and sensitive infrastructure, while the First Directorate for Security, i.e. the 9th Chief Directorate of the old KGB, was aimed at protecting the country’s most important personalities.

As noted above, the Border Troops became an autonomous administration.

Yeltsin himself made sure there was maximum competition between the intelligence Services and Agencies, also to prevent his Ministers from knowing about matters before, only or better than him. But the problem lies in understanding, not “having information before the others”. If the statesman does not succeed in understanding, there is nothing that can make him perceive a new idea, initiative or operation from a note of the intelligence Service. Nothing.

 There are those who are born councillors for traffic, while there are those who are born statesmen. And we have far too many of the former ones, even second-rank ones.

 The SVR competed even with the GRU (the Military Service) and the FSB, which then really rivalled with FAPSI.

Within the Presidency, there were also the Services that Russia called “sociological”: the GAS to monitor the socio-political (and economic) situation in the regions farthest away from Moscow; the Vybory(“elections”), which served precisely to monitor the electoral processes; the networks in charge of monitoring administrative costs. Efficient even today.

 In 1993, the system of internal competition within the intelligence Services was even strengthened. In fact, in 1993 the Tax Police was also established, competing directly with the FSB’s Department for Economic Security.

 In Putin’s hands those structures, but above all the Tax Office, became the main, but very selective tool against the “oligarchs”. Friendly oligarchs were chosen, while the others were forced into exile or into a few visits to Siberia.

Such a rational and practical choice not to destroy the system, which would have been fatal, and a way to remain in power.

 Excessive competition between the intelligence Services, however, can lead to dangerous infighting for State stability and, above all, for information reliability. Hence the Presidency tried to put a limit to this “blame and killing game” as well.

 In 1998, in fact, the idea of putting back together all the numerous pieces into which the old KGB had been shattered was revived, so as to prevent the excessive competition between the Structures from destroying the very function of intelligence.

It was only in 2003, however, that – after rising to power – Putin abolished the Federal Tax Police Service, as well as FAPSI and finally the Federal Agency for Border Troops and some other offices.

 Instead, the “State Committee for combating Illegal Drug Trafficking and Trade” was created. The Border Troops became part of the FSB and FAPSI was once again divided between the FSB and the Federal Security Service, which had remained intact in the midst of the various and often very complex “reforms”.

 The FSB was immediately given full and almost direct control over the Interior Ministry.

Nevertheless, once again the reconstruction-fragmentation of the Russian intelligence services partly spared the 5th Chief Directorate of the KGB, led and invented by Yuri Andropov, dealing with “political investigations”.

 As Andropov himself used to say, the 5th Chief Directorate had been created to “fight ideological subversion inspired by Soviet enemies abroad”. Just think that when he became Secretary of the CPSU, some slovenly Italian daily newspapers told about his “passion for jazz” and “modern art”. Nothing forbids it, of course, but Andropov would not hesitate for a moment to send certain artists to the cold Siberia.

 The 1st Department of the 5thChief Directorate was specialised in the infiltration and control of trade unions; the 2nd one operated against the domestic and foreign centres which supported Soviet dissidents abroad; the 3rd one operated within the student world. There were as many as 15 Departments only within the 5thChief Directorate, with the 14thDepartment responsible for controlling foreign journalists, the 13thone for keeping an eye on punks and spontaneous groups and the 8thone for Jews. All of them employed as many as 2,500 people.

With a view to “cleaning up” the image of the 5thChief Directorate, in 1989 it was renamed “Chief Directorate for defending Constitutional Order”, but it was formally eliminated in August 1991.

 After seven years, in 1998, the new Chief Directorate for protecting the Constitution was established within the FSB.

As the Russian Presidency maintained, it operated in the “socio-political sphere” against “internal sedition” which – as Yeltsin said – had always been “more dangerous than external invasions”.

Later that Department was merged into the one for “Combating Terrorism”. Correctly, the Russian intelligence Services have always separated “terrorism” from “subversion” – a sign that their political analysis is subtler and more refined than the Western one.

In 2002, however, again for fear of concentrating too much power in one single Service, the Counter-Terrorism Service was divided in two.

 It is incredible how an Intelligence Agency could have worked with this continuous institutional fragmentation.

 The BT Service, i.e. the Counter-Terrorism Service, was incorporated again into the FSB but with a new name, i.e. the SZOKS and the BPeh, i.e. the “Service for protecting the Foundations of the Constitutional System” and the “Service for combating Political Extremism”, respectively.

