Kaalkut. A military thriller story.

jamwal

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SYNOPSIS: Kaalkut is a military thriller which tells a story about India dealing with provocations from two enemy nations China and Pakistan. Both neighbours have tried their best to make life tough for Indians by waging wars, land grabs, creating and supporting terrorist groups, economic sabotage, threat of nuclear annihilation among a few other things. Most of the time, Indian actions have been quite passive but there have been a few occasions when India has hit back hard using various tools of statecraft and military.

Many of the events in story are based on real life incidents and a few are completely imaginary. As far as weapon systems are concerned, I’ve taken some liberties with a few facts like numbers, deployment dates etc., but their capabilities as described in the story are more or less close to what most reliable sources claim to be. I don’t want to write something which claims 400% victory to India against all odds by virtue of vastly superior tactics, secret super weapons or stupid enemy. My previous attempts (Flames & Arrows and Pinaka) were a bit like this and I was not really satisfied with both. So just hoping that 3rd one will be better.

Index post with details about changes and updates during the writing will be available on this link: http://jjamwal.in/yayavar/kaalkut-military-thriller-story-index-post/

I hope it's the correct section to post this thread. Posting it here because my previous story was posted here too.
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut.
Chapter 1

14 May 2016.
Monyakshu, Near Nagaland-Myanmar Border.


Vinayak Barua sat idly in his old Gypsy while he waited for his contact. Time for the meeting was 21:30, late enough for most of the village to start making preparations for a good night’s sleep and not late enough for people to think twice about a neighbour going out for an after dinner walk. It was already 15 minutes past the meeting time and he was tempted to make a phone call to check what was holding him.. OPSEC (Operations Security) policies dictated that he’d leave the area within the next 15 minutes if other person didn’t arrive in time. So his anxiety increased with each passing minute.

His contact who used just a single name Khekaho was a middle level over-ground worker in National Naga Freedom Council (NNFC). It was one of many militant groups operating in some north-eastern states of India. Some such organisations started out as a way of protest by the local people against the slow progress and lack of economic opportunities. A small number were clan or tribe based groups which started out due to their real or imagined grievances against another tribe and people branded as outsiders in the region. Many of these groups were mostly political in nature and had little interest in violence for the sake of it. Quite a few of them were financed by Christian missionaries who used the tribal and ethnic tensions to their own advantage.

Then there were a few rag tag bunch of wannabe gangsters and petty criminals who gave their groups names consisting of words like freedom, republic to sound cool and add a air of legitimacy to their business of extortion, drugs, theft, robbery and murder.

Intelligence agencies kept a tab on all of them for various reasons like political alliances, local business interests, maintaining peace and so on. Leverage used by the security agencies was used often to shift loyalties in order to bring a certain political party in or out of power and thus to keep anyone from becoming too powerful.

An even smaller number were groups like this NNFC were different from the rest. Financed by enemy nations, their major reason for existence was to keep the pot of violence and instability boiling in the region. Their cadres joined groups like these for various reasons ranging from some grievance against government, money, desire for a separate nation and so on. Majority were motivated and trained well in skills of guerilla war and intelligence gathering. They were not big or armed enough to cause serious disruption to normal life by themselves like muslim terrorists in Kashmir. But their occasional actions like ambushes of small parties of soldiers, threats and extortion kept Indian security apparatus on it’s toes.

It had been like this for decades. There were many groups like NNFC before and most of them operated for a few years before dying out for various reasons such as lack of leadership, members giving up arms for a return to normal life, pressure by security agencies and so on. The complex tribe based social structure in Nagaland and nearby states meant that maintaining a common ground and unity in a big organisation was never easy. Even NNFC was one of the splinter groups from another violent group Nagalim Socialist Council (NSC) which in 1993, had disbanded after the majority of leadership and cadres surrendered to go back to non-violent civilian life.

Current head of NNFC was Nuzota Swuro who commanded loyalty of a significantly large faction in NSC. A very large number of members of this faction had suddenly disappeared a few days before the disbandment was formally announced. Intelligence reports indicated that they had gone to Myanmar and China, both of which hosted numerous camps for training and shelter for these militants groups.They had trickled back in to India over the next few years along with a significant amount of modern weapons and training to use them. Over the next 15 years, NNFC became the biggest and most dangerous militant group in the north-east with almost a paramilitary like structure. They had training camps and supply pads in China, Myanmar and Bangladesh which were mostly out of reach from Indian defence forces and intelligence agencies. Ill equipped security forces of two neighbouring countries had little interest and no resources to act against the terrorists hiding in deep jungles who rarely if ever operated against their interests.

They raised some of their funds from extortion, drugs and illegal smuggling. But the major source of their funding, weapons and training was China. All of their top leadership had spent some time in Chinese training camps at one time or the other. After Swuro’s death, his deputy Khochero Elias took over control of the group. Unlike his predecessor, he was not content with being a glorified mafia boss and had increased the degree of violent crimes. Within 1 year of his taking over the reigns of the group, there was an increase of 30% in murder of civilians and number of attacks on police and army had increased too. Many of the group’s members were caught or killed by the security agencies but it had only a marginal effect on the activities of NNFC.

Another thing which concerned Indian authorities was the sophistication of weapons and tactics employed by the group. In previous years, most of the militants used old Chinese AK-56, hunting rifles, an occasional grenade, low quality explosives and other miscellaneous weapons smuggled in from neighbouring countries. But after Elias took over, they were using much better weapons and using high grade explosives in their acts of sabotage of bombings. Their tactics had also improved significantly which pointed to increased Chinese involvement.

Indian security agencies had responded to the increased threat and provocations as quickly they could. The new regime in center had given local intelligence and counter-insurgency units a lot more freedom, funds and they had justified the faith put in them. Increased cooperation and improved relations with Bangladesh and Myanmar had helped a lot too. Using carrot and stick policies, India had managed to demolish a number of NNFC bases in the two countries and apprehended or killed key members of the militant group.

Loosened purse strings and more freedom meant that ground level intelligence officers like Barua could cultivate a lot more sources and gather better intelligence. Unlike most of his newer recruits, Khekaho was one of the older and more reliable ones. He was involved in taking care of NNFC’s finances and thus had fairly good knowledge of the group’s inner working. His intelligence had always been accurate and had helped IB counter NNFC influence and defuse their operations a number of times in the past. Usually it was Barua who called for meetings, but Khekaho had contacted him this time and promised something big. So Barua was a bit more forgiving and willing to wait even at the risk of violating the usual OPSEC.

There was a single ring on Barua’s mobile phone from Khekaho’s phone signalling his arrival. Barua got out of his Gypsy and walked to the tree line to find his Naga informant chewing supari nonchalantly. He nodded at Barua and spat out the well chewed supari before speaking, “Sorry, got held up at the house by children.”

Barua considered asking him about the details and then decided against it, “Staying on time is essential for safety of both us Khe.”

“I know, I know. But it was unavoidable. When I have ever let you down before, eh ?.” Khekaho grinned apologetically and continued. “What I have for you this time should more than make it up for this long wait. It’s about your long lost friend, Kivigho Chishi.”

Chishi was considered by many to be the backbone of NNFC due to his role in arranging finances and weapons for the militant group. He had been arrested once as a lower level operative in 1999 and was sentenced for three years in jail. After his release, he had spent a few years here and there in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland keeping a low profile. Then he had suddenly vanished from the surveillance network and there were occasional reports of his sightings in Bangladesh. Multiple intelligence sources confirmed that he had joined hands with some local muslim terrorist organisations in order to smuggle weapons for them as well as terrorist groups in India in addition to NNFC.

After increased cooperation between Indian and Bangladeshi intelligence agencies, he had vanished again two years back and not heard of since then.

Barua’s ears perked up upon hearing the name but he feigned disinterest, “What about him ?”

“Do you know where is he now and what he is doing ?”

“Come on Khe,” Barua sighed, “Enough with the games.”

Khakaho spat out remaining supari from his mouth and lowered his voice as if wary of someone eavesdropping, “He is in Bangkok right now finalising shipping for a huge consignment of weapons. Elias’s people transferred 20 lakh to a Thai hawala last week to pay for this. There was perhaps more, but I don’t know how much.”

Hawala/Hundi is an informal and illegal way of transferring money in certain parts of the world in which a person can transfer money to someone else through an intermediary without any involvement from banks or regular financial channels.

“20 lakh isn’t much for the weapons.” Barua seemed unimpressed.

“This amount is just for the “shipping” of one consignment. You didn’t hear me right. Here is the consignment list. Read it when you get back, don’t light up anything here. For anyone who noticed me take a walk, I am just taking a piss here. ” Khekaho handed him a handwritten slip of paper and looked at Barua expectantly.

It was quite dark but Barua could guess that the expression on Khekaho’s face would be that of expecting some payment. But he was not going to just give away money just like that. “What’s in the consignment ?”

“Consignments actually, three from what I know so far. Two will be on ships from Bangkok, One for Sonadia in Bangladesh and second for Sittwe in Myanmar in 3rd week of May. Third will directly come from either Zhuhai or Shantou, I don’t know about the dates or destination or type or name of ships. You’ll have to find that out for yourself.

And before you pay me, I’ll just speak out some of the weapons in the consignment, right ?

600 Kalashnikovs with 2.2 lakh rounds, 60 RPG-7 with 170 rockets, 180 9 mm pistols with 50 thousand rounds, 1000 grenades, 450 kilos of plastic explosives, 30 electric detonators and there are some drugs, light machine guns, grenade launchers and 6-8 mortars too, but I don’t remember the quantity. The paper I gave you has them all and some more.”

Since we are such old friends, I’ve scribbled down the phone number for one of the hawala guys that Elias used. All you have to do now is, well… do whatever you James Bonds do.”

Barua stared at the slip of paper in his hand trying to read it in the dark and said without looking up, “This consignment of weapons is enough to fight a full fledged war for weeks and should cost tens of crores. How reliable is this information and who is paying for it ?”

Khekaho chuckled, “I’m not that big of a fish Barua sahab to know all the details. I just provide you with what I know. Nothing more, nothing less. Who paid for all this shouldn’t be difficult for you to find out. But I absolutely have to go now. My wife thinks I’m having an affair.”

“Well, you are not that good looking at this age to have another affair.” Barua took out an envelope and handed it over. “The usual. If this information is correct, then more next time we meet.”

Khekaho pocketed the envelope and both men shook hands to leave. Barua had tried to play it cool but he felt excitement he had not felt in years. If Khekaho was correct, they had the chance to deal a huge if not a finishing blow to NNFC.
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 2.
17 June 2016
Kupwara, Kashmir


The window panes in the room shook violently as a grenade exploded just outside the adjoining house. There were sounds of more gunshots then silence. One of four Para soldiers of Delta team in the room peeked outside trying to make sense of the situation. There was some movement outside and it attracted some gunfire from window of the house where three terrorists were holed up.

Their in-ear radios cackled slightly and then they heard the voice of Rashtriya Rifles Major leading the counter terrorist operation. “ Delta, can you confirm number of tangos and their positions ?”

One Para moved carefully close to the common wall between the two houses and attached a Hand Held Through Wall Imaging Radar (HH-TWIR) to it. The small gadget weighing 5-6 kgs developed by Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) is used to detect people and their movement in closed spaces from outside. It detects breathing patterns and heartbeat of people on other side of the wall using Doppler radar technology.

A message was sent to RR Major outside, “There are atleast two contacts on other side of wall. If there are more, they must be in the next room. We are in position to breach the wall.”

“Roger Delta. We are standing by to enter the house as soon as you breach.”

Lead Para acknowledged the message and signalled the other three Paras to get close. “This firing from outside is not going to work. We’re going to breach the wall.”
The other soldiers simply nodded and moved out to do their assigned jobs. One took a few small bricks of plastic explosives out of his backpack, attached electric detonators to each one of them and placed four of them on common wall between the two houses.

Blowing up holes in walls of houses in enclosed space was not the first choice of the counter terrorist team, but they had little choice. The encounter between them and the three terrorists of dreaded Kashmir Islamic Mujahideen had been going on for 5 hours and they were fast running out of options. A large crowd of local villagers had already assembled a few minutes walk from the encounter site and were shouting militant Islamist and anti-India slogans. In a few minutes, they’d start pelting stones and petrol bombs on security personnel in order to help the terrorists .

Some of the protesters were local villagers while the most vocal among them were usually professionals from outside who did it for money, drugs among a few other enticements. With a deadly islamist terrorist movement going on in Kashmir, corruption in politics and bureaucracy, article 370 and the general islamist supremacist attitude of the locals, there were not too many avenues for employment apart from agriculture and government jobs. So shouting a few slogans and pelting stones on security personnel was an attractive way of earning a quick buck and blowing off their otherwise impotent rage. Some of them would rather be home but they were forced to be there under threats of social boycott, violence and sometimes even murder by the same muslims who claimed to be fighting for freedom of muslims.

So far, about a dozen Central Reserve Police Force and local J&K Police personnel had been enough to control the protesting crowd. But it was getting bigger with each passing moment. Already there were reports of mullahs from nearby villages shouting over loudspeakers ordering their followers to go to the encounter site and pelt stones on soldiers.

Security personnel handling the crowd had some riot control equipment like a handful of pellet guns and tear gas shells, but there was a lot of pressure on them from the local administration, journalists and self-proclaimed human rights activists against their usage in crowd suppression. They’d try to milk any injury to the terrorist sympathiser crowd by any means possible for eyeballs, more funding and self promotion. In addition, the soldiers were implicated in false cases and courts involved to make their lives and jobs tougher.

With darkness approaching fast, there was also the risk of terrorists making a run for it and trying to change positions or escape using the crowd of stone throwing protestors as cover. So something had to be done fast.

The encounter had started at around 11:30 am after the local policemen had informed the nearest RR camp about movement of suspected gunmen in the southern corner of the village. Some policemen from the Special Operations Group and RR had laid a security cordon around the village and started a house by house search. Local informers suggested that they could be holed up in the house of one Maqbool Butt, a local low level politician who played for both sides.

There had never been enough proof for his support of terrorist activities being a serious threat. So the local intelligence kept an eye on him and tapped him every now and then for leads. His intelligence had usually been on the point and had helped security agencies to neutralise seven terrorists in the last 3 years.

His handler, an Intelligence Bureau officer tried contacting him on phone but got no response which raised suspicions. His house was not that far off from where the terrorists were sighted, so an inner cordon was discreetly laid around his house by RR and two soldiers accompanied by a local policeman went to his door to check. They were let in by 19 years old Shaahid, younger son of Maqbool who seemed a bit nervous and didn’t seem happy when the policeman insisted that they wanted to check. He grudgingly let the policeman in who found his sister and mother sitting in the living room.

He was told that Maqbool had gone to Srinagar along with his older son Tahir to sell his fruit crop and wouldn’t be back for 2 days. Policeman did a quick search of the ground floor but was unable to find anyone. The door leading to the 1st floor section was locked and upon asking the son claimed that Maqbool had taken the only key with him. When soldiers insisted that he open the door, he turned aggressive and refused to follow instructions..

In the confusion, one of the soldiers noticed the daughter pointing discreetly towards the roof and mouthing something. Their suspicions solidified, RR soldiers informed their commanding officer of the situation. He ordered them to escort the whole family outside without any delay while he ordered his men outside the house to cover the windows of the house watching over the exit of the double story house.

