Sunday, March 8, 2009

Too Many Secrets....

The past week was by all accounts a momentous one, as no less a person than former Pakistani President and former Chief of the Army Staff, Gen (Ret'd) Pervez Musharraf, assertively disclosed what has been a 'no-go' area for India's mainstream media and the otherwise hyper-ventilating broadcast media thus far: that India's Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) has, since 2002, waged a highly successful covert war against Pakistan by actively rendering all kinds of financial assistance to Balochistan-based separatists. But mind you, such covert warfare has not been waged by the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), but by the tri-services DIA and Afghanistan's Riyast-i-Amniyat-i-Milli, and in addition to his routine assignment as India's Defence Adviser at the Embassy in Kabul, Brigadier Ravi Datt Mehta was officially dolling out huge financial assistance--as ordered by the DIA--to the Baloch separatists as and when required. For the past one year such activities being undertaken by the DIA wer, in fact, openly discussed by both serving and retired senior military officials at both the Armed Forces Gymkhana and the United Services Institution within the National Capital Region. It, therefore, did not come as a great surprise to South Block when Brig Mehta was specifically targetted for assassination by the Pakistan Army's Peshawar-based 324 Military Intelligence Battalion . This in many ways is reminiscent of the era ranging from the mid-1980s and early 1990s during which RAW had succeeded in gaining the trust of what would later morph into the Northern Alliance. In fact, by 1986, despite India's official recognition of the then Soviet-backed Afghan regime led by Dr Najibullah, India had begun extending medical assistance to the guerrilla forces led by the legendary leader Ahmad Shah Massoud and as a consequence of this, one wing of the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) was completely cordoned off by South Block and it was there that all those Mujahideen wounded in battle while fighting the Soviets under Massoud's leadership received the urgent medical attention that they deserved. So impressed was the Northern Alliance by India's humanitarian assistance that this relationship, at first opportunity, got elevated to a higher level when, in the early 1990s after the breakup of the USSR, the Northern Alliance succeeded in securing Tajikistan's approval for an Indian Army-run field hospital to be established at Farkhor.

Last week also saw BrahMos Aerospace successfully test-firing the Block 2 version of the BrahMos supersonic multi-role cruise missile's land attack variant. But here again, India's mainstream media failed to illustrate what has thus far been a severe shortcoming for both BrahMos Aerospace and the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO): there are NO available firing ranges in India that can host test-firings of surface-to-surface or air-to-surface battlefield support missiles (like the BrahMos or Prithvi SS-150/SS-250) out to their maximum range envelopes! The firing range at Pokhran where such missiles are routinely test-fired, measures at most 58km and that too after two villages have been temporarily evacuated, even though the DRDO has been pleading with the MoD since the late 1990s for making available a firing range that can support missile firings out to 100km over land.

Yet another revelation for me last week was an update on the launch status of the nuclear-powered Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV): the new Project Director has, rightly, adopted a cautious attitude towards advancing the launch-date of the hull by conducting a thorough and controlled 'flushing' of the ATV's complex network of steam piping associated with the vessel's BHEL-built heat exchanger, which had previously proved to be quite problematic. In addition, the new-design vertical silo for housing a yet-to-be-available 8,500km-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is now being removed from the ATV's hull as the priority is to--as part of the ATV's multi-phase sea trials schedule--firstly, establish the ATV's hull integrity under operational conditions, and secondly, to establish the functional maturity of the ATV's nuclear propulsion system. Only after these two milestones have been achieved that the weaponisation phase will be put to effect. The Govt of India's Cabinet Committee on National Security last January decided to accord only 'conditional & on principal' approval for constructing two ATV-derived vessels: one being the SSBN and the other being the escorting SSN.--Prasun K. Sengupta

Coming up soon: how the Indian Navy recently saved the Scorpene SSK project from being scuttled by the already-concluded investigations into allegations of corruptions, and how exactly the 'agents' involved with the deal and their principals succeeded in legally covering up their tracks and skirting around the 'Integrity Clause' that was integral to the procurement contract.


Tejaswy said...

Great post dear

Abhinaba said...

According to media report "Brahmos take 150 seconds to reach the targate." For a missile flying at 2.8 mach it is impossible to end it's flight within 50km firing range. So, how the test was done?

Raghav said...

A few points:

1. Even at the height of the cold war, the Americans and Soviets did not target each other's intel operatives in third countries, only spies and moles in their own countries. If Pak agents targeted our Brig. in Kabul then doesn't it breach the unwritten code of conduct of intel agencies? Why doesn't the DIA bump-off a couple of Pak officers involved in Kashmir terror?

