INDIA, PAKISTAN: SIGNS OF A COMING WAR
December 24, 2008
Several major signs of a coming Indian-Pakistani war surfaced Dec. 24.
Indian troops reportedly have deployed to the Barmer district of southwest Rajasthan state along the Indian-Pakistani border. Furthermore, the state government of Rajasthan has ordered residents of its border villages to be prepared for relocation. The decision reportedly came after a meeting among the state’s director-general of police, home secretary, and an official from the central government. Stratfor confirmed the report with an Indian army officer.
According to India’s ZeeNews, the Pakistani army replaced the Pakistan Rangers that regularly patrol the border with India. The Pakistani troop movements were later confirmed by U.K. Bansal, the additional director-general of India’s Border Security Force (BSF) in Barmer, Rajasthan.
As Stratfor reported Dec. 22, there is a high probability of India using military force against Pakistan after Dec. 26, when a deadline expires for Pakistan to deliver on Indian demands to crack down on Islamist militant proxies that threaten India. With low expectations that Pakistan has the will or capability to deliver on these demands, India has spent the past month preparing for military action against Pakistan. Pressure is now ratcheting up on both sides of the border, with Indian Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, air officer commanding-in-chief of the Western Air Command, telling reporters Dec. 24 that as many as 5,000 targets in Pakistan have thus far been identified, while saying that many of the militants hiding out in camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have already fled.
It should be noted that the area of Rajasthan where Indian troops are deploying and where villagers are preparing to evacuate is a long distance from Kashmir, where conflict between India and Pakistan typically takes place. Barmer district is adjacent to Jaisalmer district, where India’s Southwestern Air Command is located. Any attacks based out of the Barmer district would involve mechanized and armored forces that could threaten the core Karachi-Hyderabad-Islamabad corridor — Pakistan’s only transit corridor that links the Pakistani heartland of Punjab with the coast. Given that cash-strapped Pakistan is a net food and energy importer and is already flirting with bankruptcy, India has a military opportunity at hand to cut off Pakistan’s economic lifeline. Furthermore, a potential cutoff would likely complicate the flow of fuel and supplies to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Any ground troop movement in southwestern Rajasthan is likely to be accompanied by air strikes against militant targets outside of Kashmir and possibly against intelligence facilities in Pakistan’s urban areas.
The timing of Indian military action is still unclear, as it will take some time for India to mobilize its forces and evacuate locals along the border area. But given these recent troop movements, it could be a matter of days before the world witnesses another Indian-Pakistani war.
PAKISTAN MOVES FORCES AS TENSIONS WITH INDIA RISE
By Richard A. Oppel Jr.
New York Times
December 27, 2008
ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan is moving some troops away from its western border with Afghanistan, where the United States has pressed it to combat Taliban militants, and stopping many soldiers from going on leave amid rising tensions with India, senior Pakistani officials said Friday.
A senior military official said in an interview that the decision to sharply restrict leave for soldiers was taken “in view of the prevailing environment,” namely the deteriorating relations with India since the Mumbai terrorist attacks last month. He added that the Pakistani air force was “vigilant” and “alert” for the same reason. A second Pakistani security official would not say where the forces were being sent, but confirmed the troop movements and the restrictions on leave, saying “there’s an obvious reason for that.”
The redeployment came as Indian authorities warned their citizens not to travel to Pakistan given the heightened tensions between the two nations, news agencies reported, particularly since Indian citizens had been arrested there in connection with a bombing in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
The senior military official said that the Pakistani troops were being drawn from northwestern Pakistan, where the military is fighting Taliban militants on several fronts. He said that “essential troops in limited numbers are being pulled out of areas where no operations are being conducted,” or where winter weather had already limited their ability to maneuver.
The senior official also refused to say where the troops would be redeployed, although the Associated Press quoted two Pakistani intelligence officials as saying that the Pakistani Army’s 14th division was being sent to Kasur and Sialkot, near the Indian border, and that around 20,000 troops were being redeployed. However, neither the scale nor ultimate destination of the troop movement could be immediately confirmed.
In India, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, summoned the leaders of his country’s armed forces to discuss the security situation, Indian media reported on Friday.
The developments added to the simmering tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors one month after the three-day terror assault in Mumbai left 171 people dead. Indian and American intelligence officials have blamed the Mumbai attacks on a Pakistani militant group that has long had ties to the Pakistan intelligence service. But Pakistani leaders reject that argument, saying they have been shown no evidence proving who carried out the attacks.
The troop movements away from northwestern Pakistan may also deepen concerns among American officials about Pakistan’s commitment to battling Taliban militants in the country’s lawless western frontier regions.
If the Pakistani troops are being sent toward the Indian border, the action is in sharp contrast to efforts earlier this month to cool hostilities between the two countries, which have fought three wars since 1947.
Two weeks ago, for example, Pakistani officials went out of their way to play down as “inadvertent” two incursions of Indian warplanes into Pakistani airspace. Their response to the airspace violations — which the Indian military denied — won praise from United States leaders even as Pakistani officials privately said the incursions were likely a test or provocation.
BSF ALERTS ITS RAJASTHAN FRONTIER AND PUNJAB FRONTIER FORCES
Times of India
December 24, 2008
JAISALMER -- Following the warning issued by intelligence agencies about terrorists' activities and training camps on the other side of the border along the state of Rajasthan and Punjab, Border Security Force (BSF) have alerted its Rajasthan Frontier and Punjab Frontier forces.
