Pakistan has become a ‘Safe Haven’ for Terrorist Cells : Iranian MP

Lashing out at Pakistan’s government for failing to prevent terror attacks against Iran from its soil, Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said that the neighboring country has become a “safe haven” for terrorist cells.

Boroujerdi, who was on a visit to the southeastern province of Sistan and Balouchestan, expressed his condolences over the death of 10 Iranian border guards in a recent terrorist attack that was launched from inside Pakistan.

“Given that terror cells’ safe haven is located inside Pakistan and they (terrorists) cross the Islamic Republic of Iran’s borders from there, undoubtedly, the Pakistani government is responsible for the bitter incident and other similar cases,” Tasnim News Agency quoted Boroujerdi, as saying.

Asserting that Pakistan practically lacked the ability to control its borders, the parliamentarian said that it was the right of Iranian forces to take the necessary actions and respond to such attacks.

Pakistan’s relations with Iran have nosedived after the recent killing of ten Iranian border guards at Mirjaveh on the Sistan-Baluchistan border by the Pakistan-based Sunni terror outfit, Jaish al-Adl or “The Army of Justice”.

Tehran’s move to summon Pakistan Ambassador to Iran, Asif Durrani and ask Islamabad to act “seriously and decisively” to detain and punish the (Jaish al-Adl) terrorists is in itself a pointer to the deterioration in relation, following the killing of the Iranian Border guards.

In a letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said that given the warm and friendly ties with Pakistan, he was extremely disheartened to see militants using Pakistani soil to launch their attacks on people in Iran.

His anguish and anger over the killing of border guards was reflected in the statement that Iran “is very disheartened that it is repeatedly transgressed upon from Pakistani soil by armed bandits and terrorist hirelings.”

He added, “Iran’s soil has never been abused against any of its neighbours, including Pakistan.”

Iranian police said the guards were killed by long-range guns and called on Islamabad to assume ultimate responsibility for the crime.

The Sistan-Baluchistan province in south-east Iran has long been plagued by drug smuggling gangs and separatist militants. The population of the province is predominantly Sunni Muslim, while the majority of Iranians are Shias.

The Jaish al-Adl is a Sunni militant group that has carried out several attacks on Iranian security forces with the aim of highlighting what they say is discrimination against Sunni Muslims and the Baluch ethnic group in the province.

In the last four years, this was the third instance of the militant group claiming responsibility for an attack.

It may be recalled that in October 2013, 14 Iranian border guards were killed. A further eight were killed in April 2015.

By: Business Standard

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French Amphibious Carrier sails into Pacific to join US-Japanese Forces – China Upset

As tension spikes on the Korean peninsula, a French amphibious assault carrier sailed into Japan’s naval base of Sasebo on Saturday ahead of drills that risk upsetting China, which faces U.S. pressure to rein in North Korea’s arms programmes.

The Mistral will lead exercises next month near Guam, along with forces from Japan, the United States and Britain, practicing amphibious landings around Tinian, an island about 2,500 km (1,553 miles) south of the Japanese capital of Tokyo.

The drills, involving 700 troops, were planned before Saturday’s test-firing of a ballistic missile by North Korea, in defiance of world pressure, in what would be its fourth successive unsuccessful missile test since March.

Japan and the United States are worried by China’s efforts to extend its influence beyond its coastal waters and the South China Sea by acquiring power-projecting aircraft carriers, a concern shared by France, which controls several Pacific islands, including New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

Even as they seek stronger economic ties with China, both France and Britain, which has two navy helicopters aboard the Mistral, are deepening security cooperation with Japan, a close U.S. ally that has Asia’s second-strongest navy after China.

The Mistral forms part of an amphibious task force mission, the Jeanne d’Arc, that is “a potent support to French diplomacy,” the country’s defence ministry said in a statement. Officials and children’s welcome dances greeted the Mistral in Sasebo, on the western island of Kyushu, a major naval base for Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) and the U.S. Navy.

The Mistral, which left France in February, can carry up to 35 helicopters and four landing barges, besides several hundred soldiers. It will stay in Sasebo until May 5. This month China launched its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong.