The women burst in to tears when they were ordered to go outside but did what they were told. The two soldiers had to grab Shaahid and drag him out of the house. Once behind the boundary wall, he broke down and informed soldiers that while Maqbool was indeed in Srinagar, his older brother had been taken hostage by three armed terrorists of KIM. He knew one of them as a local from a neighbouring village but claimed that the other two were not Kashmiri and spoke heavily accented Urdu. They had arrived to collect some supplies that Maqbool had in his house and perhaps stay there for some time before moving to some other place. After they had known about the arrival of Counter Terrorist team in village, they had taken Tahir hostage and hid in the upper floor after locking it from inside.

The two women said the same thing and implored the soldiers to rescue Tahir from the terrorists. As far as he was concerned, soldiers had no way of knowing if he was a willing hostage or a collaborator. His father had acted as an informant a few times in the past, so some of his shady activities had been tolerated. But he was allowing his own house to be used as a supply base and shelter for the same terrorists. As far his utility as informant was concerned, it was more or less over. It was not that different for terrorists either. Once they knew that Maqbool was under scanner of security agencies, they’d not even think of using him for anything in the future.

One point which remained unclear was whether the Butt family was telling truth about Shaahid being an unwilling hostage or not. The strategy of flushing out or killing the terrorists inside depended upon this. If he was with the terrorists, the soldiers could have simply attacked with Carl Gustafs and grenades and killed all four of them without too much trouble. But a hostage situation made things complicated.

A local village elder was brought in from his house and given a loudspeaker in order to convince terrorists holed up inside the house to surrender and let the hostage leave safely. He talked and repeated his pleas for half an hour to no effect. A decision was then made to storm the upper floor of the house and neutralise the terrorists while trying to keep the hostage alive. As soon as the raiding party started to take positions for assault, they were fired upon from two windows simultaneously. One soldier who was moving towards the door was hit in the leg, but he managed to reach for cover behind a brick wall and returned fire. Four other soldiers who were covering the advance also fired back, but had no way of knowing if they had hit any terrorist.

Just seconds after the first volley was over, terrorists hurled two grenades, one of which exploded only meters from another soldier taking cover behind a car and caused him shrapnel injuries. As the encounter dragged on, first a crowd on curious onlookers, then the violent protestors started to form up. Some of the manpower was diverted to keep the hostile stone pelting crowd away from the encounter site, in case they assaulted the soldiers with stones in order to help the terrorists escape or inflict casualties.

Sometime after the presence of terrorists was confirmed, a small team of 6 Para soldiers had arrived to take part in the operation. Four of them entered the adjoining house which shared a common wall with Maqbool’s. The occupants of all houses within the firing range had been evacuated, so there was nobody in their way.

Para (Special Forces) are one of the most active and prestigious units in Indian Army. Since their formation in 1941, they’ve been a part of every major conflict and counter-terrorism operations in as well as outside India. Para soldiers are trained to operate in deserts, mountains, jungles, under water and are experts in para jumps of all types. Every applicant has to pass a 90 days probation period followed by 3.5 years of training which is supposedly the longest training period of all. During the training period, they have to run 20 km with 60 kg load daily followed by rigorous training throughout the day leading late in to night. Then every week, they have to march 90 to 130 km with 65-70 kg load and do multiple parachute drops during day as well as night. It’s only after almost four years of this hellish training that they can wear the coveted Maroon Beret of Para (SF).

Once the decision was made to breach the wall, they all took cover and triggered the explosives. There was a loud bang and a hole big enough for a man to jump through the wall appeared. One Para soldier lobbed in two flashbangs for good measure and two of them took cover behind the just breached wall while the other two raced inside. They found one bleeding and disoriented terrorist trying to fire a AK-47 who was killed with one quick burst of TAR-21 assault rifle by lead Para.

After clearing that room they opened the door to a narrow corridor with 1 room to either side and the closed door leading to stairs in front. As they moved in to take positions, one of the terrorists hiding in the room on left rolled a grenade in their direction and and the other emptied a whole magazine in their direction. The lead Para managed to kick the grenade in direction of the locked door where it exploded with a loud bang. But he was hit by 3 AK-47 rounds in the process. One grazed his Mukut ballistic helmet forming a deep gash in the hard armour. Another passed through a weak point in his chest armour and hit him in his chest. The third ricocheted off something in the corridor and hit him just below his knee pad. He almost fell down to his knees but managed to shoot the terrorist who had fired his AK square in the face with two bullets.

The third terrorist had managed to grab Tahir by the neck and was hiding behind him by pointing his AK-47 with a bayonet at his neck. Tahir himself was shaking and crying profusely, seemingly terrified out of his wits, but otherwise unharmed. His captor was no less shaken himself and was shouting threats in Urdu with a heavy Punjabi accent. He suddenly moved on hearing the footsteps of other two Para soldiers as they entered the corridor. They tried to talk him into dropping his weapon and surrendering but he shouted some more obscenities and stabbed Tahir in the neck. One of the soldiers shot off most of his head in a sharp burst from his TAR-21 in return. Tahir and the terrorist both collapsed to the ground at almost the same time.

A call for emergency medical aid was placed and 2 medics came running up to provide first aid to injured Tahir. They tried to stop the bleeding and carried him to the ambulance waiting in the street. His family members came rushing out to see him and his sister collapsed on seeing him on stretcher soaked in blood. Calls were made on loud speakers to let the ambulance pass, but the crowd was slow to respond and a few people lobbed stones at it. Sharp rebukes from the village elders finally dispersed the crowd. But it was too late and Tahir breathed his last a few minutes later just a few minutes after reaching hospital.

Another ambulance took care of the injured para who was conscious and could still walk with support.
Statements of family members and neighbours were taken and it was found out that one of the foreign terrorists, Nassiruddin Boota alias Abu Zubair was demanding his 17 years old daughter to be “wedded” to him. The family was firmly against it and the Pakistani terrorist had brought in his two companions to forcibly kidnap the girl.

Local media published the news about the encounter and deaths, but ignored the real reason behind the encounter.

24 June 2016
Military Hospital, Udhampur


Naib Subedar Anil Dahiya was enjoying his evening cup of tea in scenic hospital gardens when an orderly came up and told him that he had a visitor. HIs CO had called him last night and asked him to expect a visitor without offering any more details. So he was mystified about the identity of his visitor and followed the orderly to the visiting area. The orderly pointed to a man dressed in civilian clothes sitting quietly on a chair and leafing through a magazine and walked out.

Dahiya tried remembering if he had ever seen the man before but drew a blank. He approached his visitor with a puzzled expression on his face and introduced himself. The man rose and shook his hand with a smile. “Good evening Subedar Dahiya, my name is Rajesh Shyoran. Pleased to make your acquaintance.“

He noticed the still blank expression on Dahiya’s face and spoke again, “ Don’t worry, you don’t know me and we’ve never met before. But I do have a proposal for you.” He then looked around the large visiting room and said, “I’d prefer it if we talk somewhere with a bit more privacy like the garden outside. I hope that’s fine with you.”

Dahiya nodded and rose up stiffly. Shyoran saw that and asked as they started to walk, “Please excuse my manners, I forgot to ask. How are you feeling ? Getting shot thrice can’t be a pleasant experience at all.”
Dahiya noticed that his visitor knew about his injuries and instinctively touched right side of his chest. “I am almost fully healed now. First bullet was deflected by helmet, 2nd one hit one rib and managed to only fracture it. The 3rd one on my thigh was a slowed down ricochet and didn’t do much damage. I’d not be walking around so soon after the encounter otherwise.”

Shyoran smiled and nodded, “Good to hear that. I also heard that you’re being considered for yet another medal now, perhaps Shaurya Chakra this time. Congratulations.”

Dahiya looked at his visitor and shrugged, “Perhaps. I was just doing my duty.”

By this time they had reached a comparatively quiet place. Shyoran considered that good enough for the detailed conversation he wanted to have and spoke, “Naib Subedar Dahiya, whatever I am going to say to you is completely confidential and you are not to share anything I say to you to anyone. I can proceed further only after getting your approval.”

There are not many people in the world who can say no to a statement like this. Dahiya was no exception and he nodded his approval. “I agree to keep it secret, but first I need to know who you are and what do you want from me.”

Shyoran smiled and spoke, “That’s what the secret is. In simple words, I am here to offer you a job for a unit or you may call it an organisation which doesn’t exist in official records. It’s existence is known only to a handful of people on the absolute top and the work it does is never documented or recorded in any archives, except for a few relevant operational details.”

Dahiya didn’t seem impressed, “So are you here to recruit me for something like a black operations unit or is it SFF?”

Special Frontier Force also known as Establishment 22 was formed after the 1962 war with China under supervision of Intelligence Bureau . It’s initial purpose was covert operations behind enemy lines in case of another war with China and initial recruits were Tibetan refugees. Control of the force was later transferred to Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW). It’s operatives are trained for covert warfare, rock climbing, mountaineering, counter-terrorism, long range reconnaissance patrols and raids on enemy strongholds in tough terrain. There are some elite groups even within already secretive SFF like 4th Vikas, commonly known as Special Group.

Shyoran looked at a bee floating on a flower for a while then answered slowly, “Well, if you put it this way, you can call it a black ops unit, but it’s not SFF. We’re, let’s say bit more secretive than that. Would you be interested ?”

“What will be my job and before that, why me ?” Dahiya answered the question with two of his own.

“Well, you are one of a small number of candidates we have shortlisted. You are trained very well. Paras do mould a man to perfection, more or less.“Shyoran chuckled lightly as if he remembered a private joke. “You have repeatedly shown great skills in shooting, mountain climbing and reconnaissance; you have a sharp analytical mind and you always stay cool under toughest conditions. We’ve done thorough background checks, spoken to your seniors, colleagues and even your friends back in your home town. You are exactly the kind of person who fits our needs.
Is that enough or do you need more ego boost ?”

Upon seeing Dahiya shake his head, Shyoran continued further, “In a nutshell, your job may not be too different from what you’re doing now. It’ll be just a lot more demanding and will require a lot more skills which we’ll train you for. Also, if you do an exceptionally good job, you may get a medal but there will be no detailed citation.“

Dahiya smiled lightly, “So why should I take this job ?”

“Because you’re either crazy, stupid or both. None of the people you’ll work with are normal and between just you and me, most of them wouldn’t fit in well doing normal jobs anyway. Ah wait, I haven’t told you the fun part yet.” Shyoran sounded almost excited.

“Fun part ?” Dahiya asked.

“Yes, there are a lot of fun things. Do you have a minute to hear it ?
To start with, our operatives don’t have any ranks. You can be a Colonel or a Lieutenant or a Naib Subedar from any organisation. None of it including your name matters in training or in the field once you finish it. We’ll give you completely multiple new identities, depending upon situation. It goes without saying that no one outside of a select group of people giving you orders or working with you will know about your real line of work. Even your colleagues wouldn’t know your real name.

Many of your missions will be solo while a few can have 3-4 operatives. We have people from Indo Tibetan Border Police, Assam Rifles, Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, Intelligence Bureau and a few others organisations from all over the country doing all sorts of mostly military related jobs.

If you accept, then your CO will send you a deputation to some place like DRDO, HAL or maybe a study leave and then forget about you. You’ll come back if you fail the training or screw up in some way. Well, if you’re lucky you will be able to come back in training itself. Failure in field usually means you are not likely to go anywhere ever. In your case, we can make up something about your injury if you wish.”

He gave Dahiya a minute to absorb the information and then said, “That’s about the most of it. There are a few more details, but I am not at liberty to disclose them unless you say yes to joining us.”

Dahiya looked at his prospective recruiter closely and asked plainly, “If you know so many details about me already, you must also know my answer. Don’t you ?”

Rajesh Shyoran just smiled back.
 

Vande1947

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Hi Jamwal.
The chapters seem to be building up the narrative well.
Will this narrative be compiled and presented as a blog or coalesced in a book form?
If the latter, maybe utilisation of some online tools to smoothen out some edges, syntax, prose and grammar might help?
Best wishes.
I will surely read all of Kaalkut:yo:
 

jamwal

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Hi Jamwal.
The chapters seem to be building up the narrative well.
Will this narrative be compiled and presented as a blog or coalesced in a book form?
If the latter, maybe utilisation of some online tools to smoothen out some edges, syntax, prose and grammar might help?
Best wishes.
I will surely read all of Kaalkut:yo:
Hello,
Thanks
Haven't decided about book form yet, but it's available as blog on my website linked in original post. Once it's finished, I'll perhaps add a few more details and references there.

This is a longish story and needs a lot of editing and corrections but I can't do better than this due to time, resources, intellect and other limitations
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 3

25 June 2016,
Hanoi, Vietnam


Lai Pa island chains were a small group of 5 uninhabited reef islands roughly 45-50 km east of Vietnamese mainland and slightly further from Chinese coast. Of the 5 islands, 3 got submerged under water during high tide. The biggest among them was 2 km in length and 1 km at its widest. All were too small to have any useful vegetation and fresh water and only fishermen used them every now and then for anchorage and shelter. Since they had no practical use and no natural resource to speak of except for an unreliable supply of seafood, nobody had ever wanted to live there or ever staked a claim to any of the islands. Fishing trawlers from Vietnam and China both fished in the waters around them, but no one had had any official claim to the island chain.

In March 2017, a policy paper published by Chinese People’s Liberation Navy called this island chain as XinaHai and explained it’s importance about defence of Hainan island in case of any conflict in South China sea. This was followed by increased movement of Chinese naval vessels and civilian ships manned by naval personnel in the area.

It’s significance was not lost on Vietnamese who had fought a bloody war with China in 1979. It had extended on to a number of small skirmishes through most of 1980s. Although both sides had claimed victory, the resolution of war had resulted in transfer of some Vietnamese territory to China in 1999. This caused a lot of outrage in many Vietnamese circles and considered an appeasement measure. The fact that Vietnam had already lost a similar group of islands to China in 1988 rankled Vietnamese nationalists even further.

Vietnamese government had tried to raise the issue in international forums many times, but had received no favourable response.

A high ranking meeting was called in by the Vietnamese Defence Minister, Le Minh Huong to discuss the issue and formulate a strategy. Admiral Nhat Linh, head of Vietnam People’s Navy was already talking to Commander of 1st Regional Command, Rear Admiral Xuan Deu before the meeting started. Xuan. Deu’s fleet was responsible for the defence of northern Vietnam’s seas where Lai Pa was located. Rear Admiral Phạm Van, head of 3rd Regional Command responsible for Vietnamese seas in the middle was also a part of the discussion, but he was mostly just listening.

Vietnam People’s Army was represented by Colonel General Doan Khuey who also served as Deputy Minister Of Defence and Major General Van Tie Tung. Lieutenant General Nguyen Tien Sam from Air Force and his trusted Major General Vu Ngoc Đinh represented the Vietnam People’s Air Force.

Another group of officers present in the meeting room were Political Commissars from each branch who were responsible for ensuring that the officers of armed forces implement orders from the ruling authority without any deviation. It was a practice carried forward from the Soviet era and many of these officers enjoyed the same ranks and nearly the privileges and perks as the regular officers.

