Winners and whiners in the scramble for Africa

The growing influence of China, Russia and India in Africa has set the alarm bells ringing in Western countries, which accuse the BRICS of exploiting the Africans. How true is the charge?

In September 2009, when Manoj Rai, a quality control engineer from India, accepted a managerial job offer at a beverage company in Rwanda, his only concern was homesickness. After all, the east African country was over 6000 km away. His fears proved to be baseless – when Rai and his wife landed in Kigali, Rwanda’s beautiful capital city, they were blown away by the warmth of their African neighbours and colleagues. And to make them feel right at home, their corporate perks included a brand new Indian made Mahindra Scorpio SUV. This wasn’t out of the blue, as Mahindra, Tata, Bajaj and TVS vehicles are an increasingly common sight on African roads. By March 2012, the couple was able to use a mobile phone service provided by Airtel Rwanda, a subsidiary of India’s Bharti Airtel.

On air

 In June 2010 when Bharti Airtel announced a $10.7 billion investment in the nascent African telecom market, it was ridiculed as a monumental overreach – an uppity Indian company was seen as burning cash in a continent the West had written off. Where were the urban agglomerations required for mobile phone subscribers? Who would secure the cell towers in these ‘unstable’ countries? And didn’t Africans need food rather than mobile gizmos?

Well, seems like Airtel wasn’t listening. When pundits declared Africa was a high-cost operation because of its vast distances and thinly spread out population, Airtel simply duplicated its low-cost India strategy. It slashed tariffs and carpeted the vast continent with cellular networks. Today, Airtel is a household name in 17 African countries, including countries whose names are – in Western parlance – synonyms of failure: Congo, Niger, Chad, Gabon, Malawi, Ghana, Zambia, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.

The Indian company’s bold push has benefitted Africans where it matters most – in their pockets. Mobile tariffs have fallen up to an incredible 90 percent across the continent.

Suddenly, the likes of CNN have stopped laughing. For, Airtel’s price war has swept away or checked the expansion of Western competitors. And it’s making money – revenues from mobile services in Africa crossed $1.1 billion in the year up to September 2012.

On land

Approximately 10 km north of the international airport in Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the central African republic of Congo, is the swanknew Kiswishi satellite city. In this formerly civil war blighted territory, Russia’s Renaissance Group is investing $50 million to build gleaming new malls, lavish residential suburbs, supermarkets and dining strips. The building boom in the mineral-rich country is fuelled by factories and businesses that are rising from once barren land. Where today thousands of hectares of new glass-and-steel edifices stand, last year there was nothing.

At breakneck speed, Moscow-based Renaissance Partners, which manages a $750-million investment portfolio, is constructing luxury developments that cater for Africa’s growing middle class. Across Africa, from Ghana to Zimbabwe and Zambia to Nairobi, its projects are dotting what used to be dusty districts. The Russians’ grandest project is yet to come – the $5-billion Tatu City outside Nairobi, Kenya.

On water

Eighty per cent of the waters that go into the mighty Nile river originate in Ethiopia, not Egypt. But despite being the uppermost riparian state, an unequal 1959 treaty saw to it that Ethiopia was able to use only 2 per cent of the Nile’s flow.

While every dictator and his sidekick was being lured into the Western camp with IMF-World Bank dam-building loans (dams held a peculiar attraction for the Bretton Woods twins), Ethiopia was conspicuously denied loans. There was a reason: Egypt was under Western control and helping Ethiopia dam the Nile would be wrong policy.

Today, free of internecine wars, Ethiopia is turning to Chinese banks to underwrite around a third of the cost of the $4.8 billion dam. Though significant, the Ethiopian investment will be a footnote in China’s African portfolio. Since 2000, Chinese investment in the continent has ballooned from $2 billion to an incredible $166 billion this year.

A question of turf

As China, Russia and India strike deals in Africa to fuel their growth, it is causing a great deal of heartburn among the old interlocutors. Says Canada’s Globe and Mail, “In an age-old pattern, much of the BRIC investment flowing into Africa is benefiting the political and business elite, rather than ordinary Africans.”