Intelligence sources said that though Pakistan denied its involvement in terrorists' activities[,] terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) are recruiting jihadis in Sindh and Punjab region through madrasas. Not just this, the jihadis are being sent to training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and North Western Frontier Province (NWFP).
Sources also said that [the] Pakistan government has failed to control terrorist activities, [and that] terrorist organizations were recruiting jehadis at mosques and madrasas in Rahimiyar Khan, Sadiqabad, Shor, Hyderabad, Bahwalpur, Bhawalnagar, Umarkot, Khipro, and other places in Pakistan along the border of Rajasthan.
LeT and JeM have set up various organizations with other names. They propagate these organizations as religious setup and not terrorists, added a source, and said that maulvis in these organizations sing motivational song (tarana) and deliver inflammatory speeches (taqrir) to encourage youths to take up jihad. During three months' training at terrorist camps, jihadis are given commando training, guerilla training [on] using fire-arms and planting bombs and also [how] to live in tough conditions without food and drinking water.
Intelligence reports about presence of terrorist groups in Bahawalpur region of Pakistan, located in front of Ganganagar district of Rajasthan, Rajasthan Frontier of BSF has been alerted. About one and [a] half years back, BSF gunned down three LeT terrorists near Ganganagar border and recovered huge cache of explosives from their possession.
Confirming the alert sounded after the warning of intelligence agencies, IG, Jodhpur range, Rajiv Dasot, said that he had received information in this regard from Police Headquarters, following which all the police stations in border areas, BSF and other security agencies have been alerted.
IG, BSF (Rajasthan Frontier), KL Meena said that both the training camps mentioned by intelligence agencies were located near Punjab, therefore the officials in Punjab have also been alerted. He also said that border forces have been put on high alert and the patrolling has been increased to keep strict vigil on the border.
WAR IS A MEDIA HYPE, SAYS JAIRAM RAMESH
December 26, 2008
JAIPUR -- Indian, Pakistani, and American media are responsible for creating a hype about an imminent war between India and Pakistan, union minister Jairam Ramesh alleged on Friday.
"Because the prime minister and defence minister met behind close doors, it does not mean that they were discussing anything about war," Ramesh, minister of state for power, told reporters adding the media, therefore, should not interpret any such thing.
He was on a three-day visit to Rajasthan to inspect and review the progress of work in Suratgarh super thermal power project at Sriganganagar and Barsinhgsar thermal power project.
Ramesh said it was "ridiculous" to talk about a war and create "an unnecessary alarm" among the people by creating a hype even after prime minister Manmohan Singh had issued a statement that there was no question of a conflict.
Ramesh admitted there was some tension along the border but said there was no war-like situation.
Ramesh asked the media to report more responsibily on such sensitive matters.
He said both India and Pakistan are nuclear-powered and if there was any war, Rajasthan would be first affected and therefore, the media must restrain from creating any hype.
INDO-PAK TENSION: SECURITY ENHANCED AT RAJASTHAN ATOMIC POWER STATION
Times of India
December 26, 2008
KOTA -- With tension escalating between India and Pakistan, security has been beefed up at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station at Rawatbhata here, site Director of RAPS C.P. Jhamb said on Friday.
He said the CISF stationed in and around the plant has been put on full alert.
Jhamb said that in case any information of disturbance is received the plant would be handed over to army.
He said an extraordinary meeting of all concerned parties, including civilian and army and district officials, is scheduled for January 7 at RAPS for finalizing an emergency exercise to meet any exigency.
PAK MOVES MORE TROOPS TO BORDER, BSF ON ALERT
Economic Times (India)
December 26, 2008
A sudden increase in activity and troop movement on the Pakistani side of international border adjoining Rajasthan has put the Border Security Force on extra alert, besides pushing the state government to forewarn the residents of border villages of a possible relocation in the event of a war-like situation.
“There is a lot of activity along the Pakistani side of the India-Pakistan border near Barmer in Rajasthan and Pakistan Rangers have been replaced by the Pakistan Army,” additional director general of BSF in Barmer, UK Bansal, said. He, however, added that BSF was on full alert and capable of handling any eventuality. In Delhi, BSF director general M.L. Kumawat insisted that there was no need for panic.
With Intelligence Bureau too confirming the stepped up activity across the Rajasthan border, the Rajasthan government, following consultations with the Union home ministry, has reportedly issued an order asking the residents of its border villages to be prepared for relocation.
The alert on either side of the Indo-Pakistan border in Rajasthan could heighten the tension already prevailing between New Delhi and Islamabad in the wake of reports that Pakistan had put its air bases on alert and moved its Tenth Brigade to Lahore and ordered its Third Armed Brigade to march to Jhelum. Now, a move by Pakistan to replace its Rangers with regular Army personnel across the border with Barmer, Rajasthan, may only add to the war hysteria.
It be recalled that Pakistan had, in a similar move during the Kargil war, replaced Pakistani Rangers with army personnel on the international border.
Earlier this week, in a statement designed to put India on the defensive, Pakistan army chief general Ashfaq Kiyani had warned India of a befitting reply in the wake of an Indo-Pak war.
The troop build-up by Pakistan may also be a ploy to ease the international pressure that is being mounted on Islamabad to crack down on terror outfits operating on its soil, as any tension along its eastern border could jeopardize [the] Pentagon’s anti-Taliban operations on Pakistan’s western frontier.
Ever since the epicenter of the Mumbai terror acts was traced to Pakistan, diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Islamabad have gone into a tailspin, with India insisting that all terror activity in the neighboring country must come to a complete halt before normal ties can be resumed.