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Well before the nuclear triad was complete, the US knew about India's secret missile projects

SADIQ NAQVI | Updated on: 20 September 2017, 20:56 IST

Months before India and the United States signed the framework nuclear agreement, US spies managed to get their hands on vital information on India’s nuclear missile programme.

The Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998 had caught the US spooks by surprise, leading to remarks by the Congress like how “the absence of information has raised fundamental questions about the nation’s intelligence effort, which will cost some $26.7 billion in FY 1998.”

However, if recent documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden are to believed, the Americans managed to up their game. The document published on The Intercept, an American website, says US spies had prior knowledge of India developing nuclear capable Dhanush and Sagarika missiles, and two airdropped bombs as early as 2004.

To put the timing of US intelligence in perspective, Dhanush was successfully test fired in 2016 while Sagarika was test fired in 2008.

The document published in January 2005 was basically part of an article on SID Today which the intercept describes as "the internal news website of the NSA’s core Signals Intelligence Directorate".

It is part of the trove of secret NSA files which were leaked by Edward Snowden, who worked as a contractor with the NSA till 2013 before he finally landed up in Russia via Hong Kong much to the anguish of the US authorities.

“New collection access yields ‘spectacular’ intel” as the document is called details how “cross programme collaboration” and “SIGINT programmes working together” led to satisfying intelligence needs and success against India’s nuclear programme. ‘SIGINT’ is how the intelligence community describes information gathered through electronic signals.

The document states that in October 2004, ‘Rainfall, an NSA site in Australia, “successfully geolocated signals of a suspected Indian nuclear weapons storage facility.”

This prompted a foreign satellite collection facility Lemonwood, and Unidentified Signal and Protocol Analysis Branch to collaborate in isolating the signals and confirming that they related to India’s nuclear weapons. However, a need was felt for more “demodulating equipment”and once the equipment was fielded the network provided “spectacular activity”.

This new access to information on Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Sagarika, and Dhanush, the sea launched short range ballistic missile, according to the document, gave insight into India’s two new airdropped bombs, including a large fuel air explosive, the second one suspected to be from the new generation of airdropped nuclear weapons beside a pilotless aircraft.

At the time of the publishing of the document, the NSA was working to expand collection on what they called a “high priority network". It is not known what other information the NSA could manage through this network.

With the induction of INS Arihant, a nuclear submarine, India had quietly completed its nuclear triad last year, something important for what is called the second strike capabilities, in the eventuality of a nuclear war. And India’s no first use policy. Sagarika missiles with a range of 750 km and could be launched from a submarine are important part of this triad. Dhanush, a variant of the the Prithvi 3 missile, can too carry nuclear payload and can be launched from a ship.

India has been one of the major targets of NSA’s SIGINT operations as it came out during the initial Snowden files. It ranked fifth in the overall list of countries targeted by NSA’s programmes. The initial documents detailed at least two NSA programmes, christened ‘Boundless informant’ which kept track of emails and phone calls collected by the security agency and ‘PRISM’ which intercepted and collected content from the phone and internet networks.

Reportedly, Boundless Informant was used to monitor telephone calls and access to internet while PRISM was used for information on specific issue.

Over the past decade or so, India and US have seen heightened security collaboration especially after 9/11 and US intervention in Afghanistan, which is why it comes as a surprise to know how closely US agencies were monitoring India.

However, as a former intelligence official says, the NSA is merely doing what a security agency is supposed to do.

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EMERGENCY - Greece establishes Consulate General in Iraqi Kurdistan shortly before referendum

September 20, 2017 by admin

A move of great strategic significance was made by the diplomatic service of the Greek Foreign Ministry, with its decision to upgrade its presence in Iraqi Kurdistan from a commercial office to a Consulate General indicating its intentions in Ankara.

The Greek Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Dionysios Kyvetos, has hurriedly visited the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan Erbil and announced the decision of the Greek government to upgrade the office currently in the Kurdistan region to Consulate General.

Mr Kyvetos met with the Head of the Kurdistan Foreign Relations Department (DFR), Mr Farah Mustafa, and discussed bilateral relations, the latest political developments and the upcoming referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan region, which is planned for September 25, according to the DFR press office.