All these men in uniform including the Defence Minister formed the core of policy and decision makers who had near absolute authority in matters related to defence and sometimes foreign policy of Vietnam. Many of the people in the meeting room were just rising through the ranks as low to mid-level officers in the military when the 1999 treaty with China was signed. Public dissent was not tolerated in communist Vietnam and they were too low in the hierarchy to make any difference. In private, most of them would lament the loss of face and national humiliation that the loss of territory had brought them even after claims of victory. But there was not much they could do at the time or even later. Sheer gap in terms of numbers and even quality meant that Vietnam could at best put up a good fight against China, not win a full fledged war.

Defence Minister Huong addressed the room, “We all have read the PLAN paper about Lai Pa and analysis of our own experts. We have our intelligence reports which provide a rough outline for the Chinese plans. They are making preparations for constructing a new military base there within next few months. My first question to all of you is, “What can we do about it ? ”

Admiral Linh started, “Vietnam as a military force can not do much to match China. We simply don’t have the equipment, manpower, technology, size and money for it. If China plants it’s flag on Lai Pa like they did in Spratly Islands in 1988, we can not do much to stop them from doing it.”

Admiral Linh was talking about a small naval conflict between Vietnam and China at Johnson South Reef in Spratly Islands chain in 1988. Vietnamese forces had suffered a humiliating defeat in the short skirmish with 60 plus dead and 3 ships lost. Chinese had taken over complete control of the uninhabited group of reef islands within one year. Many of the unarmed Vietnamese soldiers had died defending their flag on the island when Chinese forces had opened fire on them from their ships and then bayoneted the survivors.

One of the Political Commissars, a Major General Lu spoke, “I’m afraid that Vietnamese public will not like this Comrade Admiral. Our soldiers had fought bravely, even bare handed to defend our flag. We must honour their bravery and sacrifice.”

Admiral Linh had more contempt than respect for political commissars whom he considered to be freeloading parasites with more power than responsibility. But he was pragmatic and knew when to pickup fights and when to acquiesce. He spoke in an even tone, “Our soldiers did fight honourably and to the death. But we still lost to Chinese and we couldn’t even get our soldiers back who were taken prisoners till we signed off our northern lands to them in 1991.Chinese were thrice as powerful as us back then. Now the gap is 20 times as big. I would hate to give up without a fight, but where are our resources ?”

Deputy Defence Minister Doan Dung asked, “We shouldn’t be talking about military conflict as if it’s the only option we have. We should be trying for a political settlement, not preparing for another war. “

“Did Chinese consider talks before they attacked us in 1979 ? We spent most of the 1980s at war with them. This conflict ended after 20 years only when we were forced to give away our lands. Chinese have only one purpose, complete supremacy over what’s around them. They don’t consider us or anyone else their equals. They’ve been grabbing territories, resources and more from everyone around them for decades.

And what’s the guarantee that they even consider our claim as an issue ? We’ve been trying for 2 months to get them to talk to us. All they did was to get some junior official to issue a statement about digging of new wells for hydrocarbon exploration in the region.” Linh retorted.

Colonel General Doan Khuey was next, “Comrade Admiral is absolutely right. The simple facts are that Chinese believe that there are huge deposits of gas and oil in the region and they are staking claims everywhere to control them. The biggest island in Lai Pa is not large enough for even a proper airfield, but they will make it bigger artificially. They are already doing it in 2 other islands further south adjoining Philippines. Then they’ll bring their ships and planes and start digging their oil wells and Lai Pa will be XinaHai for all intents and purposes.

Once it’s done, we’ll lose our freedom of navigation and fishing rights. They’re not stealing just some small islands, but our energy supplies, shipping lanes, fishing grounds and freedom. ”

“I agree with Comrade Colonel General. Every single intelligence report and analysis we have confirms this plan. Chinese have no interest in sharing resources or respecting maritime boundaries. They just want Lai Pa like hundreds of other territories under their absolute control. We’re having this meeting exactly for this reason.

How many people anywhere have studied their military doctrines as closely as we have ? We all know that China wants to fight it’s wars away from the mainland. They think that fighting a war on their borders doesn’t work anymore. All these island grabs in South China sea and their eastern borders, new so called civilian ports in multiple countries, they all are a part of their new expansionist doctrine. They are expanding territory to ensure that the next war they fight is far from Chinese mainland where most of their economic power resides. They’ll not stop doing these till we make them realise that neither they can grab territories wherever they please and even their land grabs will not protect Han heartland from a war.” DM Huong paused to look at everyone in the room and then continued.

“I want to know how we can protect our territory and interests against this aggression.”

There was silence in the room for a few moments as everyone took in words of defence minister and then CG Khuey started, “I hope that you’ll all excuse me, but I’ll have to be very blunt. Going by the information and resources that we have, the best we can do is to fight a defensive war with a few attacks in limited sectors. We can bring our 1st and 2nd Corps up for the fight, while keeping the rest as reserves and for defence of eastern front in case of a naval invasion. Our land forces can handle northern fronts easily for 3-4 months of combat. That’s assuming that our supply lines will be reliable and the effects of Chinese air or cruise missile attacks will be minimal. Even then the best outcome that we can hope for is we may capture and hold small towns like Hepigcun, Pingxiang for a few weeks at best. But it will not be easy and we’ll suffer tens of thousands of casualties even in the best case scenario.”

“Comrade General Khuey is right.” It was the turn of Air Force Chief Lieutenant General Nguyen Tien Sam. “But unlike the Army, Air Force will not have the luxury of keeping reserves. We’ll have to dedicate almost all our resources in to the fight just to hold parity with the Chinese and even that’ll not be enough. We have some units like 923 and 950 equipped with modern Su-30 for offensive and defensive operations and fairly good if not great ground based air defence network. We can give them a bloody nose in case of a limited conflict, but that’s about it. We need atleast thrice the numbers we have now to have a fighting chance in a full scale war or even a smaller conflict like in 1979.

That’s just for the land operations. This does not include naval support missions we’ll have to undertake in a bigger conflict.”

That last line brought attention of all participants of the meeting to the three naval officers in the room. Admiral Linh took a deep breath and spoke, “With air force providing top cover, we can deter Chinese ships with our new Kilo submarines and shore based batteries of Onyx, Pyatyorka, Termit etc. But that’s about most of it. The strongest surface ships in our arsenal are just frigates with not even a single functioning destroyer.

In all of our war games, the only feasible strategy for us is to use our submarine fleet to disrupt Chinese supply lines and maybe sink some of their surface combatants as targets of opportunity. But even these submarines are limited in number and have limited range due to their diesel propulsion. I am not a big fan of their aircraft carriers as of now, but they are gaining experience fast. Even with the poor quality of their aircraft carriers, their surface fleet is a lot stronger than we are or can hope to be with the budget we have.”

Huong didn’t seem happy, “I think all of us know that a country of our size can not hope to match China militarily. The best we can do is to deter them. Can anyone suggest any ideas about how to do this ? All we need to do is to get Chinese to leave us alone.”

There were hushed conversations all over the room, but no clear reply to minister’s question.Rear Admiral Van looked at Admiral and got a nod. “If I may Comrade Minister ?

It’s quite obvious that Vietnam can not stop China from taking control of Lai Pa by either force or diplomacy. At this point, a military conflict is probably the only choice we have. But even the best outcome for us will result in a long and painful war which will drag on for years and shatter our economy. China can absorb almost any economic and military damage that we may inflict and still stay strong.

But we can’t let them take control of islands because that’ll damage our economy and our sovereignty too. At this point, I can only suggest that we form a military alliance with some other like minded nations and present a united front against Chinese hegemony. ”

Deputy DM Dung objected, “I must say that it’s not really a terrible idea Comrade Admiral. But why do you think that any of these countries will come to our aid on this issue ? Chinese are just too strong and their opposition is too scattered and divided to challenge them in anyway. We have tried raising this issue in UN and every international forum we could, but not one country offered any real help except verbal criticism of Chinese policies in the region.

We had a defence pact with USSR and they sat out all of the war when Chinese attacked us.”

“That’s true. Van conceded. “But a multi-national alliance is our only real hope. I am not saying that this can be done in a few weeks or even months or even my area of expertise. This is a job for skilled diplomats experienced in such stuff. As of now, no country will risk angering China due to economic and military reasons. Even disruption of trade with China will cause serious problems with most countries in the world. But at the same time, Vietnam can’t let Chinese take control of Lai Pa.

Khuey came to Van’s support, “I think I support what Comrade Rear Admiral is suggesting. Look at it objectively, tell me one country except North Korea and Pakistan which will support China in case of a conflict. They have territorial, political, economic disputes with every single country around them. Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia India, Taiwan, USA; not a single one of them will be unhappy to see them lose.”

“Alright, so let us work on this assumption that every single country mentioned is unfriendly towards China.” Duong spoke after thinking for a minute.. “All we need to know is how this antipathy against China can be used to defend Vietnam. I think Comrade Vice Admiral Van and Comrade Major General Khuey are suggesting an international military alliance of some sort, right ? How do you think that such an alliance will be made and can it be done before Chinese take control of Lai Pa ?

Japan and USA have been trying to formulate such alliances and strategies for many years now without any success to speak of. What resources or leverage do we have to make such a successful alliance possible when even Japan and USA have failed.”

Khuey opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by Defence Minister. “All of these are very valid points and I thank everyone present here for their inputs. I don’t think that we’ll be able to formulate a valid strategy just yet. We need more time, information and approval from Prime Minister for any such strategic plan. I am meeting him and Foreign Minister tomorrow morning and depending upon our discussions, my office will call for and arrange another meeting in the coming week.

Thank you all once again for your time.”

There were some people in the room who were a bit surprised by the abrupt end of the meeting. But they thought better of extending the meeting longer than what the minister wished for.


26 July 2016
Hanoi, Vietnam


Rear Admiral Van had just settled into his office when he got a call from the Defence Minister’s office inviting him for a face to face meeting with the minister himself. He had no idea about what to expect and waited nervously at the reception waiting for his invitation to go in. He had an inkling that he could have been invited based upon his suggestion in the previous meeting. But he couldn’t really guess what part of his statements Defence Minister thought of as interesting enough for further discussions

After a short wait, he was ushered in to the minister’s office who greeted him warmly. Van slightly relaxed after seeing the minister’s good mood. But he paused slightly after recognising the only other person in the room. He was Major General Tạ Dình De, a brilliant officer from General Department of Military Intelligence, commonly called TC2. He had met De 2-3 times before a few years back when he was still a Commodore and remembered his sharp intellect and ability to read people.

DM Huong got straight to the point, “Comrade Rear Admiral, I believe that you and Comrade Major General De are no strangers. So our discussions should be smooth and quick. Right ?”

But before we start, do you have anything to add to what you said during our last meeting ?”

After hearing Van’s no, Huong continued, “Our last meeting was interesting but we couldn’t manage to decide on a suitable course of action then. Truth of the matter is that this is a very sensitive matter and I believe that the fate of Vietnam will depend upon our actions. So such a decision can’t be taken in meetings like that. What we need to do requires absolute secrecy and only the best people on it.”

That gave Van a pause. All the people who attended had the highest security clearance and were supposed to take official secrecy very seriously. Minister’s deliberate use of “absolute secrecy” rang a bell in his mind, but outwardly he just nodded with unchanged expression.

“I met with Prime Minister and Foreign Minister last night and had detailed discussions about our policies from now on. You should be happy to know that they both liked your suggestions and want you to play an important role in this regard. Before we continue further, we need to know if you are willing.”

“Ofcourse Comrade Minister. I am always ready to serve our country in anyway possible.” Van replied quickly.

Huong looked at De implying that It was his turn to speak. “Comrade Rear Admiral De, do you have any idea why you were chosen out of all people at our disposal ?”

Van only had some vague thoughts, most of which he thought were embarrassing, so he just replied in negative.

De gave a slight smile, “You don’t have to be so modest Comrade. You are one of the brightest people we have and your work in the past has caught eye of lots of important people. But I’ll not keep you guessing for long and come straight to the point.

You’ve already worked upon that idea of an international coalition of sorts that you proposed at the meeting, right ? I still remember picking your brains after you presented your policy paper on this topic back in 2009. That’s when we met first. I hope you remember our meeting.”

A long list of policy papers written by Van flashed through his mind. As a mid ranking officer, he had written a number of papers covering topics such as asymmetric naval warfare, effects of such warfare on international relations and gradual rise of Chinese hegemony in Vietnam’s neighbourhood. He had managed to write atleast two such papers annually, but had struggled to complete even one ever since he took control of 3rd Regional Command of Vietnamese navy as a Rear Admiral.

RA Van smiled back, “Yes I do remember Comrade. I also remember most of the questions you asked and suggestions for further refinement to the plans which I gratefully used in the next few papers I wrote.”

De nodded, “That didn’t go unnoticed in my TC2 and quite some other relevant places in the government. As most of the events you predicted have come true, we think there is no better person to implement your ideas than you yourself. You’ll be given as many resources we can spare. But everything has to be very low profile and should stay top secret. You’ll not be at liberty to discuss it with anyone, even Admiral Linh.”

The last line rang another bell in Van’s mind. The last meeting was cancelled abruptly just when the exact topic was being discussed. Now the minister had called him for yet another meeting with only the top ranking spy in the country and they were talking about the same thing again. Did they suspect a mole at that high level of decision making elites of Vietnam’s regime ? De stared at him intently as if reading his thoughts.

But outwardly he remained unmoved, “Yes Comrade Major General. I understand perfectly.”

Huong handed him a paper with a list of names and contact details of a few people. “This is a list of our people who will help you in your task in different sectors. They know what they’re supposed to do but none of them should know about the existence of this list. As far as they are concerned, you’re working only with them. Try to keep it this way for as long as possible.

Some of the people in this list are our diplomats and intelligence agents in certain countries which we feel will be interested in what we have to offer. Rest are certain persons of interest who have the type of connections and resources that we need. A detailed briefing will be provided by someone from Comrade De’s office. Everything you do, you will share only with me or him. No one else needs to know anything. I can’t stress this enough.”

He paused for a minute watching Van and then said, “You might be wondering how will you do all this with the responsibilities of your command in such troubled times. Well Comrade, you are taking a fully paid study leave for 4 months. One you finish your task successfully, you’ll have your command back with a promotion and a personal commendation from the President himself. “

Van thought about it for a moment and decided that it was too good of a good deal to pass up. “Thank you for your faith in me sir. I’ll not let you down”.

Huong stood up to shake his hand signalling the end of the meeting, “The Chinese have let the wheels in motion, but it’s us who should take control. Good luck.”
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 4

7 August 2016.
Kathmandu, Nepal


Nepalese national election results were declared 2 days back. Nepali Praja Sangh led Uttam Maharaj, had won 108 seats to emerge as the single largest party but was still short of majority by 30 seats in the 275 seat House of Representatives. Nepal Communist Party led by Srijan Mathi had won 69 seats and the rest by independents and some other smaller parties.

With this Nepal was staring at yet another period of political instability and rumours of yet another civil war were getting stronger. NPS and NCP were both bitter rivals and had actually fought on opposite sides during the civil war not too long back. So most people had little hope of any stable government.

Maharaj had managed to secure support of 15 more members but was running out of pending favours and money to buy more.The money and political capital he had spent on the elections had left his war chest empty and he was getting desperate. He had been meeting and calling people non-stop trying to bring more legislators into his camp. Some of his trusted party workers had just informed him of a faction considering breaking away to join NCP increasing his worries even more. If he couldn’t manage to form the government and take oath as Prime Minister this time, he was sure that his competitors within the party would ensure that he couldn’t even get a party ticket to fight elections next time. After 35 years of hard work, sleepless nights, speeches, war, petty fights, rallies, betrayals and a punishing public life, he was almost there and yet couldn’t grasp his prize.

