President Joe Biden, who was at the White House and also played golf Sunday, was briefed on the incident…reports Asian Lite News
A sonic boom that echoed over Washington on Sunday was caused by two fighter jets scrambling to intercept an unresponsive aircraft that later crashed in rural Virginia.
Residents of the city and its suburbs reported hearing the thundering noise, which rattled windows and shook walls for miles and caused social media to light up with people asking what had happened.
The F-16 fighter jets “responded to an unresponsive Cessna 560 Citation V aircraft over Washington, DC, and northern Virginia,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement.
The two jets were scrambled from Joint Base Andrews, a Pentagon official told AFP, and they followed the aircraft that subsequently crashed in a mountainous area of southwest Virginia, one of the states bordering Washington.
President Joe Biden, who was at the White House and also played golf Sunday, was briefed on the incident, an official told journalists without specifying whether any emergency precautions were implemented due to the incident.
Public records showed the plane was registered to Florida-based company Encore Motors of Melbourne, whose owner John Rumpel told The Washington Post his “entire family” was onboard, including his daughter, a grandchild and her nanny.
“We know nothing about the crash,” he said. “We are talking to the FAA now… I’ve got to keep the line clear.”
The civilian plane had taken off from Elizabethton, Tennessee and was bound for Long Island, New York, the FAA said.
However, flight tracking website Flightradar24 indicated that it had turned around after flying over Long Island and headed back south over Washington and into Virginia.
Multiple US media reported the crash wreckage still had not been located, with the Post stating that investigators hoped to reach the site Monday.
“The NORAD aircraft were authorized to travel at supersonic speeds and a sonic boom may have been heard by residents of the region,” the command said, adding that it also used flares to try to draw the pilot’s attention.
The unresponsive aircraft crashed somewhere near Montebello, Virginia, some 170 miles southwest of the nation’s capital at around 3:30 pm (1930 GMT), the FAA said.
NORAD said it had attempted to make contact with the pilot until the plane crashed, intercepting it at approximately 3:20 pm.
Multiple US media reported the military did not shoot down the plane.
The US Capitol Complex in Washington meanwhile “was briefly placed on an elevated alert until the airplane left the area,” Capitol Police said on Twitter.
As far away as Annapolis, Maryland some 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Washington, the city’s Office of Emergency Management quelled residents’ fears, writing on Twitter that the noise “was caused by an authorized DOD flight. This flight caused a sonic boom.”
The White House official meanwhile said the “sound resulting from the authorized DOD aircraft was faint” as far away as Joint Base Andrews, a 35-minute drive from the city.
Sonic booms occur when an aircraft exceeds the speed of sound. They can be a major nuisance, capable of not just startling people on the ground but also causing damage, like shattered windows.
Towards combating oil spills at Naval harbours, eco-friendly marine bio-remedial agents have been indigenously developed through NMRL…reports Asian Lite News
The Navy, as a self-driven and environmentally responsible force, has always been committed towards environment protection and green initiatives. As guardian of the seas, the Navy employs a number of ships, submarines and aircraft that have high energy intensity, thus increased energy efficiency is paramount in every operation and process the Navy undertakes, an official statement said on Sunday.
Some of the noteworthy initiatives towards ‘Clean and Green Navy’, are elaborated in succeeding paragraphs. IN has commissioned solar power with a cumulative capacity of 15.87MW which is in line with the Navy’s objective of fulfilling Govt of India’s ‘Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM)’ mission. These plants are grid-connected utilising single-axis sun tracking technology with computerised monitoring & control. Additionally, the 16 MW capacity of SPVs is at various stages of execution.
As a maiden initiative, an indigenous make and patented retrofit device developed by M/s Chakr Innovations for reducing diesel engine emissions were installed on a shore-based Diesel Generator for long-term trials. Trials have indicated a 70 per cent reduction in Hydrocarbon, Carbon Monoxide, and Particulate Matter in the engine’s exhaust emissions. The retrofit device for diesel engine exhaust emission reduction is being inducted in a phased manner on all land-based Diesel Gensets, and once inducted, it would go a long way in enabling the Navy towards reducing the emissions levels further.