 It should be noted that the fight against terrorism was always separate from the one for “protecting the Constitution”.

 In those years, a new Russian need emerged, i.e. the control of neighbouring foreign countries, namely the CIS.

 The Russia-Belarus Federation, which we currently see actually in operation, was developed in 1999.

In 2005, however, the need arose for the FSB to carry out serious operations also beyond the neighbouring foreign countries, for example in Europe and North America.

 From that moment on, the Russian Services have been above all very careful not to let the colour revolutions – typical of the Western Services’ current approach to the destabilisation/isolation of the Russian Federation – break out in their “buffer zone”. All this started -in the Serbian “democratic” transformation – with the OTPOR network, organized in the U.S. Embassy to Hungary, as well as in the U.S. foundations’ networks and – long live the unaware powerlessness – even in the European ones.

Meanwhile, also against the colour revolutions, the FSB became a real old-style intelligence agency, with its brand new “Directorate for the Coordination of Current Information” (UKOI) and the “Directorate for strategic planning, analysis and forecasting” (DAPSP) that both became the most important and powerful bodies of the Service.

Pending Putin’s rise to power and his first years of government, also the GRU and the SVR resumed their former function as real intelligence agencies.

 In 2005, however, in the post-Soviet elite’s enthusiasm for new names, the structure that organised relations with the CIS countries, within the FSB, was again renamed as “Current Information Service”.

As mentioned above, in 2003 the Border Troops had been definitively brought back into the FSB.

The Russian Federation always remained a “police state” and there were two other bodies that dealt with borders and were not led by the Kremlin.

 They were the “Counter-Terrorism Centre of CIS countries” and the internal control system of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

 In 2006, the Duma also approved the establishment of a special Service for eliminating terrorists abroad. I wrote “eliminating” since a Service also has to do with certain phases of life.

 We were always in the sensitive and long phase of the handover between Yeltsin and Putin, namely in 2000 – the year when Vladimir Putin placed part of the FSB within the Armed Forces, a stronghold of the excellent GRU which was never significantly manipulated by politicking.

 The FSB immediately organized a “Directorate for the North Caucasus” and for military counterintelligence in that region. That was the geographical and strategic objective. The Service’s modus operandialso changed: from 2003 onwards, the FSB and the SVR not only disclosed the confidential information they collected, but also interpreted it – something that the old KGB would never have dared to do.

 The “KGB” was excellent, like all the Services that have a real State behind them (a current issue for Italy to meditate and reflect), especially for operations abroad and for penetration in other regions of the world – as in Italy, for example – but it never dared to interpret the data it collected, thus hopelessly waiting for the para-Marxist and ossified blah-blah of the Kremlin.

 Given the pseudo-Marxist chatter, those working for the KGB did as they pleased. Good old days.

Hence information arrived, almost without being processed, but only on the desk of the Director of the KGB (and then, for a while, also of the FSB) and he was the only one to select the data he deemed important.

 The data collected by the Service was then sent to the various departments of the Central Committee and – reading between the lines – that was the Party’s control over the KGB.

In the 1990s, other Directorates were added to the Lubjanka, such as the Psychological Service, which was interested in mass phenomena and counterpropaganda.

The open source analysis, which is currently so important for all intelligence Services, did not exist as such at the time. Neither before nor after the fall of the Soviet regime.

 There was, if anything, the study of errors and exact evaluations made by the Service in previous years and for similar cases. Too little.

 There was also the new campaign, organized through the many complacent Western channels, to create the “myth” of the FSB – as years before that was dome for the KGB, certainly a very good Service, but not as extraordinary as the propaganda, including the Western one, let us believe.

For a Service, however, propaganda must always be well organized and supported, unlike what happens in Italy, where it seems that the intelligence Services are mainly represented by the militants of the extreme left organisation known as “Avanguardia Operaia”.

Just to make an example, one of those old militants was also Interior Minister for a right-wing party.

 With great irritation and anger of former President Francesco Cossiga, who voted an individual motion of no confidence against that political leader.