“In Lubumbashi, some of the harshest criticism has been directed at BRIC investors – including an Indian company, Chemaf, which processes copper and cobalt in several factories around the city.”

The Canadian newspaper says although the Indians have created 3,000 jobs in the area, their factory has become a major health hazard, polluting the air and soil. It claims local people have been scalded by acid spills. “They are coming with nice words about what they will do. But when they start working you see the opposite face,” the Globe and Mail quotes the Congolese as saying.

The Globe and Mail admits its investigation was spurred by the need to reexamine Canada’s aid programme and its corporate interests in Africa. It complains how Congo seized a massive C$2.5 billion project jointly owned between Canada’s First Quantum Minerals, the World Bank and Congo’s Gecamines. The project is now being implemented by Kazakhstan.

Colonial Way vs BRICS way

Like the Canadian news site, there are a number of outfits carping about the new players in Africa. However, they should pause to think – Western companies and charities have been carrying on their work for over a hundred years yet have barely made a dent in the poverty.

Africans say they have been following Western business and development models for decades without seeing any improvements in their lives. Borrowing a metaphor from a popular Hindi movie of yesteryears, aid is like liquid oxygen – the liquid won’t let you live and the oxygen won’t let you die.

Conversely, investment by Chinese, Indian and Russian companies is lifting vast swathes of Africa out of the Third World. And these new players are guided purely by the profit motive. Where once there was colonialism, today it is straightforward capitalism at work.

And what do you know, it works. The companies profit, the Africans have jobs, and the local governments collect taxes. And as for the new enterprises benefiting only the elites, even if that were true it is worth noting that when the West was running the show, it was often just one dictator – and his family – who was making money.

It is worth mentioning that the over 6500 African employees of the old networks Airtel acquired were not retrenched or replaced but were retrained and reabsorbed within subsidiary companies.

New players, new strategies

The emerging powers hold key advantages in the continent. China has endless reserves of cash. Not only do the Chinese give Africa credit at firesale rates, they do it with a flourish – at the end of every major project they are known to throw in a significant gift such as a free school, hospital, luxury hotel or a glitzy convention centre. Try beating that.

However, the Africans are now looking to Russia for an alternative, in an attempt to hedge their risks. Moscow is drawing upon the former Soviet Union’s legacy of political and economic influence. At a December 2011 Russia-Africa Business Forum initiated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Melas Zenawi, the Russian side announced it would return to Africa in a big way.Mikhail Margelov, the Russian presidential representative, said: “In the 1990s, Russia gave up practically all of its interests, freeing up the territory for the United States, the European Union and China. In 1992, Russia closed nine embassies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The new economy led to strategic losses, and now we need to make up for them.”

India’s good run in Africa is remarkable for being private sector propelled. Its leaders are only known to issue token statements but India’s soft power, its entrepreneurial diaspora, and history of fighting colonialism and Apartheid (India refused to play South Africa in the 1974 Davis Cup final) are widely acknowledged.

African safari – who’s in the front seat?

Africa is the last great untapped market. It has 60 percent of the uncultivated land on earth. (This has attracted as many as 20 Indian farming companies, such as Bangalore-based Karturi Global which is leasing 741,000 acres of local land, an area larger than Luxembourg.)

The mineral wealth is incalculable, with Congo alone having $24 trillion worth of untapped resources, which is equal to the GDP of the US and Europe combined. 

The peace dividend is kicking in too. With the end of the Cold War many of the long-running proxy wars have fizzled out, making it possible for trade and industry to flourish for the first time in more than three centuries.

To be sure, the West isn’t prepared to let the BRICS eat their lunch. By passing the African Growth and Opportunity Act the United States hopes to redefine its relations – earlier governed by aid, emergency relief and Cold War thinking.

But in the new race for Africa’s markets, America and Europe because of their colonial legacy will remain suspect in African eyes for a very long time. As Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta said, “First, we had the land and you had the Bible. You asked us to close our eyes and pray. When we opened our eyes, we had the Bible and you had the land.”

India, China and Russia on the other hand are 100 per cent kosher.