During the meeting, the Greek diplomat underlined the government's decision in Athens to upgrade its representation in the Kurdistan region from the Commercial Office to Consulate General, and also cheer Kurdish officials.

The decision comes a few days before the people of Iraqi Kurdistan hold a historic referendum on his independence.

Mustafa welcomed Greece's decision and indicated the full support of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Athens.

Mr Kivetos praised the role of Kurdish forces Peshmerga in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and the efforts of the autonomous Kurdistan region to host 1.8 million refugees and displaced persons.

Greek diplomats have moved even once for many years in the light of the national interest and not the demands of the dictator Erdogan, who threatens to invade the region.

Ankara has been raising its opposition to the referendum declared by Iraqi Kurdistan's autonomous region for independence on September 25 for military junior highs and tanks along its southern borders, the dissolution of its neighboring countries can lead to a global conflict.

Defense Minister Nuretin Tsanikli told the Turkish capital that the September 25 referendum raises a big risk, noting that Turkey will take "all necessary measures" to prevent similar steps in the southeastern areas of its country where mainly Kurds live.

The Kurdistan region, a semi-autonomous federal region of Iraq, has many of the diplomatic relations with many countries in recent years.

Since 2007, 38 foreign consulates and delegations have been opened in the Kurdistan region and the number continues to increase.

Recently, the governments of Ukraine and Sri Lanka have decided to open consulates in the Kurdistan region to develop bilateral relations.

The Greek movement surely did not escape the attention of Ankara and it is estimated that we will soon see the reaction of the neo-Ottomans ... very soon.


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Turkey's ban on teaching the theory of evolution and its parallels in India

ALEESHA MATHARU | Updated on: 20 September 2017, 15:45 IST

Evolution is both a scientific fact and a theory - that species change and evolve over a period of time forms the very bedrock of biology. Over the years, there have been repeated attempts to tear down the real science behind Darwin's hypothesis, but those arguments never hold up.

What is truly surprising is that today, in the 21st century, people still ferociously put down evolution as "just a theory" and disregard it as a flat out lie. Thanks to such views, children in various parts of the world are being denied a proper education, Turkey being a case in point.

Turkey, which has been regressing into a conservative country under the guidance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has decided to stop teaching evolution in schools, opting instead for a simpler, "values-based" education system.

A chapter in the previous curriculum, called "Origin of Life and Evolution", has been excluded for being a "controversial subject. To justify this decision, Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz told reporters: "It's a theory that requires a higher philosophical understanding than schoolchildren have."

The move has understandably sent alarm bells ringing, not just for parents of children readying themselves to go to school, but also for other nations that have respected the secular nature of Turkey for much of the 20th century.

"The last crumbs of secular scientific education have been removed," lamented Feray Aytekin Aydogan, the head of a secular-teachers union, to the New York Times.

As Erdogan continues to keep distancing himself from the secular strides made by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it isn't just science that is suffering.

Thousands of journalists and political opponents have been detained ever since the fateful 31 October day in 2016, when under the guise of an emergency following a failed coup attempt, Erdogan began consolidating power and silencing all critics to continue edging towards his ultimate goal of passing a constitutional referendum that would grant him unparalleled executive powers.

Turkey’s main opposition - Republican People’s Party (CHP) - has said that the decision will “condemn the Turkish public to darkness.”

One would have imagined that as the world marched towards modern times, science would be accepted as the driving force behind creating a more secular and liberal world.

But this is not the reality we live in today. From Turkey to India, even Iran and Algeria, largely secular governments have been toppled to pave the way for religious nationalistic governments.

India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, championed secular and scientific ideals, as did Atatürk. Both strived to make evolutionary biology a central part of the education system.

But as the global march of secularism has failed, science has become collateral damage.

In India, the situation may not look so dire just yet, but it's clear that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government is pushing its saffron agenda by bringing about its own textbook revolution.

In fact, many have taken to comparing this government with the early years of Erdogan when he began his attempts to create an ideological shift in the country.

There is no better way of making such a change happen than to rewrite textbooks within the school curriculum. This methodology forms the very backbone of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World where children are genetically engineered in bottles and taught exactly what the state wishes them to learn - right from duties to prejudices and even morals.

It is the consequences of such control - the loss of dignity, morals, values, and emotions and humanity - that evoke such a sense of horror among readers.