Still today, the Soviet Services – albeit excellent and efficient (especially from an operational viewpoint) – are born from this long odyssey between uncertain ruling classes, sectoral and often “biased” evaluations, incompetent politicians. Currently a fundamental role is played by Putin, who has revived competition between the Agencies, although in a more complex and Kremlin-controlled way. After Vladimir Vladimirovic’s leadership – and this is certainly one of the aims of current Western operations – the Russian Services will be plunged again into the chaos resulting from an often para-criminal political polyarchy.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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US-led ‘Psychological Wars’ Against Russia, China Lead to All Lose Situation

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Andrei Ilnitsky, an advisor to Russian defense minister, said in an interview at the end of March that the US and the West are waging a “mental war” against Russia. Why does the West resort to the psychological war? How will Russia cope with the psychological war? Global Times (GT) reporters Wang Wenwen and Lu Yuanzhi interviewed Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, on these issues by email.

What are the features of such a psychological war?

There is nothing new about psychological wars – they have always been a part of standard military operations. The goal has been to demoralize both your enemy’s army and its population at large in order to break down the will of your opponent to fight and to resist. Ancient kings, emperors and warlords broadly used over-exaggeration, deception, disinformation, mythology, and so on. However, today states commonly use these instruments of psychological wars not only during military conflicts, but in the peacetime as well. Moreover, new information technology offers plenty of innovative ways to get your message to select target audiences in a foreign country; you can customize and focus this message as never before. Each of us is a target in this warfare, even if we do not feel it.

The US-led West used to wage color revolutions on countries they deem as adversaries. What are the differences between the color revolution and the psychological war? Why does the West resort to the psychological war?

A color revolution is an unconstitutional regime change caused by sizeable and sometimes violent street activities of the radical opposition. Western leaders usually welcome such changes and arguably render them diverse political, organizational and financial assistance. Nevertheless, a regime change cannot come from nowhere. There should be significant political, social, economic or ethnic problems that, if remain unresolved for a long time, gradually lead to a color revolution. Psychological wars help to articulate unresolved problems, deprive the leadership of a target country of legitimacy in the eyes of its own population and, ultimately, prepare a color revolution.

What are the likely outcomes for the West’s psychological war on Russia? How will Russia cope with the psychological war?

Russian authorities are trying to limit opportunities for the West to wage the psychological war by exposing Western disinformation and imposing restrictions on select Western media, NGOs and foundations that are perceived as instruments of waging the war.

Is the West capable of launching a military offensive on Russia?

Russia remains a nuclear superpower with very significant military capabilities. A nuclear war with Moscow could lead to the annihilation of the humankind and therefore cannot be considered a feasible option. Even a full-fledged conventional conflict between Russia and the West in Europe would turn into a catastrophe of an epic scale for both sides. It does not necessarily mean that we can rule out such a scenario, but I think that if there were a war, it would erupt because of an inadvertent escalation rather than because of a rational decision to launch a military offensive.

The West has never dropped the illusion of changing China’s and Russia’s systems to that similar of the West by adopting the tactic of “peaceful evolution.” How could Russia and China join hands in face of such Western attempts?

Indeed, many in the West still believe that their system has a universal value and that eventually both Russia and China should move to Western-type liberal political systems. These views are less popular now than they were twenty or thirty years ago, but we cannot ignore them. Moscow and Beijing have the right to defend themselves against the Western ideological and psychological offensive. Still, I see the solution to the problem of psychological wars in a “psychological peace” should be based on a common understanding on what is allowed in the international information exchange and what is not. Russia and China could work together in defining a new code of conduct regulating the trans-border information flows. In the immediate future, the West will be reluctant to accept this code, but we should keep trying. In my view, this is the only way to proceed; if psychological wars continue, there will be no winners and losers – everybody will lose.

From our partner RIAC

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Boko Haram: Religious Based Violence and Portrayal of Radical Islam

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Modern-day global and domestic politics have set forth the trend that has legitimized and rationalized the use of religion as a tool to attain political gravity and interests. Similarly, many religion-oriented groups use religion to shape their political agenda and objectives, often using religion as a justification for their violent activities. Most of these mobilized groups are aligned with Islam. These groups have promoted religion-based violence and have also introduced new waves and patterns in global terrorism. Some prominent organized groups that attain world attention include Boko Haram, ISIS, Al- Qaeda, and the Taliban. These groups have potentially disrupted the political establishment of their regions. Although, a comparative insight delivers that these various organizations have antithetical political objectives but these groups use Islam to justify their violent actions and strategies based on violence and unrest.