India Completes Phase-1 of Coastal Surveillance Network on Mainland

India has successfully completed the phase-1 of its ambitious plan to have a gap-free coastal surveillance network (CSN) with the installation of 36-radar chain.

The completion of the phase-I of the project on the Indian mainland took place when Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh inaugurated the static sensor chain at Visakhapatnam on November 23.

India has already installed a chain of 36 radars along the Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala coast in the phase-1 of the CSN on the mainland. Under the Phase-1 alone, another 10 radars are to be installed in the island territories of Andaman and Nicobar and the Laskhadweep and Minicoy by mid-2013.

"The minister of state for defence has inaugurated the chain of static sensor at Visakhapatnam on November 23. The chain of radars will provide real time surveillance cover up to 25 nautical miles along the eastern coastline of India," a Defence Ministry official told defencenow.com

The CSN was envisaged post-26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 following an emergent need to strengthen coastal security was recognized by the government and on recommendation made by a group of ministers.

The Indian Coast Guard was delegated to implement the project.

Gujarat, Maharashtra and Kerala clusters of the network was inaugurated on August 25 and September 15 respectively.

"With the inauguration of eastern clusters at Visakhapatnam, the phase-I of implementation CSN at mainland is completed," the official said.

In the phase-2 of CSN, India will have another 38 radars chain to cover the rest of the 7,500-km long coastline.

The government had signed the contract with the state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) in September 2011 at a cost of Rs.602 crore ($108.5 million) considering the strategic nature of the turnkey project and with an aim to develop indigenous capabilities in the field.

Linking up of the National Automatic Identification System Network (AIS) and Vessel Traffic System (VTS) of Gulf of Khambat with the Coastal Security Network would help the security forces in identifying a friend or foe in the Indian waters.

Ballistic Missile Defence

India has signaled that it is ready to deploy a home-grown Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system in the near future with a successful testing of an advanced interceptor missile, prompting the defence scientists to claim a shield could be thrown over Delhi skies by 2014.

The big fireworks over the Bay of Bengal when India tested its experimental BMD system resulted in elation as the trial turned out to be "bang-on accurate".

The interceptor missile destroyed an incoming target missile in a direct hit at an altitude of nearly 15 km over the Bay of Bengal, demonstrating the efficacy of the system.

DRDO officials said the electronically simulated target, which mimicked a missile coming from a distance of 1,500 km, was electronically hit at an altitude of 120 km.

Within minutes of the launch of the real attacker missile, a modified surface-to-surface Prithvi from Chandipur, Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile, the actual interceptor, took off from Wheeler Island and destroyed the 'hostile' missile at an altitude of 15 km in the endo-atmospheric mode at 12.52 p.m.

Missile technologists from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the first time tested the configuration for destroying an incoming actual missile and another electronically simulated missile. The score: BMD - 2, Enemy Missiles - 0. 

Celebrations broke out at Wheeler Island following the success of the mission, which was the eighth ballistic interceptor missile test. So far seven missions have been successful and one of them, the first one was conducted in exo-atmopshere at an altitude of 48 km in November 2006.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony lauded the DRDO scientists for the successful test.

This was the seventh time the BMD system has been tested successfully over the last six years and promptly, the DRDO declared a missile shield could be deployed for New Delhi by 2014. 

"We are now ready to convert the BMD system from an experimental to an operational one that can be deployed on demand. I am confident we can deploy the Phase-I of the BMD system by 2014," said DRDO chief V K Saraswat said of the result from the Wheeler Island test range off Odisha coast.

All said and done, even American missile defence systems like Patriot Advanced Capability-3, Aegis BMD-3 and THAAD (terminal high-altitude area defence), as also Russian and Israeli ones, are not fully foolproof as of now and further efforts are on to perfect them. 

As soon as the target missile was launched, the Long-Range Tracking Radars and the Multi-Functional Radars traced it and passed on the data to the guidance computer to launch the AAD, which homed on to the target missile and pulverised it.

In the latest BDM test, only one of the incoming missiles was real: a modified Prithvi missile mimicking M-9/M-11 class of Chinese Dong Feng short-range ballistic missiles. The other was an electronically simulated missile of a longer range of 1,500km. 

