Friday, July 26, 2013

Importing Disasters and playing with National Security?

From Russia with Love
MG Devasahayam

The Russian roulette is a ‘lethal game of chance’ in which a player places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against someone’s head, and pulls the trigger. This was the game that ‘dacoit’ Gabbar Singh played in the blockbuster Sholay. Once the trigger is pulled, life or death of the person is entirely a matter of chance.
The Russians have been playing out this game in India for over four decades. First was the introduction of the unsafe Russian MiG-21 fighter aircraft into the Indian Air Force. These aircraft numbering around 900 are indeed lethal because half of them have been involved in fatal crashes. The IAF is still sticking to these ‘wings of death’ due to deliberate delays in the induction of the indigenous light combat aircraft.
Things have come to such a pass that a senior IAF officer, Wing Commander Sanjeet Singh Kaila, has filed a petition in Delhi High Court, contending that flying a MiG-21 amounted to “violation of his fundamental right to life” under Article 21 of the Constitution. He has done this because a flight exercise in 2005 went awry; he has been rendered unfit for flying and even day-to-day tasks due to debilitating neck and back pain. For all airmen flying MiG-21 and the soldiers they support, it would continuously be a ‘lethal game of chance’.
Admiral Gorshkov, an unsafe Russian second-hand aircraft carrier was renamed INS
Vikramaditya in 2004 and contracted for around Rs. 4600 crore for refurbishing and retrofitting, to be delivered in 2008. It was still invisible in 2012, by which time the price had gone up to Rs 12,000 crore. By the middle of that year, when the aircraft carrier was put on sea trial, ‘it spectacularly failed’ with eight of the nine boilers breaking down, with their firebrick insulations evaporating due to the high temperature generated. The ship had to be cut open to replace the boilers and other major repairs. This meant additional cost and the final delivery price (if at all delivered) could be a staggering Rs 16,000 crore! On 4 July, an announcement was made that final trials of the carrier were set to begin in Russia on 10 July. Media reports quoting sources say that if all goes according to plan it could be delivered in another five months. Even then it would be no more than a floating junk masquerading as modern-day aircraft carrier. For the sailors who would man this carrier it could be a continuous ‘lethal game of chance’.
Almost to the day, a game far more lethal was played out on the southern tip of India when India’s nuclear establishment did the sriganesham for the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) – making it go critical – on 12/13 July. This is the first of the two 1000 MWe VVER nuclear reactors supplied by the Russian atomic energy corporation, Rosatom, through its subsidiary, Atomstroyexport. Crucial materials and reactor parts including safety subsystems, equipment and components have been sourced from the ZiO-Podolsk, another Rosatom subsidiary.
The reactor and other core equipment had arrived at the site by mid-2005 and KKNPP was originally scheduled to start commercial operation in 2007. Active protest against the plant was shortlived and there has been no restraint order from the courts. Yet, despite announcing several deadlines by the Prime Minister, Minister of State in PMO and nuclear bigwigs, there was no sign of commissioning the plant for six long years. Repeated tests had failed and everything was kept under wraps.
Despite thick layers of secrecy, the truth started surfacing when there were specific complaints on the quality of the components, systems and parts installed in KKNPP. In June 2012, there were reports of welding in the core region of the pressure vessel which was against the original design specifications. At the beginning of this year, there were reports of Russian Federal prosecutors charging and arresting the procurement officers of Zio-Podolsk for corruption in connection with the supply of substandard systems and components to nuclear power plants, including KKNPP. This included use of low quality steel in the fabrication of the reactor.
What is worse, the control and instrumentation system of the plant is suffering from serious flaws and has been tripped during tests after emanating spurious signal/noise. This has led to panic in neighbouring villages. According to World Nuclear Association, an international body that promotes nuclear business around the world, the control system documentation for KKNPP was delivered late, and when reviewed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) it showed up the need for significant refining and even reworking some aspects.
Therefore, containment structures of the reactor pressure vessel were cut open and instrumentation /control cables laid in the same tray making the system unreliable. Experts are of the view that “if the reactor is under operation and if the control and instrumentation systems are not reliable, then it would lead to a catastrophic release of energy in a short-time interval. Or the fission process can become uncontrollable and the nuclear reactor will turn into a nuclear bomb.”
Yet, the Russians and India’s nuclear establishment have brazenly played the ‘lethal game of chance’ to get this substandard and risky nuclear power plant commissioned at any cost. They have commenced the First Approach to Criticality (FAC), which is the beginning of a fission chain reaction that could make the process irreversible. This is in serious violation of the Supreme Court’s May 6 order wherein it had directed the NPCIL and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board to ‘oversee and ensure quality of various components and systems in the plant and submit a report to the Court before commissioning of the plant.’ Implicit in the order, was not just the formal filing of such a report, but its perusal and approval by the Supreme Court.
However, the agencies concerned merely submitted the report secretly in a sealed envelope to the court registry and completed the FAC even before the envelope was opened by the judges. Simultaneously, the contract has been negotiated to supply two more Russian reactors (1000 MW each) at the mind-boggling price of Rs 40,000 crore which is 2.5 to 3 times of that of coal fired and wind/solar energy plants.  The quantum of kickbacks can only be imagined.
These worthies have also willingly defied the International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines which are candid and clear: “Despite all the precautions that are taken in the handling and use of fissile material there remains a possibility, while very small, that a failure (i.e. instrumentation and controls, electrical, mechanical or operational errors) or an incident may give rise to a criticality accident. In some cases, this may give rise to exposure or the release of radioactive materials within the facility and/or into the environment, which may necessitate emergency response actions. Adequate preparations should be established and maintained at local and national levels and, where agreed between States, at the international level to respond to nuclear or radiological emergencies”.
First the Air Force, then the Navy and now the mass of people themselves are the victims on whom the ‘Russian roulette’ is being played. Potential victims are soldiers, sailors, airmen and millions of farmers and fisher-folk living in the vicinity of KKNPP. The sectors involved are the most sensitive of all ~ defence and nuclear. The questions that arise are: who is spinning the cylinder, who is placing the muzzle and who is looting the exchequer even at the risk of national security and human lives?