Foremost in the new battle India faces is Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist Dinanath Batra, whose main claim to fame has been managing to have Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus pulped.

In Batra's book, which is now mandatory for children in Gujarat's schools, he wrote of how stem cell was an Indian invention - as proven by the birth of the100 Kauravas in the Mahabharata.

Months after coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Modi pulled a leaf out of Dinanath Batra's book to prove the advanced state of Hindu thought by speaking of ancient genetic science and of how Ganesha was the first being on whom plastic surgery was practiced.

Turkey itself isn't far behind in making wild assertions: just this month, an article written by Tolgay Demir, a youth leader of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) titled “The Flat Earth Theory" where he seriously argued that the Earth is, in fact, flat.

According to him, photos of Earth taken from space are “staged,” and that the voyage to the moon by the US was nothing but a “conspiracy” to help people become "slaves of the capitalist system".

Pseudo science has become a part and parcel of mainstream politics in India. BJP leaders have begun expounding the benefits of drinking gau mutra, or cow urine. As BJP MP Shankarbhai Vegad from Gujarat told the Rajya Sabha in March 2015: “Cow dung and urine can cure cancer. I am witness to it. Cow dung and urine are a 100% cure for cancer.”

In fact in January, Rajasthan’s Education Minister Vasudev Devnani went far enough to claim that the cow is the only animal in existence which takes in oxygen and releases the same. Ridiculously, he added that there was no need to understand "the scientific significance of the animal".

What's more, beyond the politics of eating cows and the numerous lynchings taking place across India, the government's push to validate the benefits of ‘panchagavya’, a concoction of five cow-based derivatives (cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd and ghee) is now taking shape under the SVAROP (an acronym for Scientific Validation And Research On Panchgavya) programme.

The Indian community of scientists has begun to make noises against such unscientific beliefs and superstitions. In a rare show of strength on 9 August, around 12,000 scientists took part in a march organised by the Breakthrough Science Society (BSS) in 40 cities across India.

Their demands? That government funding towards scientific research and development be hiked to 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) from the current 0.85% and that the "propagation of unscientific, obscurantist ideas and religious intolerance" be brought to an end.

All this comes at a time when organisation involved in scientific research are facing a severe fund crunch.

"The problem is that there is propagation of unscientific views and superstitions, sometimes that is even getting support from the governmental quarters," Soumitro Banerjee, a professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata, told Quint.

The march was taken out despite fears within the scientific community that they would be seen as taking part in "anti-government activities".

As one scientist from IIT-Delhi who took part in the march told Catch, "In light of Gauri Lankesh's murder in Bangalore just recently and those of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, writer Govind Pansare and academic MM Kalburgi, speaking out against such pseudo science seems all that much more difficult."

When it comes to scientific education, Turkey's children will be bereft of the understanding of just why life evolves - leaving future generations of scientists forever affected for the worse.

In India, it appears that the ruling party has similar ideas to help keep students in the dark. After all, history has proven time and again that no tyrant has ever benefitted from an educated electorate.

Perhaps natural selection is the only answer.

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Where Will Islamic State Strike After It Collapses in the Middle East?

Keep an eye on South Asia

September 20, 2017 David Batashvili

Islamic State will soon cease to exist as a territorial entity in Syria and Iraq. Despite this, ISIS might retain its potential for upsetting the international system and deleting state borders, as it temporarily did in Syria and Iraq. South Asia is the region the group threatens the most.

Beyond its presently besieged and doomed core area, ISIS is an international guerilla and terrorist network, united by its jihadist ideology. Its purpose of this network is to transform itself into a vast totalitarian empire.

ISIS has franchises of varying power in a number of countries, but most of them are hopelessly constrained by objective realities of geography and demography. They might keep causing trouble for long periods of time, they even might grow stronger for a while, but they can never become cores of a truly expansionist geopolitical entity.

A necessary requirement for such a core is to support a large Sunni population. Most of the Sunni Muslims do not support ISIS, but at the same time they constitute the only demographic group where ISIS possibly can recruit supporters.

As the Bolsheviks demonstrated in Russia — or, indeed, as ISIS itself showed in 2014 — a totalitarian regime can be imposed on the majority of the people by a violent, dedicated and well-organized minority.