But both the 'enemy' missile launches were, however, conducted "in the same window" to test the BMD system's capability to handle "multiple threats" simultaneously. 

"This has been done only by the two superpowers (US and Russia) till now. The real missile was destroyed at an altitude of 14.7-km by the interceptor missile with a direct hit," Saraswat was quoted as saying.

"The entire test was done practically in deployment configuration," he said. 

Meanwhile, DRDO has also begun work on adding a third tier to the BMD system.

The existing two-tier system is designed to track and destroy ballistic missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere. The third layer is planned to tackle low-flying cruise missiles, artillery projectiles and rockets in the line with the overall aim to achieve "near 100% kill or interception probability". 

"Look what is happening in the Middle-East (Hamas firing rockets at Israeli cities before the recent ceasefire)...hence, protection against low-cost, very close range threats is also needed. We have begun some initial work on the third-tier. We will try to integrate it with the BMD system once it fructifies," Saraswat said. 

At present, the BMD system's phase-1, under which interceptors fly at 4.5 Mach high-supersonic speeds to intercept enemy missiles, is meant to tackle hostile missiles with a 2,000-km strike range. 

Under DRDO's plans, the BMD phase-2 will take on 5,000-km range missiles, virtually in the class of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), with interceptors at hypersonic speeds of 6-7 Mach. 

During the present test, Long Range Radar and MFC Radar located far away could detect the enemy missile from take-off and tracked it through its entire path. The total trajectory of the incoming Missile was continuously estimated by the guidance computer and subsequently the AAD Missile was launched at an appropriate time to counter and kill the ballistic missile, DRDO officials said.

"The Ring Laser Gyro-based navigation system in target, Fibre Optic Gyro based INS in Interceptor, on board computers, guidance systems, actuation systems and the critical RF Seekers used for the terminal phase have performed excellently," a defence scientist said.

"The AAD Missile system, initially guided by Inertial Navigation system, was continuously getting update of the target position by the radar through a data link. The Radio Frequency (RF) seeker tracked the missile and on board computer guided the missile towards the target missile and hit the target. The Radio Proximity Fuse (RPF) exploded the warhead thereby destroying the target missile completely," he added.

In this mission, a special feature of intercepting multiple target with multiple interceptor was demonstrated successfully, DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta said.

"An electronic target with a range of 1500 km was launched and the radars picked up the target missile, tracked the target missile subsequently and launched an electronic interceptor missile. This electronic interceptor missile destroyed the electronic target missile at an altitude of 120 km," Gupta said.

"All the four missiles were tracked by the radars and all the guidance and launch computers operated in full operational mode for handling multiple targets with multiple interceptors. All the four missiles were in the sky simultaneously and both the interceptions took place near simultaneously" he said.

"This has proved the capability of DRDO to handle multiple targets with multiple interceptors simultaneously. The complete Radar Systems, Communication Networks, Launch Computers, Target update Systems and state-of-the-art Avionics have been completely proven in this mission," he added.

DRDO Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems) Avinash Chander, Research Centre Imarat Associate Director Sateesh Reddy and AD Mission Programme Director Adalat Ali were present.


Indo-Russia Fifth Generation Fighter Jet

The signing of the Sukhoi T-50 fifth generation fighter aircraft contract propels India to joint developer of the world’s most advanced stealth aircraft.