The manifesto of Boko Haram rests on Islamic principles i.e. establishing Shariah or Islamic law in the region. A system that operates to preserve the rights of poor factions of the society and tends to promote or implement Islamic values. Hence, in this context, it negates westernization and its prospects. However, the rise of Boko Haram was based on anti-western agenda which portrayed that the existing government is un-Islamic and that western education is forbidden. Hence, the name Boko Haram itself delivered the notion that western culture or civilization is forbidden. Boko Haram has a unique political and religiously secular manifesto. Boko Haram was formed by Mohammad Yusuf, who preached his agenda of setting up a theocratic political system through his teachings derived from Islam. And countered the existing governmental setup of the Christians. The violent dynamics surged in 2009 when an uprising against the Nigerian government took the momentum that killed almost 800 people. Following the uprising, Mohammad Yusuf was killed and one of his lieutenants Abu Bakar Shekau took the lead.

Boko Haram used another violent strategy to gain world attention by bombing the UN Compound in Abuja that killed twenty-three people. The incident led to the declaration of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organizationby the United States Department. Thus, the group continued the process of violence and also started to seize several territories like Bama, Dam boa, and Abadan. They also extended their regional sphere in terms of occupation using violent strategies. The violence intensified when in the year 2014, 276 girls were abducted from Girl’s school in Chibok. This immediately triggered global outrage and developed an image of religious extremism and violence. This process continued over the years; one reported case articulated that a Christian girl ‘Lean Shairbu’ was kept in captivity for a prolonged period upon refusal to give up her religion. Ever since, the violence has attained an upward trajectory, as traced in the case of mass Chibok abduction and widespread attack in Cameroon in the years 2020 and 2021.

After establishing a regional foothold Boko Haram improvised new alliances especially in 2015 after the government recaptured some of its territories that pushed the militant group near Lake Chad and to the hilly areas. Consequently, Abu Bakar Shekau turned towards international alliance and pledged its allegiance to IS. This created two branches of Boko Haram called Jamat u Ahlis Liddawatiwal Jihad (JAS) headed by Abu Bakar Shekau and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) lead by Musab Al Barnarwai. The ISWAP developed strong social, political, and strategic roots in the region. It has embedded itself socially in the hearts and minds of people by establishing their caliphate and judicial system.

The pattern of religion-based conflicts has transformed the global religious conflicts. That is often referred to as extremist terrorism based on religion. Hence the rise of Boko Haram also involved demographics that complimented their political objectives. As the state of Nigeria is an amalgamation of Christians and Muslims; and has been constructed as a distinct ethno-lingual society, historically. The Christians resided in the South of Nigeria while the Muslims were located in Northern Nigeria. The northern side suffered from poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and public health issues under the government of Goodluck Jonathan. His government was centrally weak and marginalized the Northern side. This also contributed as one of the major factors that granted an edge for the influence and legitimacy of Boko Haram. Therefore, the main reason that triggered the organization and its move was based on Islamic principles of Jihad and Tajdid. This presents new notions of religion to recruit and incorporate more people into their community. The concept of Jihad has been historically driven which reflects and justifies acts against the unjust state and its authority. It also expands the capacity for social hostilities against the non-religious entities promoting hatred and non-acceptance. This also breeds religious extremism and rigidity that further validates the use of violence on their behalf.  Hence Jihad acts as a driving force to strive against the un-Islamic state structure for Islamic religious social fabric. Moreover, this religiously derived conception of violent confrontation has always been legitimized in terms of the historic concept of war and terms of self-defense. 

As a radical and contemporary religious belief; Jihad is regarded as the manifestation of religious violence and extremist terrorism. The establishment of the caliphate and state-like institutions represents a radical Salafist view regarding the establishment of the Islamic state structure. The ISWAP acts as a pseudo-state or state with in state that has established its authority and control. The reflection of another religious proclamation ofTajdid refers to the renewal of religious norms that aims at reconstruction or reset of social structure in accordance with Islamic values. Jihad and Tajdid collaboratively serve to generate notions about the reset of the political framework as an Islamic state system. The socio-religious reconstruction is particularly divergent from the western one. As western societies are often pluralistic, while Boko Haram’s vision aims as establishing Islamic social composition. Moreover, the western setup provided constitutional provisions to women in terms of rights, freedom, education, and liberty. This completely contradicted their conceptualization of women. Hence, this also generated gender-based violence as means to protect Islamic values. This was closely witnessed during the abduction of girls from their school. Furthermore, Islamic radicalization has been pursued through different channels that have extensively contributed to narrative building amongst the population, propaganda, and the development of a religious mindset in the African region. One of the most prominent tactics used for the purpose has been achieved through the propagation of literature. The scholars started to preach about Jihad and its implications since the 15th Century. The channel continues to date where the teachers preach about these scholarly findings that further encourages the youth to turn towards radical Islamization. The degree of radicalization elevates as Boko Haram propagates the concept of exclusivism that tends to oppose other value systems and beliefs. This creates a rift the society and deteriorates the sense of co-existence. As a result, Boko Haram represents a destructive paradox that promotes religious extremism and violence through misinterpretation of Islamic principles. Pursuing the political agenda of Boko Haram under the banner of Islamic law; which is power-oriented and would help them maintain dominance politically, economically, and territorially in the African region.