It joined the Liaoning, bought from Ukraine in 1998, which led a group of Chinese warships through waters south of Japan in December.

China’s military ambitions, however, have been overshadowed in recent weeks by tension on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang conducts long-range missile tests, and prepares for a possible sixth nuclear test.

In a show of force, the United States has sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to nearby waters, where it will join the USS Michigan, a guided missile submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday.

The Carl Vinson entered the Sea of Japan on Saturday, where it completed naval drills with two Japanese warships dispatched from Sasebo, an MSDF spokesman said.

By: Indian Express

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Unprecedented Modi gambit boosts India’s space faring efforts like never before

India embarks on space diplomacy like never before.

For the first time, New Delhi is flexing its prowess of space technology by embarking on an unprecedented and un-chartered ‘stratospheric diplomacy’ through a special Rs 450 crore gift for south Asians.

India is carving a very unique place in the universe, this week New Delhi will ‘gift’ a heavyweight bird in the sky to its neighbours through the ‘South Asia Satellite’.

India is opening its heart out to its neighbours, explains External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay, adding “neighbourhood first is now being extended beyond the stratosphere”.

It seems this ‘gift’ of a communications satellite for use by neighbours at no cost has no parallels in the space- faring world, all other current regional consortia are commercial for-profit enterprises.

So it seems Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is a known visionary space buff, is placing the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in a new orbit by providing this space- based platform that would cost the participating nations almost USD 1,500 million over the 12-year life of the satellite.

Prashant Agarwal, an IIT Kanpur-trained engineer and the point-person in the Ministry of External Affairs piloting the project, says, “Prime Minister Modi has actually extended his slogan ‘Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas’ to India’s neighbourhood essentially to service the needs of the poor in South Asia.”

On May 5, the skies above the island of Sriharikota on the coast of the Bay of Bengal will be lit up as the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) also called the ‘naughty boy of ISRO’ on its 11th mission will carry a message of peace like never before.

The nearly 50-m-tall rocket that weighs about 412 tons will carry what is now dubbed as the ‘South Asia Satellite’ or what the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) still prefers to call GSAT-9.

The 2230-kg satellite has been fabricated in three years and is purely a communications satellite costing Rs 235 crore.

The uniqueness of this satellite is that it will have a footprint that extends all over South Asia and India is gifting this heavenly messenger to its neighbours who according to India’s assessment could be helped in better utilising these space based technologies.

The South Asia Satellite has 12 Ku band transponders which India’s neighbours can utilise to increase communications. Each country will get access to at least one transponder through which they could beam their own programming and there could be common ‘south Asian programing’ as well.

Each country has to develop its own ground infrastructure though India is willing to extend assistance and know-how.

According to the government. the satellite will “enable a full range of applications and services to our neighbours in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting applications viz. television, direct-to-home (DTH), very small aperture terminals (VSATs), tele-education, telemedicine and disaster management support”.

The satellite also has the capability to provide secure hot lines among the participating nations in addition since the region is highly prone to earthquakes, cyclones, floods, tsunamis, it may help in providing critical communication links in times of disasters.

In this unusual message of peace, India’s most hostile neighbour Pakistan has fully opted out. Rest of the seven nations part of the South Asian Association for Regional Co- operation (SAARC) are already on-board with Afghanistan still to ink the deal with some minor technical details still to be fixed in Kabul.

Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have agreed to be part of this mission, confirms Baglay.

When Prime Minister Modi was just a fresher and just four weeks into his new position on June 30, 2014, he surprised the world while speaking to the scientists at ISRO in Sriharikota as he asked “the space community to take up the challenge of developing a SAARC satellite that we can dedicate to our neighbourhood as a gift from India”.

The proposal emerged directly from Modi and the leadership at ISRO was stunned into silence not knowing what this space animal will look like.

A highly-impassioned Modi, who had just witnessed a successful launch, said “I believe that the fight against the poverty of the countries of SAARC is the fight against illiteracy, the fight against superstitions, the challenge of moving forward in the scientific field is the possibility of providing opportunities to young people of SAARC countries.

“Our dream of this SAARC Satellite will work in the welfare of all our neighbouring countries. And that’s why I have proposed in front of you today that we offer a valuable gift to our SAARC countries through a SAARC Satellite launch so that we also become partners in their welfare.”