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Indian Politicians: Pakistan's Proxy Soldiers


Col. Purohit of the Military Intelligence was implicated for his association with ‘Abhinav Bharat’, an organization labelled by the authorities as progenitor of so-called ‘Hindu Terror’. It is another matter that more than 50 officers of the Army in the Court of Inquiry have vouched for the fact that he had kept all the relevant authorities in loop regarding his infiltration into the said organization. The officer also had very successfully infiltrated the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and was regularly invited by the Maharashtra ATS to conduct lectures on IM and LeT.

A fortnight before 26/11, Col Purohit was arrested. As a consequence the Military Intelligence of India was intimidated and paralyzed. Was it to facilitate the attack on Mumbai by the LeT?

Now there is an attack on the core of internal security, i.e. Intelligence Bureau of India. Its sin being that it provided ‘specific intelligence’ with regard to the plans by an itinerate module comprising four LeT terrorists, two Pakistanis and also an Indian woman Ishrat Jahan to kill the Chief Minister of a state of Union of India.

It is another matter that this Chief Minister happens to be Narendra Modi. The dispensation in Delhi seems to convey ‘death to Modi, long live LeT’. The love or fear of LeT has impelled the quarters to consciously wreck the internal security apparatus of the country.

Even as the embers of the targeting of the IB fly in and outside the country, an Inspector of Punjab Police, Surjit Singh, has claimed that he has carried out 83 fake encounters at the behest of his bosses during the ‘Sikh Freedom Movement’. The timing of the smote on the conscience and the moral churning process of this Inspector clearly indicates the identity of his benefactors. The ISI’s desperate bid to revive militancy in Punjab through its strategic arm LeT has been widely reported in the media. This seems to be yet another attempt by the ISI and LeT to destroy the security apparatus in Punjab so as to make uncontested in-roads.

 The targets have been carefully selected i.e the Military Intelligence, the Intelligence Bureau and the state police forces, which includes the Gujarat Police, where nearly a dozen officers have been hounded and intimidated by the Center.

The only officer who has found favour of the Center  was  the one demanding a Black Berry phone from a political party to settle political scores.

The common enemy of these agencies is the LeT. It is the same LeT (Markaz-e-Taiba), which has received Rs. 61 million from the Punjab government in Pakistan as grant-in-aid in the current fiscal. The tragedy is that it is not only Pakistan establishment which grovels to the head of LeT, Hafiz Saeed, but the Indian establishment as well.

The love or fear of LeT has impelled the quarters to consciously wreck the internal security apparatus of the country.

Ishrat Jahan, a 19 year old girl from Mumbai was killed with LeT terrorists in Ahmedabad in an encounter on 15 June 2004. The family members in hindsight allege that Ishrat was ‘abducted’ by the IB. It is queer that once she went missing her family members did not deem it fit to lodge an FIR with the Mumbai Police. Their inaction and silence on the issue can also be construed that the links with LeT run much deeper and wider.

The dispensation by attacking the Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Rajendra Kumar, has attacked the core of India’s internal security intelligence. All for whom, but the LeT!

Mr Rajendra Kumar’s failing has been his being professional and conscientious. In that, he acquired intelligence from ‘sources’, informed the higher-ups in Delhi, which includes his seniors and in-turn the Ministry of Home Affairs. His main failing however was that, in the process, he was not saving a Chief Minister but Narendra Modi. If he had acted in the same manner to save the life of some privileged ‘democratic-monarchs’ of the country, he would have been awarded Padma Vibhushan and in the case of highest monarch a ‘ Bharat Ratna.’ After all the same dispensation rewarded Mr Brajesh Mishra with Padma Vibushan for his Boston rescue operation of the ‘Yuvraj’. Readers with little research can know the truth.