Towards combating oil spills at Naval harbours, eco-friendly marine bio-remedial agents have been indigenously developed through NMRL. The state-of-the-art technology is unique in the maritime domain. The product consists of a combination of micro-organisms and their growth stimulant, which consume various types of oils such as diesel, lubricating, dirty oils etc, thus cleaning the seawater from any oil contamination and its consequent damage to the marine ecosystem.
Indian Navy in collaboration with IISc (Bengaluru) has operationalized a ‘first of its kind’ 100KW capacity AC plant in the country based on the natural refrigerant Carbon dioxide. This is a significant step towards reducing the use of conventional HCFCs with high Global Warming Potential (GWP) by employing a natural refrigerant with a GWP of 1 and is in line with the Kigali Agreement of 2016 ratified by India. The plant has been installed at the Centre of Excellence (Marine Engineering), INS Shivaji for trials and exploitation. Till now, the plant has clocked 850 hrs of operation successfully.
The utilisation of Hydrogen as a potential alternate source of fuel is also being pursued by the IN, successful shore trials of Hydrogen Aspirated Diesel Engine have been completed which has enhanced clean combustion, thus reducing CO emissions significantly. The device has now been fitted onboard a ship for pilot trials. Further, in line with the GoI initiative of Make in India, a developmental project on hydrogen fuel cell-powered ferry craft is also being pursued with shipyards. The use of alternate fuels, such as Used Cooking Oil-based biodiesel has also progressed in the last year to reduce vehicular emissions. A total of 192KL of B-7 blend biodiesel has been used in motor transport vehicles of the Navy.
To reduce the overall carbon footprint and enhance environmental sustainability, Indian Navy is ‘Geared Up and Committed’ to pursue Green Initiatives, realizing the national aim, to ensure a ‘Greener and Cleaner future for our next generations’. (ANI)
The military’s media wing announced in a statement that a group of terrorists targeted the security forces station…reports Asian Lite News
In a gun battle with terrorists on Thursday, two soldiers were killed in Pakistan’s Singwan, the country’s bordering region with Iran, reported Geo News citing the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
The security forces post of Singwan is situated in the district Kech of Balochistan. The military’s media wing announced in a statement that a group of terrorists targeted the security forces station. A fierce exchange of fire erupted between the security forces and the terrorists.
Providing details about the soldiers who were killed during the incident, the ISPR said that Sepoy Ishtiaq was a resident of the district Dera Ghazi Khan, while Sepoy Inayat was a resident of the district Jhal Magsi, Geo News reported.
Two terrorists were killed by security authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s South Waziristan area the day before.
According to the ISPR, security forces launched an intelligence-based operation in the general region of Dossali today after getting a tip regarding the presence of terrorists.
“During the conduct of the operation, intense fire exchange occurred between security forces and terrorists, resulting in the killing of two terrorists,” Geo News reported citing the ISPR. It added that weapons and ammunition were also recovered from the terrorists.
Blast kills 6
At least six persons were killed and two more injured in an explosion inside a house in Pakistan’s Punjab’s Kot Addu district on Thursday, Dawn reported citing the police.
The explosion took place in Kot Addu’s Daira Din Panah neighbourhood, the police said. While verifying the tragedy, Muzaffargarh District Police Officer (DPO) Syed Hasnain Haider informed Dawn.com that all of the deceased persons belonged to the same family. He went on to say that the family was going through the trash in the region when an explosion happened.
According to a representative for Rescue 1122, the fatalities comprised two women, two males, and two children, one of whom was two years old. The injured and deceased have been sent to the District Headquarters Hospital in Kot Addu, Dawn reported.
DPO Haider further stated that an inquiry into the incident was being conducted to ascertain its cause.
Separately, Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi expressed condolences for the loss of life and asked Punjab Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar for a report on the event. Later that day, DPO Haider and Muzaffargarh District Commissioner (DC) Salman Khan Lodhi inspected the explosion scene, reported Dawn.
He went on to say that the family was sorting out the junk material when the blast took place.