Modi reinforced this idea five months later when speaking in Kathmandu at the SAARC Summit on November 26, 2014.

He said, “India’s gift of a satellite for the SAARC region will benefit us all in areas like education, telemedicine, disaster response, resource management, weather forecasting and communication.

“We will also host a conference in India for all South Asian partners next year, to strengthen our collective ability to apply space technology in economic development and governance. And, we plan to launch our satellite by the SAARC Day in 2016.”

Modi’s sincere efforts got a jolt when even after participating in the planning meeting on June 22, 2015, Pakistan decided to ‘opt out’ from the proposed SAARC satellite suggesting that ‘Pakistan has its own space program’.

So the project was renamed to ‘South Asia Satellite’ but sources say Pakistan was not allowed to veto the development project. Meanwhile frequency co-ordination activities took longer than expected and the launch got postponed by almost six months.

Among India’s neighbours, three nations already possess full-fledged communication satellites with Pakistan and Sri Lanka having been helped by China; Afghanistan also has a communication satellite actually an old India-made satellite acquired from Europe.

Bangladesh is likely to have its first bird in the sky later this year made with help from Thales.

Essentially, it is the tiny nations of Bhutan and Maldives that may benefit in the long run. Incidentally, Nepal has already floated a tender to acquire two communications satellites.

Experts say “Pakistan has missed an opportunity” since its own space program is currently in a primitive stage as compared to India’s.

This is despite the fact that Pakistan actually launched its first rocket five years ahead of India and its space agency Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) is older than ISRO.

Pakistan has had five satellites in space but today lacks heavy duty launchers and satellite fabrication facilities.

But will India’s strident regional space diplomacy yield results?

There is no doubt that through the South Asia Satellite India is actively trying to counter China’s growing influence on its neighbours. But in the 21st-century Asian space race, China already has the first mover advantage.

Better late than never is prevailing mood and for this unique space diplomacy it is almost certain that India is likely to get applauded by the world’s powers for this one of a kind friendly confidence building measure.

Hopefully friendly skies can result in reduced hostilities on Earth.

By: ET

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Pakistani Spy gets 10 years in Jail

A Kanpur court has convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment an alleged Pakistani spy eight years after he was arrested in Uttar Pradesh on charges of passing on information about military installations in India.

The UP Anti-Terror Squad arrested Waqas Mahmood on May 27,2009 on charges of being an ISI agent. The ATS had said that Waqas, who was arrested from Bithoor in Kanpur district, hailed from Lahore.

The Additional Sessions Judge court in Kanpur on Friday also sentenced to six years and 10 months imprisonment Sitara Begum, the Indian woman who allegedly sheltered Waqas, the UP ATS said.

Police claimed that Waqas was living in Kanpur under a fake identity and was collecting and passing on confidential information about Indian military installations to the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan.

The ATS had claimed that it had recovered confidential documents from Waqas, including restricted maps of the Air Force in Chakeri, fake driving licence and voter identity card, and mobile phones.

Waqas was alledgedly living on rent under the alias of Ibrahim Khan at Sitara Begum’s house in Kanpur’s Kalyanpur area.

The previous Akhilesh Yadav government had in 2013 made directions to withdraw cases against 19 terror accused persons, including Sitara Begum. The move was, however, stayed by the Allahabad High Court.

ATS IG Aseem Arun said the officers involved in the operation would be rewarded.

By: The Hindu

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Pak’s new friend Turkey is keen to boost defence ties with India – Offers Armed Drones

Turkey is keen on expanding defence industrial cooperation with India and will offer its armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during the upcoming visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Ilnur Cevik, senior adviser to the Turkish President on Saturday.

He indicated that Turkey’s support to Pakistan on Kashmir at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was likely to continue.

“A defence cooperation agreement has to be signed. It is in the offing and a draft is being prepared. The head of defence industry of Turkey is part of the delegation,” Mr. Cevik told The Hindu on the sidelines of a discussion at the Observer Research Foundation.