He had come back to his own house for some rest and change after spending 72 hours in party office and was having his first proper meal in that time. But his mind was too distracted to enjoy the food. All the calculations in his mind led him to the plain fact that no party could hope to form the government unless they could manage to steal the members from other parties and he knew that he had nothing left to buy them with.


He finished his meal and leaned back in his chair to gather his thoughts for a while when his assistant Mohan Bista entered the room and spoke softly, “Sir, Padam Giri just called. He wants to meet you right now.”

Maharaj spoke without opening his eyes, “Has he lowered his price now ? Tell him that his 12 seats can not get him 4 minister ranks and 90 crores too.”

“I think he wants to talk about something else and wants to do it right now.”

Maharaj sighed, “Ask him to meet me here at 11:30 pm. I want to get 1-2 hours of sleep before that.”

“He is actually here with another person, waiting in the guest room. Also came in through the back entrance in an unmarked car.”

Maharaj opened his eyes slowly, stared at the assistant and spoke wearily, “If he is already here, bring him in. Might as well get this over with first and then get some rest.”


Mohan ushered Giri few minutes later and left the room. Giri felt bitter and tired but didn’t let it show in his greeting. “Welcome Giri sahib, it’s nice of you to visit my house after such a long time.”

Giri grinned with folded hands, “Thank you Maharaj ji for allowing me a bit of your time, that too at this hour. I know that you just came back from the party office, but this is important and couldn’t wait. Also I didn’t want the rest of your party members to get a hint before your approval.”

Maharaj raised an eyebrow, “Even the rest of my party members shouldn’t know ! Interesting.”

Giri laughed, “I’m sure that it’ll sound strange to you but please hear my proposal first, then decide.” He waited for Maharaj to nod and started, “What if I tell you that you could be PM of Nepal not with 138 seats but 180+ ? And you can stake your claim the day after tomorrow.”

Maharaj seemed unfazed, “Are you suggesting an alliance with NCP ? Even if I am interested in this, how will you get them to agree ? In case you don’t know it already, I must inform you that neither NPS or NCP has enough cash or clout to buy out each other.”



“You know, for the deal I have brought to you, I must ask you for a lot more than what I did earlier.” Giri laughed and then noticed the almost annoyed expression on Maharaj’s face “ Alright, I am coming straight to the point now. As you might have guessed already, what we are offering you is support of 12 members of my party and atleast 55 of NCP. It may be possible to get even more from NCP if we have enough time. And before you ask, you will not have to pay anything to them. Only the sharing of ministerial ranks and a common program will be enough. Also, I will accept your first offer of payment, but will need two minister ranks”

Maharaj rubbed his forehead and sighed loudly. “This is a very generous offer, but I can’t think why so many of them will support me as Prime Minister. We can fool the public by claiming that this alliance was formed to spare Nepal from unrest of yet another election, but most of my party members are no fools. Many have fought NCP not just in elections but with guns during the civil war too.”


“Are you worried about a revolt in your party if there’s an alliance with NCP.” Giri asked, his smile still intact.

“More than that, I am worried about the loyalty of NCP people. I can control most of my party members with money, blackmail and favours. Not so much with NCP. Even if they agree to an alliance today, what stops these communists from pulling the rug from under my feet in future for whatever reason ? But even before that, I must know who is paying for all this and or is it Dharmlal who is leading the revolt ?”

Giri stared at his hands for a few seconds as if calculating something. “Well, in conditions like these I prefer complete honesty. I could tell you all the details, but I’d like to have my friend who is waiting outside to be a part of our discussions before I disclose anything. But first, he must know that you are open to the proposal. ”

Maharaj noticed that Giri had not stopped smiling in his typical sly manner ever since he had entered the room. “Who is he ?”

“His name is Trilochan Dutta, son of Mahendra Dutta.”

“Mahendra Dutta, that famous “‘businessman’ who runs hundreds of smuggling and financial fraud rackets in all of Nepal ?”

“Well, if you put it this way that’s more or less the truth of it. But Trilochan has lived most of his young life in Germany and England and has no direct links to his father’s activities here. He is here in his own personal capacity, not his father’s. But before he comes in, I’d appreciate it if our own deal remains between us, for now.”



At this point Maharaj was tired and desperate enough to consider everything. He nodded and called Mohan to usher Trilochan in. He greeted Maharaj politely, took a seat offered to him and waited. “Not typical behaviour of a political broker”, Maharaj thought to himself and then addressed Giri, “So shall we hear your proposal now ?”

Giri nodded, “As I was saying, there are a few NCP seats that can come your way if you are open to the offer. My friend Trilochan here has pulled some very expensive strings to make it happen. All they want is a common agenda which we have ensured will be a mere formality, post of deputy PM and 9-10 ministerial ranks. You will remain Prime Minister for the whole term.”

Maharaj looked at Trilochan and then at Giri, “You are missing one other.. party.”

“Yes, I was just coming to that. There are two people in NCP and one in NPS who are close friends of Trilochan here. We’d very much like that the ministerial ranks we’ve been talking about should go to them.”

A small smirk formed on Maharaj’s lips “So 100s of crores are changing hands for just 3 minister posts ?”

Giri smiled back a bit uncomfortably, “That’s about it, yes.”

“Kedar Rana, Gopal Prasad and Ratna Bahadur. These three need to be ministers, right ?”

If Giri was surprised, he hid it well. He glanced at Trilochan and then nodded at Maharaj, his smile back. “As expected, you know most of the details.”

“What I know is that these three and our friend Trilochan have a few other things in common. I also know that Duttas have money to burn, but not this kind of money for such a small reward of just 3 ministers of their choice. There is another party involved in all this. And they have more money to burn in Nepal than our annual budget. Am I right Trilochan ?“

Trilochan was unfazed, but was unsure of what to say.

“So let’s say I agree to this proposal paid for by our northern neighbour and stake the claim. What happens to our relations with our southern neighbour then ? Northerners have their grip on communists of NCP. At the same time, most of my party candidates couldn’t have won any election without support from our south.

What makes you think that the rest of NPS will agree to an alliance, let alone power sharing with NCP ?”

Giri paused for a few moments as if weighing his options, “I’m just a small time politician Maharaj ji. You are the leader of the largest political party of Nepal and our soon to be prime minister. I am sure you’ll find a way. We’ll also help you in every way possible.”

Trilochan spoke for the first time, “We can get northerners to help in this too. Our relationship with south was more due to compulsion than desire. Once NPS-NCP alliance is a reality, Nepal will be strong enough to be truly independent. We will not have to depend upon Indians for anything.”

“And your family will be able to get all the “investments” they need to expand their businesses, right ?” Maharaj spoke with a tight smile. “Wouldn’t you fight elections next time too ?”

Trilochan shifted in his seat, but didn’t say anything.

Maharaj leaned back on his chair and sighed wearily. He was so tired that he could barely keep his eyes open. He spoke softly after a minute. “Giri, Dutta, thank you for your offer. I must say that it’s very generous but I need to sleep on it. I’ll give you my reply first thing in the morning.”

Trilochan opened his mouth as if to say something but stopped after getting a nudge from Giri. They both exited the house and got in to their cars. Trilochan started eagerly, “So what do you think ? Will he agree ?”

“For all his faults, he is an astute politician and knows which side of bread is buttered.” Giri lit a cigarette and took a deep drag only to see confusion on Trilochan’s face.

“Don’t worry, I’ve known him for 30 years. He will agree.”

“And what about Indians ?”, Trilochan interjected.

Giri exhaled wearily, “Trilochan my dear, in politics you must learn to talk without taking names. I agreed to your proposal only because I knew which side will prevail. He knows it too and just like me, he will choose the winning side. Just wait till morning.”
 

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Chapter 5

29 August 2016,
New Delhi, India


Monsoon of 2016 had been more humid than usual with more heat than rains. Indian National Security Advisor Ajay Dhumal started sweating as soon as he stepped out of his air conditioned car and started walking towards the office of Indian Defence Minister Maadhvan Kamat in the expansive South Block building.

Ajay Dhumal had retired as a Deputy Director in Indian external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Unlike many people in the upper echelons of the secret service, he had served as field operative in a number of countries which included Pakistan, China, Saudi Arab, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Unlike most of his colleagues who usually salivated over easy foreign postings in Europe, USA and other similar countries, he asked for and got postings in hostile places where the job was a lot tougher and risk to life and career much higher.

He was instrumental in setting up several deep cover assets for Indian intelligence in various places which had proven their worth time and again in the last few years. His work in Afghanistan had ensured protection of Indian interests in the war torn country even at the worst of times. In addition to Hindi, Garwhali, Kannad, English and Tamil he could fluently speak Arabic, Pashto, Sinhalese and understood a bit of Manadarin and Cantonese.

Sometimes he considered writing it all down in a book, but something always came up.

As NSA, he usually dressed in white shirts, dark trousers, plain spectacles and a pen in his shirt pocket as his only accessories. But during his work as field operative he had taken up disguises as varied as a smuggler, shopkeeper, fortune teller and quite a few more. He was considered to be one of the sharpest people by his friends and detractors alike and was appointed as NSA on personal recommendation of Prime Minister himself.

He was shown straight into the Defence Minister’s office who was just finishing up his 4th cup of tea of the day.

Dhumal saw him put away the cup and remarked, “Namaskar Kamat sahab, yet another cup of tea in this weather ? I thought that you’d be having something cold in this heat.” Maadhvan Kamat’s addiction to tea and his knowledge of it’s wide varieties was well known. Both men had developed a friendly informal relationship during their work together and DM insisted that the NSA treat him like a regular friend. He laughed “Namaste and welcome Dhumal ji, have a seat. This is iced tea, for a change. Would you like to have one too ? It’s pretty good.”

Dhumal took a seat and considered for a moment, “Sure, why not. It’s about time I taste cold tea too. I think I need it after all the headache last night.”

“Is it about that NNFC operation or something else. ?”

“That and a few other things. I meant to brief everyone about our progress with that NNFC issue in our next biweekly meeting. But there’s another thing which I think is related and I wanted you to know about it as soon as possible before we take further action.”

Dhumal was referring to the scheduled biweekly meetings between Prime Minister, Defence Minister, NSA, Home Minister, Chief of Defence Staff and RAW Secretary. Every such meeting always had these six people plus a few other people from organisations such as IB, DRDO, HAL, External Affairs Minister among a few others relevant to the issue for the time.

“Alright, I’m all ears.” Kamat said after handing Dhumal a glass of iced tea.

“Have you had the chance to read the mission report about our Bangkok mission that we sent last night ? No, then let me give you a short summary first. In April, our people got a lead about a huge shipment of weapons and drugs divided in 3 parts being shipped from Thailand and China by NNFC. We have reason to believe that they’d have sold some of the weapons to some other terrorist groups in India too. Some weapons were meant as payment for islamic terrorist groups in Bangladesh and Myanmar for their help in smuggling weapons from ports to their country’s border with India.

We tracked down NNFC’s main weapons runner in Thailand, a man named Elias and monitored him closely. Through him we got information about his main financiers and suppliers and the shipping details. We arrested him as soon as he landed in Kathmandu and brought him in for interrogation where he spilled more details which matched with our surveillance reports.

Based on information provided by us, Myanmarese and Bangladeshi intelligence captured 2 of the consignments as soon as they landed on their shores and arrested around 13 people between them. They’ve also provided us a fair bit of intelligence in return. The third ship was meant to leave from China yesterday, but our reports suggest that they’ve delayed or cancelled it after the other two were intercepted.

We’ve known about the role played by China in arming and financing terrorist groups like NNFC for quite some time. But now it seems like they are trying to increase the heat against us from all directions. “

NSA Dhumal paused to take another sip of the iced tea and continued, “They have been training terrorists from north-eastern states for decades now But till now, it was meant as an irritant rather than a means to wage war. The terrorists in the past were given basic weapons training, some fieldcraft and surveillance skills. But since the last 6-7 months, these terrorists are being trained a lot like special forces soldiers with advanced battle tactics, demolition and espionage. It’s almost like they’re being trained like an army to fight a high intensity war, rather than terrorists meant to keep the pot simmering.”

And it’s not just us, a fairly large number of the terrorists in Chinese training camps are from Myanmar and Bangladesh too. Our reports suggest 300-400 Indians and as many Bangladeshi and Myanmarese nationals being trained in a total of 8 such camps. In addition, they have a separate division for Bhutan. But we don’t have a lot of information about their activities yet.”

“Bhutan!” DM Kamat exclaimed incredulously.

“Yes, Bhutan of all the places. As far as we know, their main motive is to destroy the monarchy and get their own puppets in control of the country. “

“Like they did in Nepal. DM observed. “ What about Bangladesh and Myanmar ?”

“I think it’s being done to make our raids on their camps in the two countries a bit more difficult. Also these terrorists can keep on hitting us on the borders and then melt away in dense jungles. We can’t really cross the border to hit them everytime after every such incident. Additionally, Chinese think that armed terrorist groups controlled by them provide some sort of leverage and influence over the two countries. They think that they can use their activities to drive out competition, make their supporters stronger, assassinate opponents and so on.”

“Statecraft with guns and bombs, in a way.” DM Kamat observed bitterly.

“Yes and all of this is being done far away from their borders, so they think that they have plausible deniability and no one can blame them for anything.”

DM leaned back in his chair and smiled wryly, “So they are trying to emulate their sweeter than honey iron brothers In Pakistan ! ”

Dhumal gestured his approval, “Yes, but you might be wondering how this issue deserved a special meeting before our regular one. So I’m coming straight to that.

Our people have detected some consolidation and movement of Chinese troops in multiple sectors, one is a tri-way junction near our border with Bhutan and China near Sikkim and other is in Arunachal Pradesh. They’ve also started construction of more roads and some military infrastructure Aksai Chin.

The first place never had any problem till now while the second has been a hot point of contention with multiple incursions by Chinese patrols since last 2012. It’s nothing that we have seen before. But Bhutan is under our military umbrella and if Chinese are making a move to raise a dispute in that sector, it’s going to make things very complicated. Only way we can send our troops to this area is via helicopters or land route through Bhutanese territory.”

“Never a boring day in this line of work, eh ? So External Affairs Ministry (EAM) will need to be prepared for the upcoming meeting” Kamat took off his spectacles and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“For this and for another party too.” Dhumal said finishing up his iced tea.

Kamat looked at him with questioning eyes.

“We have one informal contact from Vietnam. They haven’t opened up completely yet, but they seem to be asking for military assistance. The message came through an unofficial channel, so I am not completely sure what to make of it. But EAM may need to get involved too.”

“Do you have any general idea about what this is about ?” Kamat asked.

“From what we know so far, they are looking for some help against Chinese grabbing some of their islands. They may ask for intelligence sharing, weapons and maybe some training.”

“Personally I am not against the idea, but isn’t Vietnam too far from here for us to be of much help ? And how can we help them with weapons ? As things are, we can’t even get enough for ourselves.”

“That may or may not be true according to them. I can get more information if you give me approval.” Dhumal knew he didn’t need to ask, but he wanted to play it safe by keeping someone trusted in the loop.