Mars missions race. India takes lead

India aims at sending an orbiter to Mars in 2013. The race for the Red planet unwinds with NASA planning a launch for the same 2013 fiscal year and China somewhat lagging behind. Earlier this month Europe gave a go ahead for a Mars mission with Russia in 2016. Russia and India have also a plan for a joint lunar mission scheduled for 2014.
India is pushing ahead with its ambitious Mars Mission in which an Indian spacecraft will orbit Mars in November 2013.
Senior officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) have deliberately set the date of the Mars Mission for November 27, 2013 when the red planet will be closer to earth.
By doing so, India will join the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and China who have all sent missions to Mars.
A 320-tonne Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket will be used to carry the orbiter spaceship which will blast off from the Isro launch site at Sriharikota.
The government has cleared this unmanned mission which is expected to cost over `5 billion. The objective of this exercise will be to focus on the life, climate, geology, origin and evolution of the red planet and also to find out if the planet sustains any life forms.
This project will be a major leg up for India’s space programme which had sent Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe to the moon. The spacecraft probe had discovered water on the moon and this discovery had proved a major credibility boost amongst the established space-faring nations.
The spacecraft is expected to take 300 days to reach the Martian orbit with the spacecraft expected to be placed in an orbit of 500 x 80,000 km around Mars.
Scientific payloads have been shortlisted by Isro’s advisory committee for space sciences and the baseline, solar array and reflector configuration of the satellite have already been finalised.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has finally announced the Mars Orbiter Mission which he believes will be a huge boost to India’s science and technology.
Already, US robot Curiosity is currently on the surface of the red planet after landing on Mars more than a month ago. Nasa scientists believe Curiosity has found clear evidence that its landing site was once awash with water, a key ingredient for life.
Curiosity, a nuclear-powered vehicle, has been designed for a minimum two-year mission.

Why Muslims and Chinese hate Pakistan

Pakistanis evoke highly negative emotions worldwide, including in Muslim majority countries, says a US survey. Not just the elites but the common Pakistani too is culpable in the country’s spectacular failure.
It has never been easy being a Pakistani. Pick a terrorist act committed anywhere in the world and chances are it has Pakistani fingerprints all over it. In many places, the word ‘Pakistani’ is a four-letter word.

So it must be a nasty kick in the guts for the Pakistanis to learn that their only allies, the Chinese, as well as the majority populations of several Muslim countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon, see them as a bunch of baddies.

A survey of 21 countries released on June 27, 2012 by the United States-based Pew Research Center suggests that Pakistan is not only a universally disliked country but the Pakistanis themselves have learnt nothing from their history, continuing to support the very actors who are responsible for their country’s negative image.

It is a measure of Pakistan’s penchant for exporting terrorists, counterfeit currency and drugs that India has constructed a 2043 km long steel fence across its border with its wayward western neighbour. The floodlit fence is so bright it can be seen from space as a bright orange line snaking from the Arabian Sea to Kashmir.

Now Iran is building a 700-km steel and concrete security fence along its border with Pakistan “to prevent border crossing by terrorists and drug traffickers”. When complete it will make Pakistan the most fenced-in country in the world.

You get the picture. Pakistan is not exactly a popular tourist destination.

In four of the five predominantly Muslim nations covered by the American survey, over half give Pakistan negative ratings. Jordan (57 percent), Lebanon (56 percent), Tunisia (54 percent) and Egypt (53 percent) had an unfavourable opinion of Pakistan. The only exception is Turkey, where attitudes are divided (43 percent negative and 37 percent favourable).

In East Asia, 52 percent of Chinese see Pakistan unfavourably, as do 59 percent in Japan and 59 percent in India. The Chinese response is not surprising as Pakistan-trained Uighur Muslims have launched terror strikes in China. Japan, a nation historically distrustful of foreigners, decided not to take chances and deported more than 15,000 Pakistanis after 9/11.

Runaway military most loved

Every country has an army but the Pakistan Army has a country. The Pakistani military runs a $20 billion commercial empire that includes interests such as milk processing plants, bakeries, banks, cinemas, heavy industry and insurance. Plus a good chunk of the billions of dollars in American aid goes straight into the pockets of the generals.

This corrupt empire is walled off from civilians. Defence analyst Ayesha Siddiqa, author of Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, says there is little accountability and widespread siphoning of funds. The Pakistani military operates a virtual apartheid where an increasingly poor civilian population faces discrimination at virtually every level of national life – from jobs to pensions.

Also, the Pakistani military has lost four wars against India. After each of these wars Pakistan lost territory and the generals their credibility. But bizarre as it sounds, this military is the most respected institution in the country. As many as 77 percent say the military has a good influence on the country, nearly the same percentage (79 percent) as last year. The Pakistanis are either very tolerant or very brainwashed.