2. Are you sure about a wing in AIIMS being cordoned off for the Northern Alliance? My uncle is in the army and he has told me that many times Afghans were secretly brought by the IAF to Army Research & Referral and AFMC,Pune.

3. Where does the army hold Corps level exercises? Definitely it must be a large area in the desert devoid of any human inhabitation. Can't we use them as a missile firing range? What about deserted places in Leh, Arunachal? If Israel can test missiles in tiny places like Negev, we must be able to do it in our country.



Has the Army come out with any official statement yet regarding the success of the latest Brahmos test?

Kannan,India said...

How can a word or even a letter told by Musharaf be true. Is he capable of telling a sentence of truth. I think this is just Commando Musharaf attempt to gain publicity by stunt shockers..

A correspondent of Outlook magazine citing "sources" have claimed that NSA Narayanan shot down proposals for covert operations suggested by intel ppl after 26/11 attack. I very much doubt our spineless leaders can pull off a covert operation. We can't even arrest a Imam Bukhari who is spewing venom in the capital ordered by SC..
Anyways..hope that is true..

zzzz zzzz

sachin_sathe said...

gr8 post prasun,
regarding the ATV the IN has taken a conservative but correct approch of getting the basics right. Also this recent developement suggests tht there could be a total of 10-12 nuclear subs with 6-9 SSNs and some 3-4 SSBNs. I read ur earlier post abt the ATV but can u make a detailed post explaining the ssn and ssbn which will serve in IN in near future.

Also thr was a news report abt Boeing responding to RFP abt purchase of Very Heavy Transport contract i thought it was for the An-124 type aircrafts r thr 2 separate projects? plz elaborate.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Abhinaba: You're of course assuming that the BrahMos immediately attains its maximum cruise speed after launch. That's not true, as the cruise speed can be varied depending on the type of target being attacked.

To Raghav: 1) The reason why Pakistan's ISI can execute such missions without remorse is because as far as the Pakistan Armed Forces go, jihad is an instrument of state policy and combatant Mujahideens are officially part of the Pakistan Army's ORBAT. 2) I was referring to the AIIMS issue dyring a specific period. By the early 1990s, as India's material and logistics support for the Northern Alliance became official and institutionalised, wounded Afghan war veterans were referred to various AFMC facilities. 3) Any Corps-level exercise, wherever it is conducted, is held over a finite frontage and does not exceed 40 sq km. In contrast, when a missile test-firing is to be conducted over land, it boils down to the issue of a sanitised patch of land in length and width. Even if certain patches of land are uninhabitated, there are others along the way where there is human habitation. In India there are no patches of land like Pakistan's Makran coastline, which is hardly populated and along which the Babur's test-flights are conducted. The problem with conducting such test-firings in mountainous terrain is that real-time telemetry tracking of the missile's flight from ground-based sensors is not possible due to terrain-masking. Therefore, most of the test-flight parameters have to be validated on the plains.

To BuA: No, not yet.

To Kannan: The OUTLOOK report you're referring to is about restrictions placed on covert operations undertaken by RAW. The DIA's DG, on the other hand, does not take orders or directives from the NSA, he reports to the Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff who in turn reports to the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. That's why in my report I clearly stated that it is the DIA that has been entrusted with the task of conducting such covert operations since RAW simply does not, at the moment, have any strategic reach or resources in the area of operations. I'm not saying one has to believe what Gen Musharraf says, rather, I'm merely restating what was openly being discussed by several Delhi-based retired senior military officials (1-star and above) whenever they met at the Golf courses. The problem with the India-based mainstream media is that it does not go deeper into the stories to explain to laymen, for instance, how the chain of command works within civilian and military establishments concerning RAW or the DIA.

To Sachin_Sathe: Before one discusses numbers about the projected fleet strength of the Indian Navy's nuclear submarine fleet, one will first have to overcome the formidable hurdle of convincingly demonstrating that the ATV works as specified. And that task will take a long time to be accomplished, at least another six years. And if an industrially advanced country like the UK takes almost a decade to build a functional SSGN at a cost of US$5 billion, imagine how long and how much money it will take India to accomplish a similar feat! For one, India simply does not have that kind of financial resources available in the foreseeable future. Therefore, at most, India's sea-based minimum nuclear deterrent will comprise only 1 SSBN and two escorting SSGNs.
Regarding the strategic transport aircraft reqmt, the new acquisitions are meant to replace the IL-76MDs, and not about acquiring AN-124-type or C-5A Galaxy-type transports.

Anonymous said...