Once such regime has taken over a given area, it employs brutal repression and mass indoctrination to control the population. It then exploits the population through taxation and military recruitment in order to sustain the regime’s external war effort.

Another requirement for the jihadists’ potential geopolitical core is that it needs to have a space for expansion. Even a successful jihadist group won’t have a great impact if realities of geography restrict it to a single limited area. Sooner or later, its foes will regroup and smash such isolated jihadist franchise.

Sinai Peninsula – the home of the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province group – is an example of such a place that does not promise a bright future for the jihadists there. Other examples include Somalia, Yemen and Libya.

Perhaps the most grotesque case is in The Philippines. There, an ISIS-affiliated group is fighting government forces on an island of an archipelago nation with a majority non-Muslim population. These jihadists may bring misery to certain parts of The Philippines, but from the perspective of their global ambitions the insurgency in that cut off area is pointless.

The Fertile Crescent is, of course, another matter entirely. The region is one of the cradles of civilization, and includes the two capitals of the medieval Arab Caliphate – Damascus and Baghdad. It also has large Sunni population that was disrupted by the civil war in Syria and disgruntled by the Shia dominance in Iraq.

At top — an anti-ISIS fighter in Ar Raqqa, Syria. Above — an Islamist fighter in The Philippines. Photos via Wikipedia

In addition, the Fertile Crescent has geographic access to some of other Sunni areas. All of this summed up to proper staging ground for launching a totalitarian imperial project the jihadists dream about.

These factors gave the ISIS blitzkrieg of 2014 greater geopolitical significance than any other jihadist success has had before or since. That’s why the response to ISIS’s expansion was vigorous, even to the extent of temporarily aligning the American and Iranian actions in Iraq.

Since ISIS insists on being everyone’s mortal enemy, everyone is compelled to be the enemy of ISIS. A large portion of the world’s significant powers took action against the “caliphate” at one point or another, in addition to all local factions in both Syria and Iraq. As a consequence, the de facto ISIS state in the Fertile Crescent area is now nearing the end of its existence.

There’s another part of the world, however, where Daesh has potential for making gains of grave geopolitical import – the northern part of South Asia. The Sunni areas of this region, primarily in Pakistan, have as rich a history as the Fertile Crescent – both as a cradle of civilization and as a former Muslim imperial core. And their population is vastly larger.

Very significant portions of this enormous population are not modernized either in their living conditions or in their worldview. At some point, they might turn out vulnerable to the ISIS subversion and propaganda.

Afghanistan is being consumed by internal war, which is not ending anytime soon. In Pakistan, relatively secular elites mostly maintain control, but even within these elites there is no consensus regarding the nation’s attitude towards radical Islamist organizations. The country’s society constitutes a complex mix, which includes large elements that are deeply conservative, poor and illiterate.

Crucially, Pakistan is not exceedingly stable politically. Any serious unrest could provide the jihadists with an opening to exploit. Meanwhile, Kashmir is in a permanent state of insurgency against India – on the basis of its Muslim identity.

These are significant vulnerabilities. And ISIS is already establishing itself in the region. Its franchise, called Khorasan Province, managed to take over territorial control over parts of eastern Afghanistan in 2015. Since then it has turned the War in Afghanistan into a three-sided affair, adding itself to the country’s government and the Taliban. The Khorasan Province also has insurgents within Pakistan, and is actively recruiting in both Bangladesh and India.

Demographic realities of northern South Asia mean that if the local ISIS affiliates were to take over considerable territory, they could potentially get control over much larger population than ISIS did in Syria-Iraq. Since larger population under the jihadist control gives them greater resources due to taxation and military drafting, a South Asian ISIS entity could be even more dangerous than the one that is presently being destroyed in the Fertile Crescent region.

It is difficult to predict what exactly will be the fate of ISIS’s international network once the caliphate in Syria-Iraq finally ceases to exist. Maybe the organization’s legitimacy will be shaken in the eyes of the global jihadist community.

Or maybe this international network will continue its activities in a robust manner, but nevertheless fails to achieve significant success in South Asia. Such scenarios are plausible. However, because of this region’s vulnerabilities, less optimistic futures are plausible, as well. The threat is real.
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