The Punjab Forensic Science Agency and the Crime Scene Unit will also check the scene and write a final report on the occurrence, according to the source. (ANI)
A military reconnaissance satellite is among the high-tech weapons systems that the North’s leader vowed to develop at a key party congress in 2021…reports Asian Lite News
North Korea on Tuesday said it will launch its first military spy satellite in June in a bid to monitor “dangerous military activity” by the US and South Korea in real time.
The North disclosed the timing of its planned launch through state media, a day after it notified Japan of its plan to launch a satellite between May 31 and June 11, reports Yonhap News Agency.
In a statement carried by Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Ri Pyong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea, said the North’s satellite reconnaissance is an “indispensable” act to bolster its self-defence capabilities against the enemies’ “reckless military exercises”.
The North’s spy satellite to be launched in June and various reconnaissance means to be newly tested are “indispensable to tracking, monitoring, discriminating, controlling and coping with in advance in real time the dangerous military acts” of the US and South Korea, Ri said in the statement.
He also vowed to “expand reconnaissance and information means and improve various defensive and offensive weapons and have the timetables for carrying out their development plans”, without elaborating on details.
Earlier this month, North Korea announced the completion of preparations to mount its first military spy satellite on a rocket, with leader Kim Jong-un approving the “future action plan”.
A military reconnaissance satellite is among the high-tech weapons systems that the North’s leader vowed to develop at a key party congress in 2021, along with a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a nuclear-powered submarine.
South Korea “strongly” warned against North Korea’s planned satellite launch on Monday, vowing to make Pyongyang pay “due prices” if it goes ahead with the launch.
The North’s proposed satellite launch would violate a series of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions banning its nuclear and missile programs, as it uses the same technology used in ballistic missiles.
In December last year, the North conducted an “important, final-stage” test for the development of a spy satellite and released black-and-white photos of South Korean cities that were shot by its “test satellite” from space.
The North last launched the “Kwangmyongsong-4”, an Earth-observation satellite, in February 2016, claiming it has the right to develop “peaceful” space programs.
In April, North Korea fired a solid-fuel ICBM for the first time, after launching more than 70 ballistic missiles last year alone, the most in a single year.
General Manoj Pande will visit various districts where he will interact with the local commanders and obtain a first-hand account of the ground situation, reports Asian Lite News
Two days before the scheduled visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the ethnic violence-hit Manipur, Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande reached Manipur on Saturday to hold meetings with various civil society organisations in Churachandpur district.
Defence sources said that the COAS arrived in Imphal on Saturday on a two-day visit. He will visit various districts where he will interact with the local commanders and obtain a first-hand account of the ground situation.
General Pande will also interact with the troops.
On Sunday, he will meet Governor Anusuiya Uikey, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, Chief Security Advisor to Manipur Kuldiep Singh and would discuss and deliberate over the current situation and future trajectory, in order to restore normalcy in the trouble-torn state at the earliest.
A Manipur government official said that in view of the widespread ethnic violence in at least 11 of the 16 districts of the state, the state administration had requisitioned Army and Assam Rifles on May 3.
As an immediate response, the Army and Assam Rifles deployed 135 columns of troops to diffuse the situation by carrying out active domination of the sensitive and fringe areas.
Approximately 35,000 people from different communities have been evacuated to safe zones and immediate relief and humanitarian aid has been provided to the displaced civilians by the Army and Assam Rifles.
Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, who is now on a visit to the strife-torn state, said that Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to reach Manipur for a three-day visit on May 29.
Meanwhile, Eastern Command Army chief Lt Gen R.P. Kalita visited Manipur’s several sensitive and mixed-populated districts from May 22-24 to assess and review the ground security situation. He visited Kangpokpi, Matripukhri, Churachandpur, Bishnupur, Yaingangpokpi and Moreh, where he was updated on the security situation by the local commanders.
The current sailing expedition of INSV Tarini is part of the run-up towards the Navy’s next big project to send a woman to circumnavigate the globe – Solo….reports Asian Lite News
INSV Tarini, with the six-member crew, including two women officers, returned to Indian shores at Goa on Tuesday after completing a 17000 nautical miles transocean inter-continental voyage in seven months.