Why does the DIA not target Paki army personnel who are involved with terrorist groups? Two can play the same game.

Sundar Rajan said...

Prasunji, a corp typically consists of about three to four divisions and all the supporting equipment like fuel and ammo reserves, spare equipment and tools for overhaul and repair of equipment on the field, air defence systems, field hospitals and so on. In any corp level exercise, all these systems are brought out and troops train in handling them as if in real war. It is very difficult to even imagine that such a large formation will be deployed over a small 40 area thereby presenting a target rich area for the enemy.
The army's primary offensive formation, the II corp, is deployed all along the border areas in the districts of Ganganagar and Bikaner before a war. This is definitely more than 40

I have started following your blog quite recently. I was a Captain in the army. I resigned in 1985. My son, who is a Lieutenant, recommended this blog for me. I find your blog very informative and for the whole day today i was reading your older posts. keep doing your good work. Best wishes!

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Sundar Rajan: Welcome! You're absolutely right. As you are well aware, the teeth of a typical strike Corps comprising some two mechanised infantry divisions and one armoured division along with its integral air defence artillery and field artillery brigades will be deployed about 40km away from the border in a concentrated manner, which is the staging area, with the tail-end elements/formations being located in the rear areas behind in non-linear patterns. For the breakout battle at night or at the crack of dawn up to three frontages measuring 5-7km each will be opened simultaneously with pulverising field artillery fire assaults being carried out on each of them for up to seven hours at a stretch so as to mask the actual direction of the vital breakout for the contact battles, this being an essential component of a Corps GOC's operational art. Therefore, when referring to a Corps' operational deployment, I was referring to the teeth-level formations involved in waging the contact battles, and not the entire Corps and its strategic reserves and tail-end elements/formations moving en masse.

thiru said...

Did i get hat right? INdia supported the Afghan Mujahideen even when the Soviet Union was their ally? What ridiculous objective were they trying to gain from doing so? Also you mentioned a 8500km range SLBM?? Isnt the Sagarika project trying to build a 700Km SLBM? Is India trying to build a submarine that can carry a 8500 km SLBM when the land version is sitting at 3500 KM IRBM with works on 5000KM ICBM going on? Also will India after getting a 5000KM ICBM look to further increase the range of its ICBM's? Because the 5000KM ICBM more than covers China's territory. A further increase would suggest US as a potential target.

left wing nut job said...

How can a silo be removed from a sub hull?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Thiru: The Soviets were never looked upon or perceived by India as an ally. Nor was India a member of the Warsaw Pact. If you are a student of history you must surely realise that the USSR ceased being a superpower in 1979 itself when Moscow failed to militarily intervene during the Sino-Vietnam conflict. By the mid-1980s as Gorbachev was busy trying to mend fences with China he made a significant remark during his visit to India in 1986 saying that it will not take sides with any party in the event of another Sino-Indian war. To India this meant that the USSR could no longer be counted upon as India's all-weather friend. Consequently, for reasons of realpolitik India decided not to keep all its eggs in one basket, but to keep its options open in Central Asia as by then the demise of the USSR was assured, the only question being when, and not if. And that's when India started courting the Northern Alliance component of the Mujahideens.
As for what Sagarika or the SLBM are all about and for what reason please go back to my earlier stories and read up my comments there. It's all been explained previously several times. The question of the US being a potential enemy of India doesn't arise at all as both are natural allies. Both countries have never perceived each other as enemies and there's no reason to assume that this situation will change in future.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

There are no silos in a submarine. Only vertical launch cells that are modular and house SLBMs. That's how some USN SSBNs were modified as TLAM cruise missile carriers in the 1990s.

sachin_sathe said...

if so then wouldn't it be easier to give through upgrade to the existing CANDID fleet? Can such upg sustain them for say 10-15 yrs? if it can then why not? Also procuring more no of this type if needed would be a practical move since the transport capability of IAF is woeful. It is going to be very difficult for IAF to maintain supply tempo if it has to deal with 2 conflicts at once.

Abhinaba said...

In which naval ship Dhanus system is fitted?

Kaushik said...