“Yes, why not. It wouldn’t hurt to know what they want. Can you get this information before the meeting ?” Kamat asked.

“I think so. We have one common enemy and quite a few common interests. It will be a good idea to help out each other for more than one reason.” Dhumal answered and asked for permission to leave.
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 6

30 August 2016
Majnu Ka Tila (Tibetan refugee colony), New Delhi


The small restaurant still had the ambiance of a shady mob club even with the modern clientele. He remembered his visits in the 90s when the crowd was a bit older, rough and usually drunk. Lot had changed in two decades, yet few things remained the same. Most of the new customers wore stylish clothes, talked in fake accents and seemed to be college students out trying to impress people of other sex or perhaps of the same. Their expensive haircuts, overly strong deodorants sprayed liberally, glow of mobile phones and flashy accessories were a far cry from crewcuts, sour faces, loud guffaws and smell of illegal liquor that he remembered from the 90s. On the other hand, furniture, most of the staff, lighting and even the menu had not changed much.

Som cleaned his shoes on doormat and nodded to Namdol manning the counter. Both men knew each other for decades. “How’re you doing Namdol ? Wife treating you fine ?”

“Yeah, same old. How’ve you been ? Haven’t seen you in months.”

“You know, same old work, family routine.”

“Yeah, you’re getting too old for this place. As you can see, it’s for young college kids now. It’s supposed to be better than the mob of ruffians that you trained. But I’d rather have them anyday than this instagram crowd.”

“May be you should start selling illegal liquor and drugs again.”

“Who said I ever stopped!”

“I don’t want to know.”

“Good. Now come with me, we need to talk.”

Namdol asked one of his workers to take over the counter and escorted Som to his private cabin. He poured homebrewed beer in two mugs and handed one to him.

“Dalai Lama is sick.”

“How sick ?”

“Sick enough that I felt the need to call you here. He will probably survive this time, but he is not getting younger and healthier. We need to be ready whenever it happens.” Namdol stretched in his chair, took a long swig and sighed in satisfaction. He had brewed the rice beer himself. The fact that it was technically illegal was of little concern “His original replacement, I mean the reincarnation is still missing and people are getting restless. Some of us believe that he should be considered lost and search for new Dalai Lama be done from scratch.”

Som sipped homebrewed beer with caution. People who made this liquor didn’t care much about limiting the alcoholic content.“But the current one has expressed his desire that this tradition of choosing the leader should be stopped. Wouldn’t people agree with him ?”

“And choose Kalsang as the official leader of Tibetan people ?” Namdol put his mug on the table and asked pointedly. He had been working with Indian agencies for most of his adult life and probably knew about their inner working more than many actual employees. He realised that all dealings with governments always had some give and take. You couldn’t expect to gain something on a charitable basis from bureaucrats and politicians. India had provided shelter and safety to lakhs of Tibetan Buddhists because Tibetan leadership was mostly compliant of their demands. Although Dalai Lama had been a good ally, some people in the regime thought that a political leader would have more authority than a religious figurehead. He knew well how Kalsang had been carefully cultivated as a powerful resource over decades by India and they’d rather have a politician like him in charge rather than the controversy and chaos of choosing the next Dalai Lama. There were some other people who felt that Chinese would find a religious figure much harder to control than a politician. But they seemed to be in a minority.

Som felt slightly surprised by the question “I didn’t know that there’s something wrong with him.”

“Oh there’s nothing wrong with him. It’s just that he has one or two good competitors who are quite capable too. He may not get so much support in next elections.”

“Are Choedon and Paljor so popular now or is Kalsang losing his touch ?” Som took a bigger appreciative sip of his beer.

Namdol chuckled lightly and finished his mug in a long gulp. He waited till Som hurriedly finished his and then refilled the mugs again. Som watched as his host took another long swig from his new drink. “You still drink like a camel.”

“It’s medicine you jerk. People like me need this after dealing with all of these wannabes outside.” Namdol glanced through the darkened glass window of his cabin and took another long swig. “Anyhow, your friend Kalsang will win the next election unless he really shoots himself in the foot which is not very likely. Choedon is happy just getting his name in news and the attention. It’s Paljor you need to watch.”

“Is it because he doesn’t like Dalai Lama and his ‘Middle Way’ ?”

Middle Way Approach was Dalai Lama’s pacifist solution for solving the Tibetan issue. He wanted a special semi-autonomous status for Tibet under Chinese control. Majority of Tibetans looked up to him and trusted him to make all such decisions for them. But he faced sizeable opposition to this idea even among his dedicated and more religious followers. There was a consensus to follow the policy for a while, but it was on a conditional basis, not permanent.

“More or less. Young people here now want some change. They’ve seen three generations of Tibetans as refugees and they want some action now.”

Som stared at a collage of photos on the wall. Most of them were taken in the restaurant from it’s early days. Some of the faces were of people he had worked with in Establishment 22. “Just like the first generation.” He observed, more to himself than Namdol.

“Kalsang is like Dalai Lama in his policy of dealing with Chinese. He has been working on the Middle Way and will keep on doing it for god knows how long no matter what Chinese do or say. Paljor thinks differently and has publicly announced his disdain for the policy and even asks for full separation of politics from religion.”

“I can’t say that I dislike the man for this.”

“Of course you wouldn’t.” Namdol squinted at Som and shook his head. “A significant number of Tibetans think this way too, atleast the younger ones. We oldies are too set in our ways to change. Frankly, I am not against this either but there is this matter of his ties with the Americans. We don’t have much problems with them per se, but we’re also more than just aware of their policy of use and throw with ‘allies’. We have firsthand experience of it from not too long back. It’s not like you guys are any better, but with you it’s more like dealing with a known devil.”

Som laughed and took a another sip. “Glad to know that. You do know our official policy, right ? My government says that it fully respects the right of Tibeatn people to choose their own leadership.”

“It’d have been believable if Tibetan government was an independent one based in Lhasa, not Tibetan Government in Exile based in Dharmshala, India. We acknowledge the tight rope that you have to walk, yet you need to be aware of the sentiments here. Paljor will only grow more popular and stronger from here.”

“And if Kalsang wants to keep winning elections, then he needs to be aware of such sentiments among his people.” Som finished the sentence.

Namdol nodded and finished rest of his drink in another long gulp.
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 7

1 September 2020
Ghani Village, Rajauri, Jammu


Captain Sanjeev Pandey entered the Commanding Officer’s (CO) room and saluted smartly, “Good afternoon sir.” His CO returned the salute and instructed him to have a seat. “Sanjeev, how good are you with construction work?”

CO was famous for his abrupt orders and strange ways of grilling people. Capt Sanjeev was expecting something like this when he got the message about CO wanting to see him asap. He had answered dozens of such questions since his deputation two months back and heard hundreds of stories from his subordinates and seniors alike. Yet, he had no answer and just mustered a confused, “Sir ?”

“Do you know about the new building for the primary school that our battalion is helping with ?” CO stared at him evenly as if looking for a weakness to pounce upon.

“Yes Sir.” The two words came out more as a question than an answer.

“You’ve been busy with patrols on the fence, cordons and getting to know your men. But this is important, you know. This work we are doing helps the local villagers as well as us too.”

“No doubt Sir.”

“So do you think that you can help out with this ?”

“Certainly Sir.”

“Good then. Go to Suraj Yadav and ask him to take you to the construction site. He will brief you about the job.”

“Yes Sir.”

Sanjeev got up, saluted and walked out of the office still as clueless as he had come in apart from one lead, Havaldar Suraj Yadav. He found the elusive Havaldar playing a game of volleyball and asked him about the school business.

Suraj nodded sagely, looking somewhat impressed, “CO saab asked you to take care of it! That’s good!“

“Take care of what?”

“Didn’t he tell you anything else ?”

Sanjeev felt a twinge of irritation rise within himself, “I’ve told you everything what he told me. Now let’s go to the construction site.”

Suraj opened his mouth as if to say something then changed his mind, “Ah… so he really didn’t tell you anything! Well the main thing is that there is no construction going on right now.” Sanjeev just sighed deeply, his irritation rising with each passing second but Suraj seemed oblivious.

“No construction going on…. Right. And why’s that ?”

“Gulam said that some of his workers were sick and a few were asking more money, so he fired them. He will bring new workers tomorrow to resume the work.”

“Who is this Gulam ?”

“He is the contractor making the school building sir, Gulam Bhat. He is kind of the default person to get this kind of work done in these parts. He is from Srinagar but usually lives around here for most of the year. Has a lots of ‘approach’ in state government too.”

“Of course he does. Do you have his phone number ?”

“Yes Sir, do you want it now ?”

“No, just give him a call and ask him to be at construction site at 11:00 tomorrow morning. I want to talk to him.”

Indian armed forces perform a lot of community outreach activities in their areas of deployment. They build schools, clinics, roads and other civil infrastructure in remote places which don’t have much development work done by the civil authorities. They also arrange sports programs, scholarships, life skill programs, study tours, medical checkup camps among a few other things in order to help the population of the area where they are deployed. In J&K, most of these activities are done under Operation Sadbhavana as a way to generate goodwill and remove any sense of alienation from the people.

Capt Sanjeev Pandey’s battalion was constructing a new building for a village’s primary school in it’s area of operations (AOR). The construction contract had been awarded to a local contractor Gulam Bhatt as is the case with most such work. Construction had started in the allotted land but the progress was slow. Sanjeev had been assigned to speed up the process by his CO.

Next morning he took Suraj in his Gypsy and drove to the construction site only to find it completely empty apart from two stray dogs napping in the sun. Suraj immediately called Gulam and turned to Sanjeev, “Saab, he is saying that his vehicle has a problem and he will not be able to reach before 2 pm.”

“2 pm” Sanjeev muttered while gritting his teeth. “Where are the labourers then? Why haven’t they started the work yet ?“

“He said that he was driving them in the truck transporting them.”

“Inbred bastard! Do you know where is he right now?”

“He said somewhere near the steel bridge. 40 minutes drive from here.”

“Good. We are going to meet him there.”

Both army men got back in to the Gypsy and found the mini-truck there sitting on side of the road. There was no sight of Gulam, his labourers or even someone repairing the minitruck. Sanjeev cursed the CO under his breath for assigning him to chase after idiots to do their jobs. He had specifically chosen infantry to avoid a life of paper pushing, contracts and office work. First posting in an active zone and he was doing exactly that. Another phone call to Gulam and he claimed that he was driving a mechanic to the broken minitruck.

Sanjeev nearly snatched phone from Suraj’s hand and asked Gulam to meet him tersely. Half an hour later, Gulam drove up to them in his brand new Tata Safari and grinned as he offered a handshake to seething Captain. Sanjeev got a good whiff of cheap alcohol coming from him as he opened his mouth to say hello. Sanjeev was too angry to indulge in niceties and idle chit chat.

“So Mr. Gulam Bhat, it looks like that you’ve wasted our whole day and not done even one bit of work. What do I say to my CO ?”

Gulam grinned sheepishly as a way of apology showing off his many discoloured teeth. “I was personally bringing the labourers to the construction site, but this stupid truck broke down in the middle. You don’t need to worry, I will finish the building right on time.”

“Mr Bhat, my job for next few days is to ensure that you finish the job in time and I will make you do it one way or the other. By the way, where are these labourers you were bringing ?”

“Oh those bastards ran back when I was gone. They wanted me to pay them for whole day of work even when they had not lifted a single finger for anything.”

“It’s not their fault that they couldn’t reach the construction site in time when you were transporting them.”

Gulam guffawed loudly as if Sanjeev had cracked a funny joke, “How could I pay them if they had done no work ? I drove them from Rajauri, 40 km from here and they start demanding money as soon as the truck broke down as if I’d run away. And all of them ran away when I was gone to get a mechanic.”

Sanjeev felt like picking the man by his neck and giving him a good shakedown but restrained himself, “Where is the mechanic you’re talking about and why are you bringing simple labourers so far from the site. There are enough people willing to do the job in the Ghani and nearby villages.”

“Don’t worry about the mechanic Captain sahab, I’ll get it repaired soon.

As for the labourers, have my advice sahab and never trust anyone from Ghani or any village in this area. All of them are lazy bums and only want money without doing any honest work. I’ve stopped hiring them for any job.”

“But they were working on the site before you fired them, right ?”

Gulam wringed his hands and nodded a reluctant yes.

“Good then you are coming with us to Ghani right now. Go to the labourers you had hired previously and rehire them. I’ll personally supervise the job. Get the smell of this shitty liquor out of your mouth and follow us.”

Gulam opened his mouth to protest only to get a sharp rebuke from Suraj, “Do not waste our time and obey what he is saying Ghulam ji. We have orders straight from CO saab.”

Gulam sullenly dunked his face in cold water of the stream and got in his SUV.

The construction work was going on at a good pace. The local labourers were working fairly well unlike claims of Gulam who had dismissed them as lazy freeloaders. Sanjeev had been going to the construction site daily to spend 1-2 hours there and see the progress. He met Gulam there on 1st day and then he had not shown up for three days claiming that the labourers didn’t need his constant supervision and that he had some other projects to take care of too.

Sanjeev was taking stock of the building supplies when he noticed a labourer with a deformed leg carrying a bag of cement on his head. The disabled worker used a thick stick clamped within his left armpit to support his bad leg while carrying loads on his head supported by his right hand. He looked older than his years with patches of grey in his hair, deep lines on his face and deeply tanned skin. Sanjeev watched him for a few seconds, then got busy with his own work.


About an hour later as he was about to leave, labourers stopped work for lunch. Most of them had brought simple rice, roti with some vegetables type meals from their homes and were eating them while chatting. He walked to the group as they were finishing off their meals and greeted them. They were respectful, smiled and answered politely but seemed a little reserved. Sanjeev was still getting used to the Hindi mixed with Pahadi and Gujjari language spoken by people of the area and chatted for a bit before leaving.

Next 2 days went by without much to talk about. He barely had any time to spend at the construction site due to some night missions and patrols. Summer time was usually busier due to large number of infiltration attempts by Pakistani terrorists and Border Action Teams (BAT) from regular Pakistani army. There were some incidents of artillery fire which were often cover for infiltration attempts. One of the sister platoons had neutralised two terrorists in such an attempt and there were rumours of more in hiding.

He had spent most of the last few nights setting up ambushes on likely infiltration routes but had ended up empty handed. Last night was yet another long sleepless night spent in the forested area freezing their butts off without anything to show for it. After getting a few hours of sleep, he had reached the construction site in late afternoon to see Gulam leaving just as he approached from another direction.

The labourers were huddled in a group at some distance talking animatedly but grew quiet upon noticing him and went back to their work. The disabled labourer was there too, but seemed much slower than usual. He was carrying stuff as usual but unlike previous days, was not as energetic and struggled visibly. Sanjeev felt bad and walked up to him, “Hello, how are you ?”

“Fine sahab. Just doing my job for the day.”

“You seem tired, are you ok ?”

“I am fine, just had a little fever last night. I should be fine by tomorrow.”

“Why don’t you take some rest ?”

“We just had a break to get our wages, can’t take another. Otherwise Gulam sahab will get angry.”

“So he was here to pay your wages. Does he pay you in the middle of the day?”

“He pays us every 3-4 days or whenever he feels like.” There was a strange expression on the labourer’s face as he said it and Sanjeev caught it.