The distinguished “flag-in” welcome ceremony, was held at the Indian Naval Watermanship Training Centre (INWTC), INS Mandovi in Goa which was attended by Union Minister Smriti Irani, Goa Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant and Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar. Addressing the event, Irani said, “It was made accompanied upon me as a female politician to give thanks and celebrate the potential of the female naval officers.”
“I especially congratulate Lt Commander Dilna and Roopa as they motivated everyone including many women and girls,” she said.
The flag in event showcased the exemplary valour, courage and perseverance of the crew, especially the two women officers, Lt Cdr Dilna K and Lt Cdr Roopa A, who participated in the entire expedition.
The other participants include the onward leg crew from Goa to Rio-de-Janerio comprising Capt Atool Sinha, Lt Cdr Ashutosh Sharma and Lt Aviral Keshav, and the return leg crew comprising Cdr Nikhil Hegde, Cdr MA Zulfikar, Cdr Divya Purohit and Cdr AC Doke.
Lt Cdr Dilna and Lt Cdr Roopa undertook the voyage from Goa to Rio de Janerio via Cape Town and back, spanning over 188 days of sailing on the vessel. This is a true display of Nari Shakti, a clarion call from the government of India to empower women.
The Navika Sagar Parikrama by six women naval officers increased the popularity of ocean sailing within the navy and the country further.
The current sailing expedition of INSV Tarini is part of the run-up towards the Navy’s next big project to send a woman to circumnavigate the globe – Solo.
The officers that participated in this expedition were shortlisted from volunteers after rigorous selection at the Ocean Sailing Node (OSN) which was established on August 24, 2016, with the aim of promoting and undertaking ocean sailing activities and is located at INS Mandovi.
This expedition was conducted under the aegis of the Indian Naval Sailing Association (INSA) based in New Delhi. (ANI)
To date, the US has provided Ukraine with nearly $37bn in military aid since Russia invaded in February 2022…..reports Asian Lite News
The Department of Defense overestimated the value of weapons and other military equipment provided to Ukraine by approximately $3bn, officials said, an error in accounting that may lead the way for more arms being sent to Kyiv.
In many of the military aid packages sent to Ukraine, the defence department opted to draw from existing US stockpiles of older, existing items because it should ship them more quickly, officials said.
The accounting error was the result of assigning a higher than warranted value on older weaponry that was taken from those existing stocks.
“During our regular oversight process of presidential drawdown packages, the Department discovered inconsistencies in equipment valuation for Ukraine. In some cases, ‘replacement cost’ rather than ‘net book value’ was used, therefore overestimating the value of the equipment drawn down from US stocks,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said on Thursday.
A defence official told the Associated Press that the Pentagon is still trying to determine exactly how much the total value of the surplus will be. The Reuters news agency cited a US defence official who said the amount of overvalued weaponry could possibly grow beyond $3bn as the Pentagon examines the situation more thoroughly.
Addressing the cost anomalies, a senior defence official explained to Reuters that in the case of 155mm ammunition for Howitzer artillery, of which more than 1.5 million shells have been sent to Ukraine, each cost about $800 at current prices. But the actual cost of each of the shells, which have been delivered to US military stockpiles each year over several decades, should be averaged out for a much lower price.
To date, the US has provided Ukraine with nearly $37bn in military aid since Russia invaded in February 2022. The bulk of that has been in weapons systems, millions of munitions and ammunition rounds, and an array of trucks, sensors, radars and other equipment pulled from Pentagon stockpiles and sent quickly to Ukraine.
“The Department of Defense’s change in evaluating the costs of arms sent to Ukraine is a major mistake,” said US Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Our priority should be a Ukrainian victory over Putin. Unilaterally altering military aid calculations is an attempt at deception and undermines this goal,” he said.
Singh, the Pentagon spokeswoman, said the accounting error had not constrained US support to Ukraine or hampered the ability to send aid to the battlefield.
The Navy official said that the navies of the US, India, Australia, and Japan will take part in Malabar 2023 exercises from August 11 to 21…reports Asian Lite News
The navies of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) members will take part in Malabar 2023 exercises in Australia in August.