Some days back I read in a newspaper published in Hong Kong that India and China have started to confront each other quite actively in the Indian Ocean. It seems Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean used to monitor all our Agni missile tests with special radars. Indian planes often fly near Chinese ships in the straits of Malacca and in other parts of the Indian Ocean. The paper also says that under the cloak of a Tsunami monitoring system, India has actually installed a system similar to the US Navy's SOSUS on the ocean floor to monitor the movement of ships and subs in the northern part of the Indian ocean. Are these reports true?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Well, there's nothing wrong with Chinese intelligence gathering vessels positioning themselves in international waters for monitoring Indian missile tests. China is not breaking any international law here. In fact, the Indian Navy too requires two such dedicated intelligence gathering vessels now, which will be required to monitor PLA Navy fleet movements in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. But there's no eyeball to eyeball confrontation between the navies of the two countries. Regarding SOSUS, yes, such a seabed-based system is under development (the DRDO's NPOL lab has already confirmed this several times) for protecting the approaches to those Indian Navy bases to be used by nuclear-powered submarines like the Akula-2 and ATV, but the system has not yet been deployed. But it will definitely be have to be deployed in future.

your's_truly said...

Nice write up Prasun.

It seems, our Pakistani friends have picked up this article and plunged into an orgy of "told you so" victory dance.

Agnostic Muslim said...

From a 'Pakistani friend'. No victory dance from me, though I will admit that it makes the discourse with Indians on how to move the Indo-Pak relationship forward slightly easier from the Pakistani perspective.

There is no 'victory' in establishing that Pakistan supports insurgents in India and vice versa, more a sad realization that neither country has grown up.

In Pakistan there already is a raging national debate in the media between Islamists and those who oppose the policies the military pursued in supporting Islamists. It is essential that a similar introspective discourse on Indian policies occurs in India.

Anonymous said...

il76 with glass cockpit,fly by wire,and new ps90a engines allow it to be operated till 2030 easily and makes it to carry 60 tons of payload

rather spending money on buying c17 upgrade il76,as upgraded il76 provides 80% of c17 load carrying capability

although c17 is a excellent machine but each c17 comes over $220 million per piece so it would be much more costly to buy c17 and establish new infrastructure for that

as u all know that china paid $ 1.5 billion for 30 il76 aircraft but it got delayed due to kazakastan and russians now setting up facility in russia for il76 similar to as it was in kazaksatan and for that took this long and some more time to start regular production and new il76 to be delivered to china will be sourced only from russia and will only russian parts not depend on any other country

if older D30 engines can be operated FOR 22 YEARS then there should be no problem with new
ps90a engines for next 20 years

and some people thinking of only next 10-15 years only for upgraded

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Your's_Truly & Agnostic Muslim: I too am not in favour of any victory dancing and am of the firm belief that the subcontinent has yet to develop new institutionalised strategic paradigms that do not view geo-strategic issues through the prism of mypoic and xenophobic nationalism. But alas, the civilian political decision-makers on both sides of the India-Pakistan border have not yet grasped this strategic inevitability. In sharp contrast, the military decision-makers from both countries have a very clear idea of how to proceed further as they are well-versed in strategic visioning. That's why I for one firmly believe that the statement by the DG of ISI about all-out war or even limited hostilities not being an option for either India or Pakistan was realistic and pragmatic. What is also well-known is that both former President Gen Musharraf and Indian PM Dr Manmohan Singh had almost scaled the peak in terms of resolving all contentious issues between their two countries and making the post-Partition territorial boundaries 'irrelevant' as both realised that this was the only viable option for both countries and was also meant to be the shared destiny of both countries since in today's globalised environment strategic depth is acquired not through territorial conquests, but with enduring economic stakes in one's near-abroad. For Pakistan, which has been territorially trunciated since partition, this is the best existential guarantee that can be extended by India, just as India has done with Sri Lanka. I will go even one step further in making such a grand reconciliation a trilateral affair by roping in Afghanistan and ensuring that the issue of the validity of the Durand Line is declared permanently irrelevant, which will further diminish the existential threat that Pakistan faces. But will one see the executive branches of the governments of the three countries rising above their parochial domestic politiking and engaging in pragmatic strategic visioning to ensure time-bound conflict resolution? That's the main challenge.

Anonymous said...

Glad to meet atleast one sane pakistani!

Prasun K Sengupta said...

You will meet several more when you set foot on Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where IAF Mi-25s upgraded with Israeli avionics and Pakistan Army personnel routinely operate in unision under UN command.

Anonymous said...

i think pakis better take afghasnistan do whatever they want to do there and leave kashmir for forever

SmarterOne said...

nice writeup Prasun
but i differ on a few things.
@ thiru
Northern Alliance was supported not against the Russians but against the Taliban & Pakistan. There is a popular belief that Taliban took over all of Afghanistan but that was not the case. NA was always fighting the Taliban though its base was constantly shrinking. Farkhor base cud've never established if it was against the Russians.

India is working on "Surya" a ICBM with a range of over 10,000 Kms but everything is too nascent to discuss.