Mr. Cevik said that the areas of cooperation were aviation, space and ammunition, etc. “India is strong in aviation and space … We produce armoured personal carriers. Some of the ammunition we need can be procured from India … We can introduce India to our successful drones. We have produced drones which are identifying and killing Kurdistan Workers Party terrorists. They would be discussed,” he said.

On Pakistan’s continued support to cross-border terrorism and Kashmir, he said the issue was for the two countries to discuss.

“On Kashmir, don’t pull us into the kind of problems between India and Pakistan. We are trying to build our relationship with India. You have to sit and solve the problems, but this does not mean that once we have achieved a strong relationship, we will not be an innocent bystander. It means the kind leverage on our side,” he said speaking at the discussion on India-Turkey relations. Stating that Turkey was trying to promote relations with India, while its brotherly ties with Pakistan continued, Mr. Cevik said, “We are trying to rediscover old friends.”

By: The Hindu

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ISRO is working on a human space flight programme, despite the mission falling off the priority list

More than a decade after an eminent group of scientists gave the green signal for India to undertake a human space flight, the ambitious venture is nowhere near take-off in the absence of government approval. In November 2006, at a meeting convened by the Indian Space Research Organisation, scientists were highly appreciative of the study undertaken by the space agency on such a mission, and were unanimous in suggesting that the time is appropriate for the country to undertake the venture.

But the mission seems to have fallen off the priority list of the Bengaluru-headquartered Isro since then. “We need to get the approval for that programme, till that comes we are working on some critical technologies, like environmentally-controlled laboratory, flight suite,” Isro Chairman A S Kiran Kumar told PTI. “We have also done some re-entry experiment. Certain technology elements we will continue to develop until the country is ready for taking up this as a full-fledged programme,” he said.

“For this (the human space flight programme), the requisite priority has to be there, funding has to be there, then only activities will happen.”. Kiran Kumar said Isro’s immediate priority is to meet the basic needs of communication, navigation and remote sensing. “First, we have to ensure all this is done adequately, there itself, we are trying to push the envelope and then (we have to undertake) more frequent launches so that we provide the requisite number of satellites in orbit for meeting all these requirements,” he said.

“So, that is still happening, not yet happened. That will remain the bigger priority,” he said. According to him, work towards such a mission would continue. “As and when the approval etc. comes, then we will take it up in a bigger way. At this point, priority is not that,” Kiran Kumar said. Nearly 80 scientists from across the country had participated in the November 7, 2006 meeting to discuss the issues related to the mission, an Isro press release at that time said.

The Isro had conducted studies for four years from 2002 to examine the technological challenges of such a mission and the Indian capability to undertake it. The concept for the venture included development of an autonomous orbital vehicle which could be launched by India’s Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, GSLV-Mk II or GSLV-Mk III, the release had said. Studies highlighted that the Isro has maturity in many technologies required for the mission. However, new developments are required in life support systems, improved reliability and safety and crew escape system, among others.

The meeting was attended by eminent scientists like U R Rao, Yash Pal, R Narasimha, R M Vasagam, N Pant, P S Goel, N Balakrishnan, A R Upadhya, T S Prahlad, S Vasantha and Avinash Chander, then Isro Chairman G Madhavan Nair and Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to travel in space.

By: First Post

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North Korea-US tension:Why Modi is right in severing India’s connections with Pyongyang

With the Korean peninsula in the north-east Asia appearing to be a tinderbox, thanks to North Korea (Democratic Republic of Korea) threatening to fire a nuclear missile on the American West Coast (say Los Angeles) and the Trump administration talking of a preemptive strike against North Korea from a US Navy carrier placed nearby in the Pacific Ocean (the US has already docked a submarine in the Republic of Korea, better known as South Korea, and deployed the THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system there), India under Modi seems to be changing its traditional stance towards North Korea.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this changed stance has got something to do with the visit of US National Security Advisor HR McMaster to India last fortnight, in course of which he met the prime minister. Arguably, it is for the first time that India has agreed to comply with the United Nations’ existing sanctions on North Korea and limit trade with the reclusive communist nation to limited quantities of food items and medicine. As these sanctions include “prevention of direct or indirect supply, sale, transfer or export of all weaponry and related material through a member nation’s territories or by its nationals to North Korea,” the Modi government has issued a gazette that prevents any Indian national or entity from supplying directly or otherwise any material to North Korea that augments its war-fighting capabilities.