Sure, the military’s ratings have slipped from a high of 86 percent in 2009, but all it takes is one border flare-up for the ratings to travel north. The generals always oblige.

The media comes next with a 68 percent rating, followed by religious leaders at 66 percent.

President Asif Ali Zardari receives the most negative reviews. Only 12 percent believe he has a good influence, while 84 percent dislike him. Attitudes about Zardari are particularly negative in Punjab (96 percent bad influence) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (95 percent).

Why is he so unpopular? Well, Zardari has done more than any previous leader to normalise trade and diplomatic relations with India. His mending fences approach lacks the customary anti-India sting.

Attitude towards militancy

Militant groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban have limited appeal among Pakistanis. Relatively few Pakistanis express a positive view of either Al Qaeda (13 percent) or the Taliban (13 percent). Attitudes toward groups affiliated with the Taliban fare no better in the eyes of the Pakistani public. Tehrik-i-Taliban, an umbrella organization of Taliban-linked groups in Pakistan, and the Afghan Taliban are viewed positively by only 17 percent and 14 percent of Pakistanis, respectively. The secretive Haqqani network, which is also associated with the Taliban movement, is viewed favourably by only 5 percent of Pakistanis.

The attitudes toward Lashkar-e-Taiba are somewhat more positive – 22 percent say they have a favourable opinion of this militant group. This is hardly surprising because the Lashkar mostly targets India.

How Pakistanis see India

When asked which is the greatest threat – India, the Taliban, or Al Qaeda – a clear majority named India. Roughly a quarter cited the Taliban and only 4 percent say Al-Qaeda. This is despite the fact that Al Qaeda blew up the Karachi naval base last year.

Only 22 percent of Pakistanis have a favourable view of India, although this is actually a slight improvement from 14 percent last year. Supporters of the two major opposition parties – former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are much more likely to name India as the biggest danger (71 percent and 61 percent, respectively) than those that affiliate with Zardari’s governing Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), where this view of India is held by 46 percent.

Pakistanis in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions are more likely to dislike India. For example, 84 percent in Punjab and 90 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa see India as a serious threat, while 64 percent in Sindh and 61 percent in Baluchistan say the same.

This should alert liberal Indians who rush to the border to hold “candlelight vigils” for peace. Most Pakistanis are united by their hatred and fear of India – it is only a matter of degree; some hate more, others less.

Biting the hand that feeds

India does not get any aid from the United States and yet among all 21 nations Pew surveyed, Indians seemed most favourably disposed towards it. Only 12 percent said they had an unfavourable opinion of the United States.

On the other hand in Pakistan, which is heavily dependent on American cash and weapons, 80 percent had a negative opinion of America, with 74 percent regarding it as an enemy country. Around four-in-ten (38 percent) said US economic aid is having a mostly negative impact on Pakistan, while just 12 percent believed it is mostly positive.

Curiously, 40 percent said American military aid is having a mostly negative effect, while only 8 percent said it is largely positive. Pakistan’s military stockpile is largely American supplied. Do the Pakistanis believe their North Korean knockoffs will do a better job?

Be Pakistani, act Indian

One of the ironies of Pakistani life in the West is that they pose as Indians, the very people they hate so much. According to Asghar Choudhri, the chairman of Brooklyn’s Pakistani American Merchant Association, a lot of Pakistanis can’t get jobs after 9/11, and after the botched Times Square bombing, it’s become worse. “They are now pretending they are Indian so they can get a job,” he told a US wire service.

That is because Indians are among the highest educated and best paid ethnic groups, besides being highly integrated immigrants. Pakistanis, on the other hand, have been accused of honour killings, cousin marriages,child sex rackets, and terrorist activities in the very lands that gave them shelter.

From Ramzi Yousef, who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 (eight years before Osama Bin Laden) and is now serving a 240-year prison sentence to Mir Aimal Kansi, who shot dead two CIA agents and was later executed by lethal injection, to Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square “Idiot Bomber”, there is a long list of Pakistanis who have left a trail of terror.