@ Prasun
What good will the media be doing reporting DIA or RAW's activity in public? It will actually compromise on national security. Don't think RAW has lost everything in the theater. I've very authentic pieces of info abt RAW's current activities but I'm mum & so shall every Indian be. I do write a blog & can score a few browny points elaborating on India's intel ops but I prefer to do my duty as a citizen of India.
Let the hushes remain hushes. Many of my family members served/are serving the security forces & I've heard a lot & that too straight from the horses mouth. But if they are covert operations - they ought to remain covert.
India, Pakistan & every other country in the world spy on each other & sabotage others interests. Even Russia keeps a watchful eye on India - trust me no one spies us like the Russians do.
Every country denies involvement as it effects diplomatic relations severely.

Which country can be called up as grown up my dear friend? US? UK? or China? Every country is playing dirty games. The more "developed" they are the more dirtier.

@ kannan
its better to be spineless sometimes than brainless. The strategy employed by the current govt. is the best at the moment. My blood also boiled at 26/11 but tackling Pakistan is a very tight rope walk. If the country itself is prepared to self destruct y shud we attempt to unite the anti India forces in Pak. Isnt it better that let em fight till the last faction is remaining - we can then take on that remaining faction. There are large holes in our security apparatus right now. we are utilising the time patching them up.

SmarterOne said...

@ thiru
if Surya 3 project is implemented then we'll have a nuclear missile capable of hitting 20000+ kms.
keep guessing for whom it is targeted against.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To: SmarterOne: I would rather not talk about any speculative project like the Surya ICBM as that is not part of India's official and well-publicised and officially acknowledged nuclear doctrine. I would rather concentrate on sanctioned and officially mandated projects that are of greater necessity, like the 8,500km-range SLBM.

Regarding national security, the exzecutive branches of successive govts compromised them long ago. They continue to do so, not me. Also, when certain so-called covert ops are openly discussed in gymkhanas and golf clubs, they're no longer covert and as such I don't believe in indulging in self-censorship. Rather, I see such disclosures as filling in the blanks. Operations that are really covert are always kept that way unless someone directly involved with them spills the beans like the memoirs of former Secretary RAW K sankaran Nair, ex-IB officials like Maloy Dhar, etc etc. I'm more than aware of the espionage activities of the Soviets/Russians and have first-hand experience of them. And mind you, you may call them 'dirty games' but to me these are an essential component of cold-blooded and ruthless realpolitik strategems practised since the dawn of civilisation. Therefore, there's no need to be moralistic about it.

Lastly, about the spineless issue, rest issue the gaps within both our national security and internal security apparatus are so huge that they're unlikely to be plugged before 2017. That's why India blinked late last December and decided against exercising any military options. Another example is the criminal negligence of successive coastal state govts, which were provided funds for setting up radar/optronic systems-based coastal surveillance systems after the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. That network should have been in place between Gujarat and Maharashtra by 1998, at the latest. But it wasn't. Now who's compromising national/internal security? Me with selective disclosures, or the executive branches of successive state-level and central govts of India?

SmarterOne said...

why are you getting so excited about the comment. I never blamed u for nething. The comment 'dirty games' was addressed to 'agnostic muslim' as he was getting moralistic abt the issue & not me. I know it for a fact that the state policy requires such ops everywhere in the world.
for Surya ICBM i myself wrote that things are too nascent to discuss.
I'm myself acknowledging the fact abt serious security holes in the system but dont expect everything to be copybook perfect.
& not just the govt. the citizens also are required to be sensible enough.
You are right to expect a lot from the establishment but over expectations shud always be avoided.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To SmarterOne: No mate, don't get me wrong. I wasn't attacking you nor was I excited. I was just terribly frustrated by the sheer indifference shown (and still being shown) by successive central govts of India in terms of not acting decisively and of not placing any value on the life of Indian citizens, as if they're all acceptable casualties of war. My expectations are realistic and achievable.

Anonymous said...

there is NO indian missile project called surya. period.

it was a figment of imagination of the NPAs(non-proliferation ayatollah for the uninitiated) in the 90's as a useful excuse to tighten the screws around ISRO.

Tejaswy said...

I have a question
Could you please give me a link for the project you said about SOSUS which is being done by DRDO,I would sure like to read about it

Prasun K Sengupta said...

I don't have the link from THE HINDU but I remember that the statement was made by Dr A Sivathanu Pillai of BrahMos Aerospace during a ceremony last year in which the DRDO/NPOL delivered the production engineering documentation for the HUMSA low-frequency HMS to Bharat Electronics Ltd.