“I thought you men get paid every day after finishing the work.”

“That happens sometimes too sahab.”

Sanjeev just realised that he didn’t even know the name of the man he was talking to and asked hurriedly, “Sorry I still don’t know your name.”

“Liaqat Ali, sahab. I live in a small house near the grocer’s shop. The shop owner is my cousin.”

“Can’t you get another job in which you don’t have to do so much manual labour ?”

“My forefathers have been farmers for as long as we can remember and we’ve always spent our sweat to earn our bread. I was an idiot and a bit unlucky and sold all of my land to pay for my vices and wife’s hospital bills. I need to work here otherwise my family will sleep hungry.”

Sanjeev was not ready to hear all of Liaqat’s story, yet he felt bad about the poor man. “Come with me to the base dispensary. I’ll get a doctor to check your temperature and get you some medicine and food for home.”

“I can’t leave work before time sahab. It will not be fair to the rest of them.” Liaqat answered by gesturing towards the other labourers.

That simple explanation gave Sanjeev some pause. He thought for a moment and then said, “Alright. Finish your job for the day and then come find me at the base. I’ll ask the guards on duty to let you in.”

Few hours later Sanjeev was reading a four days old national paper in the unit’s recreation room. The paper published in New Delhi took minimum two or usually even more days to reach his unit in the remote area close to border. Most of the time, they got a whole week’s worth in one batch. With such a large gap, the paper was read for everything but the news. His reading of the editorial section was interrupted by a guard who escorted Liaqat to him. The unit’s doctor had done a basic medical checkup and given some medications for his fever.

Sanjeev offered him a seat and a cup of tea and some biscuits. Liaqat seemed hesitant but gratefully accepted after a bit of cajoling.

“So Liaqat, you told me that you don’t get your wages on time.”

“That’s true sahab. Gulam keeps on delaying it over one issue or the other.”

“I’ll talk to him and ensure that you get your wages on time. This is no way to treat workers. By the way, do you know why he didn’t hire anyone from here for the job and was bringing labourers from Rajauri ?”

Liaqat seemed hesitant as he sipped his tea as if thinking about something. Sanjeev was about to encourage him to speak up when he spoke of his own volition, “Sahab, Gulam had hired labourers from Ghani and neighbouring Dullian for the job, but was taking away one-fourth of our wages. Even then he was not paying us on time. He claimed that he was not getting paid either and put up different excuses every time. When we protested after not getting paid for 5 days, he said that the project was delayed and he had no money. He paid us wages for two days and said that it was the maximum he could pay us.”

“Is he giving you your full wages now ?”

“When he came to hire us again, most of us refused. But he later offered to take only 15% . All of the other labourers are as poor as me and we don’t have many jobs here. So we agreed to work for him again.”

“And none of you considered informing us of what he is doing ?”

“We did, but think of it from our position. You are a fauji who will stay here for a year, maybe two or three and then you’ll move somewhere else. Men like Gulam are the ones who provide us with some work. How can we complain against him?”

“But you complained against him just now.”

Gulam gave a wry smile, “Yes I did. I didn’t want to do it but the bastard took an extra 10% of my wages saying that I don’t work hard as others because I’m a cripple.”

Sanjeev was speechless for a moment and then felt even more anger for the man than he had met only twice. He got a bag of dry rations from mess, handed it over to Liaqat and sent him on his way. He was tempted to go to the CO just then, but he waited and verified what Liaqat had told him with a few other labourers next day..

Few days later, Gulam Bhat was forced to pay pending wages to all the labourers, blacklisted from all the defence contracts and his running projects transferred to someone else. Sanjeev knew that Gulam was just one of many blood sucking parasites, but he was happy to make a difference, however small it was. The fact that it won him a few new local friends was an added bonus.

Work on the school building resumed after a gap of two days and Sanjeev was on the construction site again trying hard to not fall asleep while taking stock of the situation. The work was going on on a good pace and the building was starting to take shape. His hunt for the terrorists was not going on very well though. There were some radio intercepts in last few days which suggested that a group of three to four Pakistani terrorists was hiding in their sector and were planning something big very soon. Security agencies had tapped every informer, put up ambushes and guards on every possible route to get a lead without any success. Sanjeev himself was leading a search mission every night without anything to show for it.

He was about to leave the site when Liaqat came up to him and greeted him. After Sanjeev’s report, CO had pulled some strings to help the labourers. Liaqat was about to get a small loan to buy two milch cows as a result. Some other labourers had received books for their children, another a scholarship for studying in college

“Sahab, can you arrange a checkup for me with a doctor in your dispensary today ?”

“Sure. What happened?”

“Nothing major sahab. I just need to meet him as follow up.”

Sanjeev was having his evening chai in barracks in evening when a soldier escorted Liaqat to him. He offered to get a cup of tea for him, but Liaqat refused, “Captain sahab, I don’t have much time today. I just wanted to talk to you about your night patrols.”

“Night patrols?”

“You are searching from some goats across from the border, right ?” On seeing Sanjeev nod, he added hesitantly, “And I’ve heard that there’s a reward for information related to them.”

Sanjeev put his cup aside and looked at Liaqat keenly, “Yes, there is if the information is good.”

“Sahab, I don’t particularly care for any money or reward. I just want to pay you back for the help you have provided me. I just want to be sure about safety of my family.”

“If you have some concrete information, you can freely share it with me and it’ll remain strictly confidential. If it’s correct and leads us to these ..goats, we’ll pay you in cash. No one apart from me and CO sahab will know anything about who provided the information.”

Liaqat rubbed his knee for a moment thinking over his words carefully. “You know about my cousin Mukhtaar, the grocer right ? His wife’s older brother Abraar has a vegetable farm near the waterfall. If you send someone there to take a look in the straw hut in the potato field, you may find some big stuff which the goats carried with them. There is a small cave around 30 steps right from the hut hidden behind a rock. Ask someone to take a look there too.”

“Interesting. And do you know here I can find these goats ?”

“I’ve seen four on the upper floor of Abraar’s house at night. You must have seen the green double storied house at western end of the village. It’s one of the largest in the village, so you can’t miss it. They spend the night there because it’s too cold and damp in the cave. They can’t stay in the house during daytime for obvious reasons. I’ve seen them leaving the house just before morning’s namaaz time.”

“How sure are you about this Liaqat ? Isn’t this Abraar district head of Democratic Peoples Party ?”

“He is and his son-in-law is a constable in the police.”

“Anything else you can tell me?”

“That’s all I know sahab.”

Sanjeev sent him on his way back home and nearly sprinted to CO’s residence and shared the information. After a short discussion in which both officers discussed the veracity of intelligence, CO finally agreed to take action. He called up commander of Quick Reaction Team (QRT) and instructed him to set up observation posts near the field as well as Abraar’s house. They could not raid the house without any proof and they didn’t want to let anyone else know of their intentions either. Abraar was just a small time politician, but he was capable of causing a lot of drama if something went wrong. They had to be careful while collecting information about terrorists like their routes, timings and armament to be successful.

A six man team took up camouflaged positions at a short distance from the field and another climbed up a small hillock to monitor Abraar’s house. They couldn’t get close to the house because of movement of civilians and houses nearby. Both teams were equipped with night vision devices and thermal sights to ‘see’ even in the dark. Days in such places start and end up early and most of the village was closing down for the night around sunset. The shops closed at around 6-6:30 pm and the people chatted animatedly as they walked back to their homes from their farms, shops or whatever their work involved. By 10 pm, all the streets were empty and only a few houses had any lights on.

Once the streets were dark enough, a platoon worth of soldiers moved out of the base silently and took up positions on the two possible routes from Abraar’s farm to his house.

Around 10:30 pm, Q1 team assigned to the field reported movement of three men from the cave and one from the hut. They had draped themselves in shawls to hide the outline of AK-47s hanging from their backs. None of them used any torches and walked carefully and slowly in a straight line on the narrow hilly trail leading up to the village below. It’d have worked in the dark, but not with experienced troops equipped with night vision devices who tracked their movement from start to finish at Abraar’s house.

A decision was made to not storm the house and wait for terrorists to move out before dawn to avoid any chances of civilian casualties. That meant soldiers had to wait out the night sitting in same place waiting till terrorists decided to move back to farm again.

A small team of soldiers cautiously searched the hut and the cave in dark and found no one there. They did find two cleverly hidden gunny bags with explosives wrapped in plastic bags weighing roughly 25 kg and four remote detonators. In the cave they found a bunch of full AK-47 magazines, a couple of pistols and some grenades along with some plastic sheets, blankets and food supplies.

Around an hour before sunrise, the observation team near the house reported four men moving out of the house and taking the same path back again towards the farm. Once they were far enough from the village, the ambush party cornered them and asked them to surrender. Three of the terrorists started to fire indiscriminately and the fourth started running towards the village. First three were shot down within seconds while the fourth took two bullets in leg and one on his shoulder without even getting his gun in firing position. He was captured, given first aid and moved to military hospital. Hewas identified as Zakir Musa, an IED expert from Mirpur, PoK. The group was tasked with bombing of bus station in Rajauri.

Liaqat got his reward of INR 2 lakh cash few days after the encounter.
 

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Year in above post is 2016, not 2020. Can't edit it now
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 8


6 September 2016.
New Delhi, India.


Prime Minister Angad Bisht had just arrived back to New Delhi after a whirlwind tour of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where he had inaugurated construction of a few new infrastructure projects and educational institutions. He considered stopping at his house for a quick shower, lunch and change of clothes but had no time as the meeting was scheduled to start soon. So he just went straight to his office after landing at Palam airport.

One of his personal assistants had been contacted by Defence Minister’s office and he briefed the PM about the agenda of the meeting as well as schedule of the remaining day as they drove through the wide open roads of New Delhi. Unlike many of his predecessors, PM Bisht took a keen interest and was personally involved in many decisions related to national security. He had personally hand picked many of the people present in the meeting room based upon their past record, talent and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.

He reached his office 20 minutes before the meeting was supposed to begin and managed to grab a quick bite before heading straight to the meeting room. He met External Affair Minister Piyush Vajpayee who was giving some instructions to a bureaucrat a few steps away from door of the room. Both men greeted each other and EAM entered the room after PM. Everyone else was already inside waiting for meeting to begin. After some greetings and a bit of small talk, the meeting quickly came to point. First it was the turn of National Security Advisor Ajay Dhumal who explained the same briefing that he had provided to Defence Minister Maadhvan Kamat.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Rajinder Singh had read the briefing from NSA and had some more information from his own office which had a few more details about Chinese support for terrorist organisations in India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. He picked up after NSA, “I concur with Dhumal ji. We actually have a list of some names for the Bhutan camp. Most of them are harcore communists who had vanished from the country a few months back. RBA (Royal Bhutan Army) had shared some intelligence with us a few months back about the issue. Some of the Bhutanese men are related to some politicians there and have been accused of stuff like hate speech, inciting violence and so on.

They had arrested two such men who were trained in a camp near a small city earlier this year. Their interrogation had revealed that they were attempting to overthrow the monarchy and had gotten aid from China. After these recent developments, I think we should interrogate them again.”

EAM Vajpayee gestured his approval, “Sure, getting access to them shouldn’t be difficult.”

Home Minister Rajat Sudarshan looked at NSA and asked, “Dhumal ji, do you have any idea if these Bhutanese communists have any links in India ?”

Dhumal shook his head, “Not that we know of for certain. But after analysing the data we already have, I’d be surprised if they are not cooperating with terrorist groups like NNFC. Both are being propped up by China and I’m willing to bet that there must be some links. We may get some information from the men arrested by RBA. We need to take some concrete action fast before Bhutan ends up like Nepal.”

PM who had mostly just listened to the other people present in the room spoke, “Alright, we should do that as soon as possible. Now what do we do about NNFC and their Chinese connection ? ”

CDS answered, “We really don’t have many choices apart from paying them back with the same coin. They’re trying to create and exploit faultlines within our nation. China itself is a house of cards divided by hundreds of issues and held together just by the iron hand of Chinese Communist Party (CCP). We can exploit their soft underbellies in Tibet, Xijiang, Taiwan, Mongolia, South China sea and various other places of our choice. They’ve made enemies everywhere and only crackpots like Pakistan and North Korea are their allies.

They’re doing their best to subjugate us, it’s time that we start hitting them back where it hurts.”

DM took over when CDS finished speaking, “I’ve been saying this for years now. We need to treat Pakistan as the insignificant rabid dog it is and put some focus on China which is a much bigger threat. Even Pakistan couldn’t have this much nuisance value if it wasn’t being propped up by China since the last few years..”

HM added his bit, “I do not agree completely. Pakistan can affect our internal security much more due to the support they get from some of our population. China has little or no such leverage and is just an external threat. Both these countries have different threat profiles for different reasons.”

PM intervened to get the discussion back on track before it diverted too much, “You both are making valid points, but we need to discuss our plan of action against China. What do we do against their support of terrorist groups and how do we make them feel some pain ?”

There was a pause and then NSA answered, “As decided in our previous meeting, we’ve already started work on reactivating some old assets and creating some new ones. It’s a slow process and will take a few months or perhaps even years. Nothing happens fast in this type of work.

We have gained some vital intelligence in last few weeks and if we play our cards right, we can engineer a split in NNFC and neutralise some of their top leadership. One thing we still haven’t figured out yet is how to intercept their cadre undergoing training in China. Some of them will trek back over the mountain passes, rest will use different international routes to reach back to India. We can turn and neutralise a few with help of local intelligence units, but even 30-40 such trained terrorists in the region can prove to be a big headache.”

DM spoke again, “That’s not bad at all. But even if we neutralise NNFC, what’s stopping Chinese from creating and arming yet another group like this ? What I am suggesting is making the cost of such activities unacceptably high for China. They should think twice before they go around trying to light fires in our house.”

“Do you have any ideas Maadhvan ji ?” PM sensed that his DM was itching to say something and gave him the chance to open up completely.

“Yes, ofcourse.” He responded quickly. “For starters, why not agree to the some of the requests put forth by Tibetan PM Kalsang and give recognition to Tibet as a fully sovereign nation ? Even if it’s just symbolic, we pour cold water over Chinese dreams of One China policy. With all the goodwill that Tibetans have all over the world and with some help from us, we can make it a prominent international issue and I am very sure that people in most democratic countries will pressurise their governments to be sympathetic to the cause even if the regimes themselves can’t or wouldn’t do anything significant.

Now before anyone here mentions it, I know that it’ll not mean much by itself, but it is just one step in getting Tibet free from Chinese control. We need to abandon our support for One China policy they demand from us. Even if we don’t succeed today or in near future, we have a leverage over China which we can use to our advantage in some other issue.”

Everyone in the room voiced their support which led to the PM think for a moment before replying, “It seems like a good idea for starters. We should gather some data on it and discuss how to take it further when we meet next. Anything else ?”

Now was Dhumal’s turn to speak, “ Like I said earlier, we are in process of creating some assets which we can use in China. We discussed it earlier this year. It’s going according to plan and we should be able to start effective operations in a few months.

Additionally, I am meeting with Rear Admiral Rajratan Hooda about status of the new Defence Cyber Agency (DCA) tomorrow. Some reports suggest that Chinese have managed to penetrate our communication infrastructure using their private companies. We need to secure ourselves against possible cyber attacks as much as we need to secure our borders.”