Never before in the history of India, an IB or R&AW official was asked to submit before the CBI for interrogation  on professional matters. Is it a ploy to unravel the entire intelligence framework of the country?

This author who served with R&AW would have preferred to kill himself rather than submit to the CBI for interrogation of sensitive matters that are vital to Indian security interests. If this author were the head of the IB, the Special Director would report to the CBI over his dead body. The CBI has absolutely no competence to interrogate an IB and R&AW official on matters of internal and external security. By sheer level of politicization, the mediocre content of the job of the CBI, it is ill-equipped to deal with IB and R&AW officials.

If the CBI cannot be trusted with Arushi murder case or the Nithari case pertaining to Moninder Singh Pandher, what is its credibility! The whole world knows the truth in these cases sans the CBI. Can the Prime Minister at the current stage of his life cross his heart and vouch that he does not know the truth in these two cases? How has suddenly the CBI become the repository of the national conscience, which includes the IB and the R&AW?

The IB has been pitted against the CBI. In the case of blasts in Malegaon in 2006, the NIA has been pitted against the Maharastra ATS and the CBI. And earlier in Col Purohit’s case the Mahrastra ATS was pitted against the Military Intelligence. The effect of the orchestrated attrition is already beginning to tell.

This systematic destruction of India’s internal security apparatus is not only for vote-bank politics as most commentators are suggesting. Of course the Modi-phobia is a factor but not the sole reason. It has a larger dimension which is evident from the nervousness displayed by the dispensation with regard to ISI, Hafiz Saeed and David Headley.

Do they know too much?

Were they used to stage 26/11 to counter Jehadi terror by creating the spectre of ‘Hindu Terror’? How does David Headley have the gumption to abuse Indian interrogators? Are the services of the ISI and LeT being obtained to influence vote-bank politics? Are the LeT and the ISI asking too much in return? These are questions which readers must ponder upon.

While the readers do so, their benchmark should be the fact that if Ajmal Kasab had not developed cold feet and caught alive, all preparations has been made to label 26/11 as act of ‘Hindu Terror’. Books to this effect were pre-written and the choice of the Chief Guest decided. Till today nobody has questioned as to how an unconstitutional authority was in  indirect communication with the Maharastra ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, and eliciting sensitive security details. If this politician cannot explain this he should be treated like any other terrorist.

For matters of national security the relationship between all the intelligence organizations of the States and the Centre is both vertical and horizontal. Flow of intelligence is not only from top to down but in the reverse order too. Moreover, there is lateral sharing as well. The multiplicity of agencies has its benefits in terms of overlap, corroboration and coverage. By targeting the IB, the Military Intelligence, the state security apparatus of Gujarat and the previous Maharastra ATS, the dispensation has intimidated the entire intelligence network of India.  India is now an open and defenseless target. The traitors as of now have prevailed!

No intelligence official now will provide or share information with the same degree of sincerity and patriotism. The  Indian intelligence community is now a scared community. Nationalism and patriotism have become criminal attributes.
Things have gone so anti-national that the most sensitive information was being leaked by the CBI pertaining details of Ishrat Jahan case and there were media houses, flaunting documents, which should have been only for the consumption of Prime Minister and the Home Minister. The Pakistan or the ISI connection of some of these news channels  and journalists is too well known.

Ishrat Jahan and her associates were nothing but tools of proxy war by Pakistan. Anybody with a modicum of understanding of terrorism will understand that the role of Ishrat was to act as suicide-bomber, as revealed by David Headley. There are any number of such modules waiting to strike. Rajiv Gandhi too was eliminated by eliciting the services of one such suicide bomber through the aegis of LTTE. This could not have happened without unsuspecting facilitators within.

India should realize that this is an era of proxy wars. A civilized country to retain its civility has to fight with uncivilized ‘proxy soldiers’, the kind of Ishrat Jahan. In this proxy war, which is also referred to as ‘intelligence wars’, the role of intelligence agencies is predominant. In dealing with such adversaries, there are methods, which have been used in the past to bring back civility, whose peace dividends people of India including the politicians, the civil activists and the vocal media continue to enjoy. One such region is the Punjab province of India. The dispensation at the behest and blackmail of external enemies has by design destroyed the entire internal security apparatus assiduously built over the years for the LeT and vote-bank politics.

India now stands exposed. Whenever there is the next blast or terrorist attack don’t expect too much from Indian intelligence framework. It stands intimidated and unravelled. It will be extremely difficult for the Indian security apparatus to recover from this wreck.

The ISI and LeT have won!


RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW. He is the author of two books: 'Asian Strategic and Military Perspective' and 'Military Factor in Pakistan'.