The Navy official said that the navies of the US, India, Australia, and Japan will take part in Malabar 2023 exercises from August 11 to 21. This will be the fourth time that all four nations have participated in Malabar to advance the collective planning, integration and employment of advanced warfare tactics between participating nations.
Last year, Japan hosted Australia, India, US in Naval Exercise Malabar.
Last year’s at-sea exercise includes a variety of high-end tactical training events, submarine integration, anti-submarine warfare training, air defence exercises, multinational replenishment-at-sea operations, communications drills, joint warfighting planning scenarios, gunnery exercise, and maritime interdiction operations, according to the statement released by US Embassy in India.
“This exercise represents an outstanding opportunity for our like-minded maritime forces to work together, demonstrating our shared commitment to the region and collaborative approach toward security and stability,” said Rear Adm. Michael Donnelly, Commander Task Force 70 (CTF-70)/Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5).
“Now, it is more important than ever for the forward-deployed Carrier Strike Group to work closely with other maritime forces and deter all who challenge a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.
Last year, Indian Navy surface units participating include a Shivalik-class FFG, Kamorta-ClassCorvette, a P-8I aircraft, and Marine Commandos (MARCOS) personnel.
“Participation in high-end maritime exercises, such as Exercise Malabar, demonstrates Australia’s commitment to working with strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Rear Admiral Jonathan Earley, CSC, RAN, Commander of the Australian Fleet.
“This exercise contributes to regional security by deepening professional relationships among India, Japan and the United States to build interoperability in the maritime domain,” Earley added, according to the official release.
Meanwhile, India is planning for a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) leaders meeting in Japan on the sidelines of the G7 Summit, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Thursday.
While addressing the special briefing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to three-nation countries, Kwatra said, “We are also planning Quad leaders meeting in Hiroshima with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, President of the US Joe Biden, Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese, and of course our Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” This statement came after the Quad summit, scheduled to take place on May 24 in Australia, was called off. (ANI)
Amidst disturbing developments, the good news is that the terror groups are finding it difficult to recruit the local youth. This is largely due to fatigue, and the lull in recruitment and terror attacks that came after 5 August 2019, writes Abhinav Pandya
Post-370 abrogation in August 2019, in popular perception and the narrative projected by the mainstream media the terror groups are facing financial and recruitment challenges, tough action by the Special Forces, dwindling local support resulting in an existential crisis for the Pakistan-sponsored proxy war. Recurring statements by the senior state officials, Pakistan’s domestic instability and fledgling economy, India’s perception management exercises, strengthening narrative of development, fashion parades, cinema and G20 has further bolstered the aforementioned narrative in popular perception.
Seen in the backdrop of this popular perception, the recent terror attacks in Bhatta Durian, Rajouri and Kandi appear as alarming developments signalling the resurgence of militancy. However, a closer look at the statistics defies the popular perception and unfolds a different story.
Terrorist incidents of killing display an upward trend 2015 onwards. From 86 in 2015, they peaked at 206 in 2018. In 2019, In 2019, 135 terrorist killings took place. However, after 2019 i.e., after the abrogation of article 370, there is not a significant decline in the terrorist killing incidents. In 2021 the figure was 153 and in 2022, it was 151. The major decline has only been registered in the cases of stone pelting and social agitation, which can also be felt during a random field visit to Kashmir. However, militancy and terror groups have remained largely active. Since 2019, Pakistan-sponsored terrorists have killed civilians, non-Kashmiri labourers, minorities and pro-India politicians and activists. By August 2022, 14 Kashmiri pundits and several Hindus including the non-Kashmiri professionals and migrant labourers were killed by the militants.
The use of drones to smuggle weapons, drugs and cash has become a major challenge for the Indian SFs. Only between September 9 and 16, eight drone sorties carrying 80 kg of weapons were dropped inside the Indian territory on the Punjab border. Since then, the drone threat has increased manifold, to the extent that future likelihood of drones-based terror attacks is one of the prominent threats worrying the intelligence community. The number of arms recovery incidents increased from 90 in 2019 to 209 in 2022.