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Security of nuclear materials in India

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Terrorism

The author is of the view that nuclear security is lax in India. More so, because of the 123 Agreement and sprawling  nuclear installations in several states. The thieves and scrap dealers even dare to advertise online sale of radioactive uranium. India itself has reported several incidents of nuclear thefts to the international bodies. The author wonders why India’s security lapses remain out of international focus. Views expressed are personal.  

Amid raging pandemic in the southern Indian state of Maharashtra, the anti-terrorism squad arrested  (May 6, 20210) two persons (Jagar Jayesh Pandya and Abu Tahir Afzal hussain Choudhry) for attempting to sell seven kilograms  of highly-radioactive muranium for offered price of  about Rs. 21 crore. The “gentlemen” had uncannily advertised  the proposed sale online.. As such, the authorities initially dismissed the advertisement as just another hoax. They routinely detained the “sellers-to-be” and forwarded a sample of their ware to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.  They were shocked when the centre reported that “the material was natural uranium”.  As such the squad was compelled to book the duo under India’s Atomic Energy Act, 1962 at Nagpur police station (Explained: ATS seizes 7 kg uranium worth  Rs. 21 crore from a scrap dealer…Indian Express May 7, 2021).

Not a unique incident

The event, though shocking, is  is not  one of its kind. Earlier, in 2016 also, two persons were arrested by Thane (Maharashtra) police while they were trying to sell eight to nine kilograms of depleted uranium for Rs. 24 crore.  It is surmised that sale of uranium by scrap dealers in India is common. But, such events rarely come in limelight. According to Anil Kakodar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, `Factories using uranium as a counterweight in their machines are mandated to contact the Atomic Energy agencies and return uranium to them. They however resort to short cuts and sell the entire machine with uranium in scrap’.

India media scarcely report such incidents. However, Indian government sometimes reports such incidents to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to meet disclosure requirements. According to international media reports (February 25, 2004), India reported 25 cases of “missing” or “stolen” radio-active material from its labs to the IAEA.  Fifty-two per cent of the cases were attributed to “theft” and 48% to the “missing mystery”.  India claimed to have recovered lost material in twelve of total 25 cases.  It however admitted that 13 remaining cases remained mysterious.

India’s reports such incidents to the IAEA to portray itself as a “responsible state”.  It is hard to believe that radio-active material could be stolen from nuclear labs without operators’ connivance.

Nine computers, belonging to India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation establishment at Metcalfe House, New Delhi, were stolen. India communicated 25 cases of ‘stolen or missing’ uranium to the IAEA. In different incidents, uranium in varying forms and quantities continue to be recovered from scrap dealers and others by Indian authorities. The recoveries include fifty-seven pounds of uranium in rod form, eight kilograms in granular form, two hundred grams in semi-processed form, besides twenty-five kilograms in radioactive form, stolen from the Bibi Cancer Hospital.

Too, the ‘thieves’ stole three cobalt switches, worth Rs. 1.5 million, from Tata Steel Company laboratory at Jamshedpur (Jharkhand). A shipment of beryllium (worth $24 million), was caught in Vilnius, on its way to North Korea. Taiwanese authorities had intercepted a ship carrying dual-use aluminum oxide from India to North Korea. A New Jersey-based Indian engineer Sitaram Ravi Mahidevan was indicted for having bypassed US export procedures to send blue-prints of solenoid-operated valves to North Korea.

We know that the Taiwanese authorities had intercepted a ship, carrying dual-use aluminum oxide from India to North Korea.  The oxide is an essential ingredient of rocket casings and is, as such, prohibited for export to “rogue” countries.