Terror on course

The Indian mask that many Pakistanis wear is to get around Western suspicions. Back home, it’s business as usual. Two incidents amply demonstrate that Pakistanis have learnt nothing about the dangers of flirting with terror. One was the widespread outrage across the country over Bin Laden’s killing by American commandos. The other was the unholy fracas over Kansi’s execution.

The day after a Virginia, United States, court handed the CIA shooter the death sentence, four Americans were shot dead on the streets of Pakistan. After his execution in 2002, Kansi’s funeral was attended by the entire civilian administration in his hometown Quetta, the local Pakistani Corps Commander, and the then Pakistani ambassador to the United States.

Thousands of mourners turned out as Quetta city shuttered down. Kansi’s coffin, draped in black cloth with verses from the Koran embroidered on it in gold, was carried on the shoulders of young men some 10 miles from the airport to his family’s home in Quetta.

In Islamabad, the capital city, lawyers and university students poured out on the streets in support of their newest ‘martyr’.

Veteran’s view

Veteran Indian writer Khushwant Singh is hardly the sort of person you would call anti-Pakistani. In fact, he’s been accused of “trenchant secularism” because he often backs the Muslim view against the Hindu-Sikh narrative. For decades, Singh’s house has been a watering hole for many of his Pakistani friends, who come to vent their frustrations. His mostly tabloid rants aren’t taken too seriously but he has a finger on the Pakistani pulse.

In November 2008, 10 Pakistani terrorists raided the Indian city of Mumbai, killing 166 people – mostly innocent civilians. How did the common Pakistani react when confronted with the fact that it was an operation planned and executed by their countrymen?

On the first anniversary of the attack here’s what Singh wrote in his column in the daily newspaper Hindustan Times: “To begin with, there was blank denial of any Pakistani being involved in the crime. This was tinged with apprehension that India may retaliate by carrying out similar operations in Pakistan and trigger off yet another mutually destructive war. When that fear proved baseless, it was replaced by a sense of achievement, a feeling of pride that their countrymen could plan and execute such a daring exploit with such finesse…Even the fact that among the innocent victims over 40 were Muslims was brushed aside. The sense of false pride in performing a foul deed still persists.”

This is a snapshot of Pakistani society where the arrow of time is travelling backwards, taking it into a spiral of medieval madness. Where the death of a terrorist merely means he will be instantly replaced by a hundred clones.

Is it any wonder that Paki is a four-letter word?

Yuri Dolgoruky strategic nuclear submarine

Russia’s nuclear ballistic missile submarine Yuri Dolgoruky, the first unit of the Borei class officially designated as Project 955, will be deployed with the Russian Navy in 2013.

Russian-Indian BrahMos supersonic cruise missle

India’s BrahMos supersonic missile has turned into a ‘super rocket’ with its latest technological addition that will enhance its strategic capabilities. The Indian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has been augmented by the installation of the advanced satellite navigation systems from Russia’s Kh-555 and Kh-101 strategic long-range cruise missiles. The GPS-GLONASS technology has been added to the current Doppler-inertial platform.
This latest integration of the navigation systems from Kh-555 will lend the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile a sub-strategic capability above its normal tactical range. The latest integration will enable BrahMos to hit targets over 300-500 kilometres from sea, land and air launchers. It is also capable of being armed with a nuclear warhead.
According to BrahMos, the installation of the advanced navigation system is specifically configured and optimized for the new air-launched version of BrahMos. This new version of BrahMos will be used by India’s Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30MKI strike fighters and this lethal combination will extend India’s long-range strike capability.
With this latest development, BrahMos missile is advancing from a tactical strike one to a strategic one. The capabilities of the BrahMos will now be more lethal coupled with its vertical steep dive at supersonic speeds. India plans to deploy over 200 advanced Sukhoi Su-30 MKI strike aircraft by 2020 for the air launched version of BrahMos.
Earlier this week, the Indian Navy successfully test-fired a highly-maneuverable version of the 290-km range BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from a warship off the Goa coast. The missile, which was fired without a warhead, hit the target ship after performing intricate maneuvers. The weapon did not take a straight attack path and kept turning around before hitting the target and this capability will make it difficult for the enemy to locate the Indian warships during operations.