“Chinese private companies ? If that’s the case, then we need to kick them out as soon as possible.” PM asked with raised eyebrows.

“Yes, we have some intelligence which suggests that CCP is using companies like XIanji for military espionage and data collection. They’ve been on our radar for quite sometime and we are trying to keep them out of our business as much as possible. I can’t say how long it’ll take to have a strong enough case against them, but we are getting close. I’ve been asking for an official or even an unofficial ban or restrictions on a few Chinese companies for quite some time now.

Apart from that, DCA is working to strengthen our defence communications from inner as well as outer threats. I’ve also asked for their help with security of our civilian infrastructure. DCA is in process of commissioning some equipment which will boost our offensive capability manifold.”

CDS was next, “I’m sure you must be sick of hearing it, but we need atleast one Mountain Strike Corps ready by yesterday. Not a mish-mash of borrowed brigades and weapons dusted off from reserves, but a proper new Corps, fully staffed and properly armed. Plus 14 new squadrons of fighter jets, atleast 6 more aerial refuellers and same number of AWACS for Air Force. Navy needs more submarines, atleast 8 diesel-electrics to maintain bare minimum operational capacity. The budget allotted to us this year is barely enough to maintain our current level of preparedness. We can’t hope to tackle China and Pakistan both with what we have. “

PM raised his hands in surrender, “You don’t need to preach to the choir General. We are trying our best, but there are lots of mouths to feed and not enough resources for all. Most of the stuff you guys choose is so expensive that it’s impossible to pay for all of it from the budget we have.”

CDS and everyone else in the room knew that PM was talking about recent payments for imported T-90 tanks, Rafale planes, Scorpene submarines, Spike missiles, R-77 Air To Air missiles (AAM), SIG-716 rifles, Apache helicopters and various other hugely expensive imports. There were local alternatives for almost all the mentioned weapon systems. But Indian defence procurement was plagued by rampant corruption, incompetence and an unhealthy obsession for foreign imports at expense of local weapons development and production.

One huge example was repeat orders for Russian T-90 tanks which were proven to be quite inferior compared to Arjun in one on one comparative tests. T-90s were given a number of concessions in trials to speed up their purchase, while everything was made doubly tough for Arjun. Even then, Transfer of Technology deal that had come in with the tanks was not honoured by the Russians and Indians had to add numerous improvements like air-conditioner, sights that actually worked on their own.

Similarly, Air Force was willing to import every plane on offer, but unwilling to support local Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. One Air Force Chief was even wary of showing support for the project because he thought of the project as that of it’s developer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), rather than IAF itself. The list was quite long and grew only longer every year. It was after the same air force had spent years trouble shooting and improving imported Sukhoi-30, Mirage-2000, Jaguar and Mig-21. But they refused to extend similar support for LCA till DM had put his food down.

Even reliable allies like USSR used these sales as leverage on their clients and control and even restrict usage of their weapon systems by restricting supply of spares. China had learned this lesson decades back and had done everything possible to be completely self-reliant for it’s defence needs like all other major powers. But India was still burning money every year on costly imports and even more expensive spares and maintenance.

One of the things that the new regime had done to remedy this was to encourage defence production in the country and decrease the value and quantity of imported systems. But old habits don’t change easily and there were a lot of vested interests, both internal and external trying to throw a spanner in execution of every such move.

“I hope we get better budget allocation next year.” CDS replied simply as a kind of truce.

PM acknowledged, “We are trying our best to increase the defence budget next year and working on improving the weapons purchase system. Anything else ? I read something about Vietnam in the meeting brief. What about it ?

EAM answered his question,” As I mentioned in the meeting brief, they have sent a request for increased intelligence sharing and sale of some military hardware. What should we do about that ?”

PM spoke,“I think we should be able to help them out easily, right ?”

EAM answered, “I am not sure about the technical details, but if you ask my opinion, we should definitely respond positively to their approach even if we have to spend some money from our own pockets. They can be a useful ally against Chinese hegemony.”

DM leafed through his papers and put one in front of PM, “I have checked the feasibility of their wishlist and most of it is quite easy for us. We can manufacture a satellite according to their specifications in 3-4 months. Only hard thing is getting them a slot in the scheduled launches this year.

Next item in their list is training of their pilots and submarine crews. Their Sukhoi-30 and Kilo submarines are very similar to ours and we can easily accommodate their crews.

Increased intelligence sharing is actually good for us and we should be doing it with as many countries as possible. We should get someone to work on this as soon as possible.”

The last item in their list was possible sales of some fast patrol boats and anti-submarine ships. I think they were referring to Car Nicobar class patrol vessels and Kamorta class anti-submarine corvettes. That is also not impossible, but I have my doubts.”

“Why’s that ?”

“Both ships are manufactured by GRSE and all of their production lines are completely full for 3-4 years.They can open extra manufacturing lines only if they have confirmed orders.

Additionally, there are a lot of very good options for these categories of ships from Japan, Russia, South Korea, France and a few more. I am not sure that our state owned shipyards can compete with any of these competitors just yet.” DM answered with a slightly frustrated expression.

PM chuckled, “ I know, I know. We are trying our best but old habits die hard and Indian bureaucracy has a lot of inertia.”

“That’s why we need more contracts for private sector,” HM added. “We also need to talk about the latest terrorist attack Rashtriya Rifles foiled in Rajauri.. If the terrorists had managed to detonate the explosives in bus station, they could have killed 300-400 people easily. 25 kgs of RDX is no joke.”

CDS mirrored a map of the region on the large screen showing location of encounter along with the long LoC snaking along the western border. “In last two months, Pakistanis have attempted 11 infiltration attempts and fired at our posts as well as villages 24 times just in this sector. We’ve lost 11 soldiers and 18 civilians in these attacks. This area has been relatively free of militancy for last few years and they are trying to change it. We have been retaliating with our artillery, but they need something much stronger.”

“Excuse me General sahib, but why do you say that artillery fire isn’t enough?” PM asked quizzically.

“It’s mostly because the artillery can’t hit the real planners who train and push in the terrorists. With our firing from the border, we can kill some of their low ranking soldiers, that’s all. They are considered expendable cannon fodder anyway and Pakis don’t care much how many of them die. Their lives are only marginally more valuable than those of the terrorists. We need to spear some of the bigger fishes across the border to put some fear in them.”

PM considered advice of CDS for a moment and asked, “I suppose you have some plans for this?”

“Yes Sir, we can send some teams of our own to hit some of the targets which include some staging camps for terrorists, artillery positions and a few important rear echelon posts. So far, we’ve been fighting them inside our territory. If we take the fight to them, they’ll get the message.”

PM looked at the DM who gestured his support. “You have our approval on one condition. You need to make sure that this doesn’t spiral out into a full fledged war. Hit them where you like, whenever you feel necessary. Just make sure to keep things under control. It’s time that we pay them back with interest.”

CDS looked happy for first time since the meeting started, “Thank you Sir. You have my word.”
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 9

17 September 2016
Xiamen, China


“So it has come to this.” Lu puffed on his cigarette and stared at the ceiling. “19 billion dollars as his share and what do we get ? We spend a lot of money from our own pockets, do all the heavy lifting and this is what we get. 3% equity for each one of us !”

Mo took a small sip of his whiskey and stared back. Unlike the majority of his own countrymen, he had no worries about his own personal safety from the men sitting around him. He waited for a moment before answering,”This is what Mr Xij asked me to tell you sir. I am just an employee of the company and presently a messenger from him. Nothing more.”

“Don’t sell yourself short Mo. You are the financial brain behind the company. Without your knowledge, links and expertise, this project would have never even started. Hell, if you were not involved, most of us would never have even invested in the company. “ Lu answered bitterly.

“I am very grateful for the faith you put in me. But all of you know that my authority in the company is nothing compared to any of you present in this room. I take care of the finances, that’s it. Three of you here and Mr Xij control everything else.” Mo replied in an even tone.

Lu exhaled some smoke in the general direction of Mo and smiled. “That we do Mo, but tell me how does it help us ? My own personal investment was 140 million US Dollars. Pu here supplied 50 million and expertise that only 2 companies in the entire China have. Ru invested 80 million and made sure that none of Xianji’s competitors could win any contract that we bid on. All of us took losses for 4 years with an understanding that we will have a nice little pot of gold at the end of it.”

Mo nodded in a conciliatory manner but he felt a faint tinge of annoyance. Lu was already drunk and was repeating the same thing again and again. The short meeting which was supposed to last one hour had dragged on for two hours with no end in sight. He had traveled in a plane for 5 hours just for this one meeting and would have to take another just after midnight.

“I’m sure you remember that I became a part of the company long after you four made the agreement. I can only tell you what Mr Xij asked me to. Why and how of this and most other decisions are not taken under my authority.”

“Right, right.” Ru exclaimed with an expression which hovered between a smile and a grimace. “So you mean to say that we should take it up with Mr Xij himself. You are just a glorified messenger. Is that right Mo ?”

Mo wondered if he should say something but just looked at Ru and nodded, “That’s more or less the gist of it Mr Ru.”

Lu crushed his cigarette on the floor and glared at him, “ Then we should not keep you here Mo. You’ve delivered your message. I suppose you have a flight to catch pretty soon.”

“That’s right Mr Lu, thank you. I’m leaving these documents here for your perusal. Please go through them and feel free to contact me at any time you wish. I’ll be more than happy to be of any assistance.” Mo placed a closed envelope each in front of other three people, bowed and walked out of the room.

Pu leafed through the papers given to him in silence while Mu lit up another cigarette. Ru gave a wry smile and said, “5 years, 100s of millions, hundreds of sleepless nights and this is what great Mr Xij has for it. 9% equity for three of us which we can’t even encash without his approval.” He smirked and poured himself another drink.

“3 percent !” Lu exhaled angrily. His hands shook slightly which didn’t go unnoticed with Pu and Ru.

Pu who had mostly stayed quiet during the meeting, spoke in a tired voice, “Nothing much interesting in the papers. It’s more or less the same what Mo said.”

Lu picked up his envelope and threw it against the wall. “So Xij can screw us after all these years and we are left with this ! I don’t know about you two, but I’ll not take this lying down. Well, I do know about you two and neither of you is going to accept this.“

Ru took a deep swig of drink,leaned back on the chair and stayed quiet. Lu glanced at him and then started reading the papers again. Both were familiar with the angry outbursts of First Class Lieutenant General Lu which usually went on for hours if someone interrupted his angry rants.

“Just because he is the son of Chairman doesn’t mean that he can screw us over. Each one of put more at stake every single day than that jerk can imagine and I’ll be dead before he can get away with this bullshit.” He glared at the other two men waiting for a response. Lu put down the papers, looked back at Lt Gen Lu evenly but stayed quiet. Ru stayed as he was, seemingly asleep but very aware of the tension in room.

“Don’t you two have anything to say ?” Lu thundered angrily.

Ru just spoke without moving, “We do have a lot to say General, but exactly what we can say about this issue without getting ourselves in hot water ?” Xij is the only son of CCP Chairman. Words spoken by Mo were not from Xij but his father, CCP’s all powerful Chairman and President of China for life.”

“President of China for life ! Was it only because of my support ?” Lu spat angrily. “All three of us supported him for this. Both of you financed his “campaign” and the constitutional amendment. Do not put this on me.”

Ru looked at Lu straight in the eyes, “Cool down General. I am not blaming you. All three of us had no idea that Xij and his father would betray us like this.

Pu spoke in his soft voice, “This is no time to discuss history and who did what. There is not much we can do legally. Taking Xij to courts will never work. Best we can do is to sell our share as soon as possible and limit our losses. “

“When Chairman Wix is involved, there’s no such thing as legal or illegal.” Ru commented.

Lu thundered, “Don’t give me this crap. He is a greedy old bastard just like the three of us. He’d have never reached where he is without my support and if he thinks that he can get away by screwing me over, then he has made the biggest mistake of his life.”

Ru sighed and asked, “I always thought that two of you were good friends. Can’t you talk to him and clear this up ?”

Lu shook his head, “You do know that I was next in line for the post of CCP Chairman, right ? Wix came to me before he got you two on board and promised me this deal as compensation for my support for his lifetime Presidency amendment. It was me who suggested your names to him for this company. He knew from then what he was doing, how things will turn out and how he will treat us.

The work that Xianji did was not just for making us rich. Pu was brought in not for his 50 million but for his very specific expertise that PLA needed for spying. You were brought in even though you owned a competing company just to create an illusion of choice in the minds of our customers.”

He glared at his almost finished cigarette and flicked it away. “Now do you see what Chairman Wix has done ? He has sole control over one of the biggest telecommunications companies which also doubles up as the biggest mass surveillance network in the world. Not only he has a few new billions in cash in his bank accounts but also the data of 100s of millions of people from all around the world and full control over the networks. If this is not unprecedented absolute power, then nothing else is. All this was supposed to be ours, not just his personal kingdom. If he thinks that he is going to be the dragon sitting on a mountain of treasure by himself, then I am going to be the dragon slayer of western fairy tales.

He paused to light another cigarette and continued, “Do you think that I’ll be happy with this puny payout after all this ? Are you two happy with just this ? This was not what was planned and I will make sure that Wix pays for his treachery.”

“How are we going to do that General ? After last year’s amendment, Wix is China. Anything you do against him will be viewed as treason against the state. Not to mention that Xijiang is just one of our many interests closely intertwined with Chairman Wix. Each one of us has 100s of millions invested in dozens of other projects with him. If we do anything rash, we might lose everything just when things are getting streamlined” Pu interjected.

“Mr Pu, you are a brilliant technocrat, but you still have to learn a few things left to learn about politics, statecraft and the inevitable backstabbing required to survive in this murky world.” Lu answered with a smirk. “We don’t fight this war at all. Our “enemy” will fight it for us.”
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 10

22:40 Hours IST
Poonch, Jammu


A mortar shell landed meters away away from the forward post with a huge bang. A small cloud of dust and smoke marked the spot where it landed with a crater on ground. Then there were three more impacts in near vicinity. Indian soldiers huddled in the bunker could feel the rumbling earth through their boots. The bunker itself was made of 3 feet thick reinforced concrete and could take direct hits from heavier artillery, but not all bunkers were built like this. Most others in the area were made of stones reinforced with wooden beams, concrete and earth. They could withstand most small arms fire and even light mortar hits, but not direct hits of heavy mortars and artillery.

A number of other such posts in the sector were facing a similar barrage of 81 mm mortars and 155 mm artillery shells. Pakistanis were pissed after a small team of Indian soldiers had infiltrated in to Pak held territory and shot a Colonel straight through the chest via a long distance sniper shot. He was looking over arrangements for a new staging camp for terrorists just 9 km from the fence and had brought an unusually large entourage which was caught on surveillance UAVs. The sniper team had exfiltrated successfully while the Pakis were still confused over what hit them. The massive artillery barrage had started minutes after the incident and had picked up intensity quickly.

At some distance from the bunker on hill, a Swati Weapons Locating Radar (WLR) collected data about trajectory of the mortars and artillery shells and fed it into the specialised computer which calculated position of the mortar tubes and artillery guns through it. Indian army had keenly felt the need for such a radar system during Kargil war of 1999 as the majority of Indian casualties during the conflict were due to artillery fire. Pakis had an American WLR system and thus had an edge over India in this field. Sale of such radars was blocked for India after 1999 nuclear tests but Americans sold 12 such radars to India in 2002. DRDO started the development of a local system with a budget a fraction of the imports (USD 20 crore vs INR 20 crore) and had a working prototype ready in 2004. Few such systems were deployed along border soon after for testing purposes and official inductions of around 30 such systems happened in 2017.