Pakistan bashing

Despite recurrent incidents of theft of uranium or other sensitive material from indiandian nuclear labs, the IAEA never initiated a thorough probe into lax security environment in government and private nuclear labs in india. However, the international media has a penchant for creating furore over uncorroborated nuclear lapses in Pakistan. The Time magazine article ‘Merchant of Menace’, had reported that some uranium hexafluoride cylinders were missing from the Kahuta Research Laboratories.  Pakistan’ then information minister and foreign-office spokesman had both refuted the allegation.  Masood Khan (foreign office) told reporters, `The story is a rehash of several past stories’.

Similarly,  Professor Shaun Gregory in his report ‘The Security of Nuclear Weapons’ contends that those guarding about 120 nuclear-weapon sites, mostly in northern and western parts of Pakistan, have fragmented loyalties. As such, they are an easy prey to religious extremists.

Frederick W. Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon, also draw a gloomy portrait of the situation in Pakistan. In their article, published in The New York Times, dated November 18, 2007, they predicted that extremists would take over, if rule of law collapses in Pakistan. Those sympathetic with the Taliban and al-Qaeda may convert Pakistan into a state sponsor of terrorism. They pointed to Osama bin Laden’s meeting with Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, former engineers of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission (having no bomb-making acumen).

They claimed that U.S. military experts and intelligence officials had explored strategies for securing Pakistan’s nuclear assets. One option was to isolate the country’s nuclear bunkers. Doing so would require saturating the area, surrounding the bunkers, with tens of thousands of high-powered mines, dropped from air, packed with anti-tank and anti-personnel munitions. The panacea, suggested by them, was that Pakistan’s nuclear material should be seized and stashed in some “safe” place like New Mexico.

Rebuttal

The fact is that the pilloried Pakistani engineers had no knowledge of weaponisation (“When the safest is not safe enough,” The Defence Journal -Pakistan), pages 61-63). The critics mysteriously failed to mention that Pakistan is a party to the UN Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. The steps taken by Pakistan to protect its nuclear materials and installations conform to international standards. The National Command Authority, created on February 2, 2000, has made fail-safe arrangements to control development and deployment of strategic nuclear forces. Pakistan’s nuclear regulatory authority had taken necessary steps for safety, security, and accountability of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, facilities, and materials even before 9/11 incident. These controls include functional equivalent of the two-man rule and permissive action links (PALs). The indigenously-developed PALs are bulwarks against inadvertent loss of control, or accidental use of weapons. So far, there has been no security lapse in any of Pakistan’s nuclear establishments.

Abdul Mannan, in his paper titled “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan: Sabotage of a Spent Fuel Cask or a Commercial Irradiation Source in Transport”, has analysed various ways in which acts of nuclear terrorism could occur in Pakistan (quoted in “Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Worries beyond War”). He has fairly reviewed Pakistan’s vulnerability to nuclear terrorism through hypothetical case studies. He concludes that the threat of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan is a figment of imagination, rather than a real possibility.

There are millions of radioactive sources used worldwide in various applications. Only a few thousand sources, including Co-60, Cs-137, Ir-192, Sr-90, Am-241, Cf-252, Pu-238, and RA-226 are considered a security risk. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has enforced a mechanism of strict measures for administrative and engineering control over radioactive sources from cradle to grave. It conducts periodic inspections and physical verifications to ensure security of the sources. The Authority has initiated a Five-Year National Nuclear-Safety-and-Security-Action Plan to establish a more robust nuclear-security regime. It has established a training centre and an emergency-coordination centre, besides deploying radiation-detection-equipment at each point of nuclear-material entry in Pakistan, supplemented by vehicle/pedestrian portal monitoring equipment where needed.

Fixed detectors have been installed at airports, besides carrying out random inspection of personnel luggage. All nuclear materials are under strict regulatory control right from import until their disposal.

Concluding remarks

Nuclear controls in India and the USA are not more stringent than Pakistan’s. It is not understood why the media does not deflect their attention to the fragile nuclear-security environment in India. It is unfortunate that the purblind critics fail to see the gnawing voids in India’s nuclear security.

The ‘research work’ by well-known scholars reflects visceral hatred against Pakistan. The findings in fresh ‘magnum opuses’ are a re-hash or amalgam of the presumptions and pretensions in earlier-published ‘studies’. It is time that the West deflected its attention to India where movements of nuclear materials, under the 123 expansion plan, are taking place between nuclear-power plants sprawling across different states.

Above all, will the international media and the IAEA look into open market uranium sales in India.

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