Hence, it appears that there is hardly any erosion in Pakistan’s will and determination to sustain militancy or even remotest realisation and acceptance that article 370 is a history now and militancy is an exercise in futility. If at all any perceptible change has come then it is in the domain of strategy and tactics. Pakistan’s expertise in improvising and innovating militancy is nothing new. Time and again, since 1990, Pakistan has improvised and made changes in its tactics and strategy to make militancy more lethal, deep-rooted and long-lasting.
Recent attacks in Poonch-Rajouri
In a recent field research visit to Jammu and Kashmir, I interacted with several senior and mid-ranking SFs personnel responsible for planning and executing counter insurgency operations. A common theme that has emerged from all those informal interviews is that there has been a major setback in the human intelligence (HUMINT) resource base of the SFs. In the recent attacks in Pooch-Rajouri belt, there were hardly any HUMINT-based actionable inputs. A range of factors can be held accountable for this. Over the last six-seven years the SFs have majorly relied on TECHINT-based operations. Reportedly, with the help of Israeli technology to break encrypted communication channels, the SFs have been immensely successful in neutralising a record number of militants.
However, this happened at the cost of traditional counter-terrorism methods which mostly relied on HUMINT based on infiltration and exfiltration of terrorist groups and defections. Such methods were devised, developed and implemented from 1990 to 2015. The officers who employed such tactics were mostly locals who had a robust knowledge of the local geography, history, cultural, social and political dynamics. Also, they had an insightful understanding of the workings of the Kashmiri mind and the collective psychology of the society which helped them in recruiting and cultivating assets, and keeping them motivated and committed.
Over the years, this system developed its own fatigue and failings because of a large number of double agents who were simply squeezing money out of the secret funds and mostly working for the adversaries. The officers were also not immune to corruption and on several occasions indulged in money-minting through illicit drugs and weapons smuggling, fake encounters and dummy infiltrations. As a result, there was a major policy churn at the highest policy making levels. The larger perception and narrative in the intelligence community turned against such traditional methods. The idea of recruiting double agents came to be scoffed at.
The fundamental philosophy of the counter-terrorism operations and intelligence gathering underwent a sea change. Also, it brought a heightened sense of risk and fear among those officers who were running HUMINT-based operations, human assets including the double agents that if on account of any confusion, misunderstanding or sheer bad luck they are nabbed by the NIA, which has emerged as an extremely powerful entity in anti-terror investigations, then they will be disgraced for life and at worst face rigorous imprisonment and investigation. As a result, they blocked their human assets from any cell phone communication or any other form of contact. A senior police officer with 20 years of counter terrorism operations experience in J&K told me that he had to delete the mobile numbers of at least 200 human assets who were working for him and had a strong network in terror training camps, infiltration and narcotics smuggling networks. Also, when the officers wanted to facilitate their old assets in petty law and order cases or incentivise through pecuniary benefits, they began to be severely discouraged by the senior leadership in the SFs.
All this has resulted in a near total destruction of the HUMINT base. On the other side, the militants and their PoK-based masters and ISI handlers have also changed their methods of communication and operation.
Firstly, after August 5, 2019, several new outfits mushroomed with secular-sounding names such as The Resistance Front (TRF), Kashmir Janbazz Force, Mujahiddin Gazwat ul Hind, People’s Anti-Fascist Front PAFF) etc. Most of these groups are loosely affiliated to parent outfits such as TRF is linked to LeT and the PAFF is reportedly a proxy of Jaish. However, the true nature of these linkages is not fully known due to the lack of adequate HUMINT. Nevertheless, it is confirmed that they are the part of ISI’s new game plan of floating outfits that appear local and non-religious, to elude the Financial Action Task Force sanctions.