The gazette, which was apparently issued on 21 April but made public on Friday, bans all military, police and scientific training to North Korean officials in India and threatens to expel any North Korean government representative found violating the UN sanctions.

It may be noted that North Korea has been facing a series of UN sanctions in some form or the other ever since 2006 when it went back on its promise to desist from nuclear and missile testing in lieu of massive economic assistance, including food and fuels, from the US and other western countries; it has conducted five nuclear tests since then. It is also a fact that three countries — China, Pakistan and Iran — have always come to the rescue of North Korea, thanks to the clandestine and illegal nuclear and missile business.

But, what may sound really surprising to the readers that until recently New Delhi happened to be Pyongyang’s second largest trading partner! From an average total trade of barely $100 million in the middle of the 2000s, it shot up to over $1 billion in 2009. In the year 2011-12, the figure was about $800 million. The trade is overwhelmingly in India’s favour, though. This figure does not include the massive food aid of soybeans, rice and wheat that India has provided since 2011 for North Korea’s famine-stricken people.

But what is most noteworthy is that while every Indian was badly affected by the rising oil prices and the government-run oil companies were expressing their helplessness in view of the fluctuating price mechanism of global crude production during second term of the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh, the same oil companies were exporting diesel and other petroleum products to North Korea regularly. Of course, fuel was not supplied directly but sold through a network of traders and banks in Dubai and elsewhere. Besides, as revealed by Aljazeera last year, North Korean scientists regularly studied at the Dehradun-based Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP) on subjects such as remote sensing and space technologies.

It is really difficult to fathom our government’s love for North Korea all these years, unless we take into account the fact that it is a fellow “non-aligned” country. Way back in 1999 as the Seoul Peace Prize Scholarship Fellow and a visiting professor at Yonsei University, I had authored a book titled “Nuclearisation of Divided Nations : Pakistan, India-Koreas”. In this book I had highlighted how Pakistan and North Korea were helping each other – North Korea helping Pakistan in developing its missiles and in return Pakistan helping North Korea developing its nuclear weapons, with China playing the perfect role of a middleman. This is true even today; in fact relations between the two countries have become much stronger.

In my considered view, Pakistan and North Korea have been the perfect partners in blackmailing the rest of the world; they demonstrate their nuclear and missile prowess but do not go the extent of actually using them with the hope that the rest of the world, nervous with their destructive capabilities, will accede to their demands of security and economic assistance. For them, doing something is less important than appearing to be “about to do something”. In other words, they do what they know the best: getting everyone tied up in nervous knots.

Viewed thus, it is least likely that North Korea will really attack the United States. In any case, despite its bravado, the fact remains that North Korea has not conducted a single test of its intercontinental ballistic missiles (a series of testing is necessary before any missile, let alone an ICBM, is deployed in to the forces of a country – one must be sure of the guidance systems, the tracking capacity, the targeting technology and heat-shield material that hit the target). Likewise, it is equally unlikely that North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un will ever agree to President Trump’s demand that the peace in the Korean peninsula must be based on the commitments to make it free from nuclear weapons and missiles. As argued above, North Korea, like Pakistan, perceives its weapons and missile programmes as the best guarantees for its survival, at least that of the regime (strongly dominated by the military or force).

The only reasonable course towards peace that has got some chance of success is to ensure that the international community desists from doing anything that contributes directly or indirectly towards the augmentation of the nuclear and missile programmes of North Korea (the same is true for Pakistan). I agree here with noted defence analyst Harry J Kazianis: “If you seek to profit from helping one of the world’s most rogue regimes build nuclear weapons or long-range missiles you will pay the most severe of prices — slapped with the label of international pariah. While sanctions won’t solve the problem entirely, or erase the nuclear knowledge from the minds of North Korea’s scientists, such measures could greatly slow the rate of technological development and raise the costs of such work for Pyongyang.”

But will China listen? The answer has got implications for the overall peace and security of the Asia-Pacific, India included certainly.

By: First Post

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