Secondly, as per some of the Ikhwanis who have infiltrated the terror groups in the past, the new army chief of Pakistan Asim Muneer is extremely religious-minded. In their words, he is fanatic jihadi-type character. Reportedly, he has activated all the terror training camps in PoJK and appointed 10-12 persons on each launching pad to facilitate maximum infiltration. Unlike before the 370 abrogation, the new recruits do not announce their joining of terror groups on social media platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter. They do not release stylish videos with special effects of their groups sitting in apple orchards and conducting exercises. My informed interlocuters told me that there has been a massive infiltration after the abrogation of article 370; however, most of the FTs have been radio silent as per the instructions from their handlers. Terror groups have sent huge consignments of weapons through drones. Some operatives also suggest that they have also made the beginnings of using drones for infiltration. This may sound a bit far-fetched; however, it is not unlikely in the future.
The dynamics of recruitment and conducting operations have also changed. In the ongoing trends, generally a handler sitting in Pakistan is in touch with 70 to 80 youngsters in Kashmir through some encrypted communication apps which are customised and not known to the agencies. Some of these handlers are old JeM and LeT veterans who have re-joined the terror groups. They give brief, subtle and limited instructions regarding the recruitment and delivery of weapons. For movement, they send geospatial coordinates which minimised the need for using local guides and Over Ground Workers (OGWs).
The individuals who are in communication with the Pakistan-based handlers are oblivious of each other’s identity and whereabouts. Most of these individuals are ‘hybrid or part-time militants’. They are educated and middle-class youngsters who are either students, scholars or professionals. They have a dual identity i.e.; they live a routine life as a white-collar civilian. However, when they are assigned a task, someone provides the information about the target’s whereabouts and movement patterns and someone delivers a weapon to them. They execute a task and then return the weapon at a pre-assigned location to a designated individual. Normally these delivery persons are young boys and girls of 15-20 years of age, who are given an ordinary looking parcel and asked to hand it over to a certain individual.
Previously, most of these tasks i.e., logistics, weapons, movement, target reconnaissance and surveillance, and shelter were arranged by hardened and trusted OGWs who had worked for the terror groups for decades. While discussing OGWs some legendary names can hardly be ignored such as Noor Mohammad Tantrey or Noora Trali, the four-feet Jaish OGW who single-handedly revived Jaish in South Kashmir after escaping from his payroll. Later, like most other OGWs, he became an active militant and was killed by the SFs. In this post-370 militancy, one rarely comes across the old OGWs being used. In addition to the new modus-operandi discussed in the previous paragraph, terror groups have recruited a new set of OGWs and mostly replaced the older ones. The new OGWs are clean-shaven young student-like operatives quite unlike the previous set of OGWs who were mostly bearded maulvis, Jamaat rukoons and affiliated individuals donning a religious and traditional attire. It is also pertinent to mention here that evenJamaat has gone into a hybrid mode. After the ban, its second rung leadership has dispersed into the rural areas and as per the instructions from Aabpara, they are consolidating themselves. Their cadres and leaders don a western attire and deliberately stay away from displaying overt religious appearance.
What worsens the possibility of enhancing HUMINT is the new practice of giving critical postings to young IPS officers from the J&K and AGMUT cadre. Many of these officers lack sufficient experience and training. They come to J&K as adventure tourists impressed by the thrilling world of intelligence, weapons and encounters. Because of this the older hands with decades of counter terror experience who are now shunted to insignificant postings feel very demoralised and marginalised.
In my recent field visit, I found that the intelligence agencies are missing some of the entities which are hiding in a plain sight. Notably, Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) and its cadres have played a crucial role in radicalising the socio-culture scenario of Poonch-Rajouri and Doda-Kishtwar which was traditionally a Gujjar-Muslim dominated region. The Gujjar were more concerned about their tribal identity than the religious identity. However, over the last two decades TJ has drastically altered their cultural and behavioural patterns visible in overly Islamic way of lifestyle. Though no concrete evidence linking the TJ with terrorists has come out, their role in providing logistics, shelter and moving money cannot be ruled out. TJ is Deobandi offshoot and Jaish and its proxy PAFF, responsible for the recent attacks in Poonch-Rajouri also adhere to Deobandi ideology. I have discussed in detail about the Jaish links with Deobandi institutions and clerics in the Kashmir valley in my upcoming book on Jaish. Besides, there is a strong likelihood of terror groups recruiting the pro-Khalistani young Sikh radicals of Poonch-Rajouri region as OGWs for the logistics support.
An important feature of the post-370 militancy as confirmed by intelligence agencies and some of the older OGWs who I interviewed is that an overwhelmingly large number of the recent infiltrators are battle-hardened mujahidin from Af-Pak region who put up a fierce resistance with Taliban against the American troops. Secondly, they are using the weapons, ammunition and NVDs left by the US forces. In the recent Rajouri and Kandi attacks, the militants used armour piercing steel bullets left by the US forces.
The local sentiment
Any discussion on the recent militancy trends cannot be complete without addressing the issue of local sentiment. Though after the abrogation of article 370 the tightened security measures, internet lockdown and fatigue ensured that there are no massive violent protests and agitations, the feeling of discontent and anger has only grown in intensity and fervour over the last three years. Despite the lofty claims about development made by the state government, the situation on the ground is pitiable. The condition of roads, electricity and other infrastructure related matters is appalling. There is no political representation, the bureaucrats have become supremely powerful, apathetic and arrogant. Such a situation is ripe for massive social unrest and local support for militancy. Given Pakistan’s internal woes, it is highly likely that the Pak army will try to orchestrate a massive social unrest and give a strong fillip to militancy.
Amidst these disturbing developments the good news is that the terror groups are finding it difficult to recruit the local youth. This is largely due to fatigue, and the lull in recruitment and terror attacks which came after August 5, 2019. Pakistan’s internal crisis has also shaken the local populace’ faith in Pakistan in liberating Kashmir. First it was jolted in Kargil defeat, then majorly dented after the abrogation of article 370 because of Pakistan’s silence. However, still a significant number of Kashmiris, at a subconscious level firmly believe that the Pakistani army is stronger and more determined than India’s vegetable-eating Hindu army, and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is superior to that of India’s. This insight was shared by a local Kashmir businessman Ashfaq (name changed). He finally suggested something and while writing this piece that his suggestion can be the best conclusion.
He suggested that Pakistan is neck-deep in its internal woes and this is the best time for India to make a significant strike which will give a final blow, shattering beyond redemption, an average Kashmiri’s faith in Pakistan’s capability to deliver Azadi at their doorstep.
(Abhinav Pandya is the founder and CEO of Usanas Foundation – an India-based geopolitical and security affairs think-tank. The article first appeared here.)
(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)
An initial investigation concluded that the wreckage belonged to a suspected weather balloon….reports Asian Lite News
Taiwan’s military detected the wreckage of a suspected China-made weather balloon at one of its offshore frontline islets near China, Focus Taiwan reported.
Taiwan Army’s Matsu Defense Command which is responsible for guarding the Matsu archipelago near southwestern China in a press release said that its Juguang Defense Team found the wreckage of a suspected weather balloon on a road outside its camp during patrolling on Saturday. As per the news report, the suspected balloon had the simplified Chinese characters for “Shanghai Chang Wang Meteorological Technology Company” and “GTS12 digital radiosonde” written on it. China uses simplified Chinese characters while Taiwan makes use of complex or traditional Chinese characters, Focus Taiwan reported.
An initial investigation concluded that the wreckage belonged to a suspected weather balloon. Taiwan’s army will further investigate the wreckage and has planned to continue beefing up its patrol to closely monitor movements around the military bases, Focus Taiwan reported citing a press release.
The Command has not shared the exact location and time with regards to the findings. The Juguang Defense team is responsible for guarding Juguang Township’s two islands – Dongju Island and Xiju Island. The township is located less than 10 kilometres from China’s Fujian province.
Earlier in February, Taiwan’s military found a similar wreckage from an alleged Chinese weather balloon. Taiwan army’s Matsu Defense Command had detected the wreckage, Focus Taiwan reported.
Alleged Chinese balloon programs have gained the international community’s attention after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was spotted and shot down by the US in American airspace on February 4.
The incident resulted in a diplomatic dispute with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling off his trip to China. However, China has said that the balloon was not used for spying and claimed that it was a civilian airship used for meteorological research and had blown off course. (ANI)