Soldiers inside the reinforced bunkers were performing ‘trial by fire’ of the new system on LoC in Poonch sector. The trajectory data from the passive electronically scanned array radar mounted on a truck some distance away was being transmitted wirelessly to the ruggedised and portable consoles which displayed data overlaid on a digital 3D map. This data was being transmitted to a heavy artillery battery few km away from border in real time.

The artillery battery had just finished deploying it’s brand new Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) in the gun pits few kms behind the lines. It was developed in a joint project involving DRDO’s Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and private companies Bharat Forge Limited, Mahindra Defence Naval System, Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division.

It could fire 155mm shells at targets 35 km away. With rocket assisted shells, the maximum possible range was 47 km. It’s sustained rate of fire was 1 shell per minute. A specially developed Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) system enabled it to fire 5 shells within 45 seconds in burst mode.

Six such guns were assigned targets using data from Swati WLR. Their automatic gun alignment system and ballistic computer calculated optimum firing solution and adjusted elevation and traverse of the guns automatically. All six guns fired near simultaneously covering the whole area with smoke and dust as a barrage of 30 155 mm shells was fired within 60 seconds. Gunner crews rushed to fill up the magazines with new shells and propellant charges as soon as the barrage was finished. Two small UAVs flying over enemy positions beamed live video stream of shells wreaking havoc on enemy positions. This data was used to make adjustments to guns and another barrage was let loose 2 minutes later. One shell scored a hit on a small ammunition dump of 81 mm mortar shells lying in the open and the fireball rose high enough to be visible to Indians kms away. Immediate Battle damage assessment (BDA) by UAVs indicated destruction of atleast 5 artillery guns, 3 mortar pits and 60+ dead and injured. After firing 2 barrages, ATAGS used their own engines to move out and reach the waiting Field Artillery Tractors (trucks used to tow them). Even if the Pakis used their own WLRs to locate the position of guns, they’d get only empty ground with the guns safely out of their reach.

Pakistani battalion had lost not only their CO, but a huge chunk of their firepower and combat personnel in just a few hours with nothing to show for it.

Mindiyan, Kashmir

“How reliable is this information?” Colonel Sreejit was reasonably sceptical of claim of Salim Abdullah, the local smuggler and occasional double agent. Even with electrified fence, ongoing sensor upgrades and frequent patrols, stopping infiltrations or exfiltrations by determined people across the rugged LoC was no easy task. There were too many high mountains, rivers, gorges, densely forested areas which made plugging all holes nearly impossible.

Local smugglers like Abdullah used terrain and cleverly dug tunnels to cross the fence in different places all the time. After a few recent upgrades like motion sensors, thermal scanners and radars, the job was not as easy, but still possible for people willing to risk their lives for it. He was caught a few days back while trying to smuggle 2 kilos of heroin into India from his contact in Pakistan. He was interrogated by army before he was to be handed over to the police and he had claimed to have information about a batch of 10-14 terrorists about to cross border in the sector. He wanted his freedom in exchange for coordinates of the location inside a village in PoK.

Major Vikrant Dhanoa had caught him and done most of the interrogations. He was not completely sure whether to trust him or not and had presented the information to his COl Sreejt, his CO.

“He offered to guide us to the house where the terrorists will arrive tomorrow evening in exchange for his freedom. Apart from that, we don’t have any reason to trust him.”

“The location you’ve marked on the map is not an easy target. We can’t hope to hit it with artillery unless shells are fired near vertically, the mountain peaks provide a good cover.”

“To top that, there are a number of civilian houses nearby. Pakis have deliberately chosen this location to hide the jihadis. If we hit them with artillery, then we are villains. Our mortars can’t reach them either.” he added as an afterthought.

“What about our informers in the area ? Do we have any updates from them ?”

“Yes, he has actually confirmed Abdullah’s claim. He had reported presence of some Pakistani military vehicles near the village last Saturday. This is just a temporary summer settlement for labourers who work in farms nearby. It’s mostly empty in winters, but will have a few people in houses nearby. There’s no motorable path, only a wooden bridge over the river which connects the settlement to the main road. Some bags were carried by porters from the vehicles in general direction of the village. He didn’t know exactly where and what was in them.”

Col Sreejith, stared intently at the map for a minute and marked a few spots. “There are only four feasible routes that these terrorists can use to infiltrate in to our sector.”

“And atleast one tunnel that Abdullah used. That’s the only one that we know of, there could be more.”

“Did he say anything about more tunnels ?

“He claimed that’s the only one, but I am not trusting him on this.”

Col Sreejith scoffed, “Yup, can’t trust him on this. Digging a 300 m tunnel in this terrain is not an easy job either. I doubt it’d be usable after 2-3 rain showers or winter snow.”

“If we set up ambushes, we’ll need 6-7 platoons to cover all four routes. Pakis have a good line of sight on major part of atleast two routes. We’ll need to keep them distracted while we set up ambushes.”

“Abdullah said that the group will reach there tonight, right ?”

“Yes and they’ll probably stay there for a day or two before trying to cross over.”

“That’s good for us. Dhanoa, send a 2 man recon team to the coordinates and ask them to keep an eye on our guests. Make sure that they carry enough supplies to keep watch for a minimum of two days.”

“Just a recon team Sir ?” Maj Dhanoa asked with some confusion in his voice.

“Yes, they’ll confirm the presence of terrorists and their exact coordinates. I am calling HQ to ask whether we can use their new Herons for some fun and profit. Just in case, keep some teams ready for ambush too. We may need to use them if this doesn’t work.”

“Heron UAVs sir ?” Maj Dhanoa was quite familiar with the capabilities of Israeli UAV and was happy to have some extra help.

Col Sreejit had some good news for him, “Yes Dhanoa, Herons with brand new Helina under their wings.” he said and grinned like a schoolboy with keys to a candy shop.

18 Hours Later

A two man team in Handwara military HQ stared silently at the bank of screens in front of them. The Heron UAV under their control was beaming live visual and thermal images of the terrain below. The new upgrades to Israeli UAVs had installed lighter, yet more powerful optics and thermal scanners along with datalinks for better data throughput. Another more significant upgrade was the brand new modified HELINA (Air launched version of Nag anti-tank missile). It was called HELINA as it was HELIcopter launched version of NAg missile. No one had thought of a similar clever name for nearly similar UAV launched version yet, so they were calling it HELINA. Two of these missiles were attached to underwing pods, one on each wing. USA was already using such a system involving MQ-1 Predator drones and Hellfire missiles to great success just a few 100 kms to the west in Afghanistan.

The technicians noticed a laser designator mark on ground and reported it to their senior on phone. They had the permission to fire a few seconds later. One operator activated the missiles’ laser seeker and got both to lock on the lased target. He pulled the trigger and two HELINA missiles left their mounts and raced to the target.

The two man recon team of Indian soldiers saw a blur of light drop near vertically on the mud house. There was a loud explosion and walls and roof of the single story house exploded outwards with debris flying everywhere. Few people from nearby houses came running out fearing for their lives in yet another artillery duel. They were greeted by sight of the destroyed house which was supposedly occupied by army personnel. A heavily bearded man stumbled out of the barely standing doorway with his clothing in tatters and coughing blood. He walked two steps and collapsed in a heap with his hands outstretched. The gory sight was enough to scare the onlookers to run away in any direction they saw fit.

Successful hit confirmed, the recon team packed up their laser designator and started the march back to their base across the border. Two missiles fired from kms above had killed 12 fanatical terrorists with pinpoint accuracy and no collateral damage.

Col Sreejiit saw the live video feed in his own office and made a mental note of asking HQ for 2-3 such drones under his command.
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 11

23 October 2016. Gujarat


The fishing boat’s engines were shutoff and it moved gently with the ocean waves. A Dornier Do 228 surveillance plane of Indian Coast Guard flew in circles a few hundred meters above it. All six people on the boat were lined up on the deck watching the plane anxiously awaiting further instructions. The Dornier had noticed the suspicious looking boat far from usual fishing grounds and ordered it to stop on radio.

Mohsin Safi smoked a cigarette with his feet dangling past the bow of boat and waited for an update on his satellite phone. He was a passenger on the boat with Pakistani registration and crew who were not so calm and fidgeted nervously. But there were a lot of things keeping them from trying to make a run. One immediate concern was the threat of a heavy machine gun on Dornier which could have killed every single person on the small boat in a few bursts even if they tried hiding below the deck.

Then it was the matter of a significant payment and threat of beheading by Ashraf Azam if they failed to do what Safi asked them to do.

Amad Butt, owner of the boat looked at the radio every few minutes praying fervently. Safi looked at him, smiled and uttered something asking him to not worry. Although he didn’t have any contraband on his boat on this run, he was not sure about what his passenger was carrying. He was tempted to go and check the small bag that Safi had carried on to the boat, but memory of smiling face of Azam as he threatened to behead him stopped him.

He had been working as a runner for Azam for many years now, carrying all sorts of goods for him from Indian coast in Gujarat to Sindh in Pakistan. He had seen one execution done by Azam on the sea himself when the unfortunate victim had dumped some cargo in to the sea after being spooked by a Pakistani naval ship. Like most devout muslims, he believed that he’d get 72 virgins in heaven. But he didn’t want to get beheaded slowly like a halaled goat to get there.

There was a notification on Safi’s phone and he got up to stretch his limbs. He walked to Butt and offered him a cigarette. Butt could barely read, but he recognised the expensive Davidoff brand which he had carried on his boat for smuggling quite a few times. He moved his hand to pull out one cigarette, but Safi handed him the whole, still mostly full pack and said, “We should be good to go in a few minutes. Get ready.”

Butt didn’t seem convinced but nodded. Few minutes later, Dornier gained altitude and went out of their sight towards Indian coastline. Butt and rest of his crew stared blankly at Shafi as if asking what now ?

Shafi grinned, “Ashraf bhai has long arms. We’re free to go.”

Butt could hardly believe that. He had almost started making plans about his time in an Indian jail and number of years before authorities from India and Pakistan would have enough numbers for a prisoner swap. One of his maternal cousins, a regular fisherman had spent 3 years in an Indian jail when he was caught fishing in Indian waters. Butt was not the type of person to look a gift horse in the mouth. He ordered his crew to lift the anchor and start the engine. The small diesel boat was chugging on to it’s destination in a few minutes.

Shafi stayed on deck, scanning the sea around them and occasionally checking his satellite phone. Soon he gave directions to Butt and they saw another boat standing still in the water, just like Azam had said. Both boats got close, Shafi got on to the other one and waved back. Butt heaved a sigh of relief on completing his part of the mission and turned back to go home. All that excitement was enough to make him look forward to reach back home and down a few drinks even with his quarrelsome wife staring daggers at him.

Shafi stood on the deck watching the other boat recede away in to a small speck. He kept watching till he saw and then heard a faint explosion in the distance. Butt’s boat sank within a minute with all hands on deck. Crew of his new boat didn’t even give a second glance to the spectacle or to their new passenger.

26 October 2016, Udaipur
Kishan Jha stood up to shake hands with Mohsin Shafi. It had been eleven years since they had seen each other. “Are you going to keep this beard even now ?” He said as a way of greeting.

Shafi pointed to Jha’s belly, “I’ll shave it off as soon this disappears.”

Jha laughed, “That’s not going to happen my friend. Do I call you Mohsin Shafi or Sudarshan Tomar or do you want a completely new identity now that you’re back ?”

“Nine years in Pakistan living under a false name was enough. It’ll be good to be addressed by my real name again.”

“Sudarshan Tomar it is then. Welcome back to your own country.” Jha nodded approvingly “There is still some work to do before we do anything else. Arvind Sahay will be here shortly for debriefing and details about the spy network you set up there. You’ll need to describe your missions from beginning till the end, don’t leave out any detail. “

Tomar worked in Rajasthan Police as an Assistant Sub-Inspector before he was deputed to Intelligence Bureau. From there, he was contacted by Kishan Jha and offered a job as a secret undercover agent in Pakistan. Tomar was first sent to Jamnagar and then to Indore for his undercover training. His training over 15 months taught advanced intelligence gathering techniques, covert communications, proficiency in various weapons and how to blend in as a muslim. He also learnt Urdu and Arabic and studied some Islamic theology and history. After his training, he spent a year in muslim areas of western Uttar Pradesh and coastal Gujarat as an under cover agent honing his skills.

Jha then sent him to Dubai, where he spent 5 months learning details about the city and it’s culture he’d need later. He was then given a new cover with some documents, money and detailed instructions on what to do further. His new identity put him as only son of Pakistani nationals who had lived in Dubai for most of their adult lives and passed away a few years back. After their deaths, he had sold off most of the possessions and came back to Pakistan to try his luck. The passport and other identification papers provided to him were quite good and he had no problem reaching Karachi.

Once there, he was contacted by a Sindhi named Abdul Noor who provided him a place to stay and showed him around the city. Noor by himself was quite unremarkable and he was owner of a stationery shop in the city. He then introduced him to another local named Ashraf Azam who had deep links with Karachi’s underworld and law enforcement alike. Azam owned a number of legal, illegal and somewhere in between types of businesses all over the city. Shafi was given job of manager of a restaurant named Dynasty Cafe in an upscale area of Karachi. It had a dedicated clientele of a number of elites of the city which included businessmen, police, armed forces and politicians. It had quite a few dishes from Chinese and Sindhi cuisines printed on the menu. But it made a lot more money selling smuggled liquor, hosting gambling parties and providing discreet meeting places to elites of Pakistani society.

A significant portion of the earnings were given to Karachi police and agents of various other security agencies which dropped in from time to time. Dynasty Cafe had powerful patrons who valued their privacy, so business was pretty good.

Shafi spent his first four years in Pakistan establishing himself, cultivating resources and getting a feel of the place. To cement his cover, he married the divorced daughter of a shopkeeper next to the restaurant and bought a house. His four years of work had brought him close to a lot of people of interest. He had links with smugglers who dabbled in transport of drugs, alcohol, gold, luxury items, weapons and various other items of interest to his patrons. He was arrested twice and put in lockup. Once when caught with contraband liquor in his car and once again when a senior police officer developed a dispute with Azam. He managed to get out both times without blowing his cover and the arrests and quick releases raised his street reputation.

His handlers assigned him to cultivate a few assets in Pakistani military which was a lot more dangerous but overall not that difficult job. There are a lot of dedicated professionals in Pakistani military, but their main focus is to enrich themselves. Most of Pakistani military activities are related to land grabbing, business control, taking grafts and controlling politicians in one way or another. So getting a few Pakistani personnel from Army and Navy on his payroll was not a very difficult task. Direct payments, help with visa or residence in a western country, few cases of liquor, introduction to a senior official, mediation for a mostly illegal business venture and even blackmailing tactics were used to set up a fairly robust spying ring.

Safi kept a very low profile and almost never dealt directly with his sources. That’s how he managed to stay undetected for so long. During his nine years in Pakistan, he funneled arms and intelligence to Baloch separatists, collected enough intelligence about Pakistani naval assets and army bases in Karachi and nearby areas to fill up a whole library. His dirt sheet on the rich and elite of Pakistani polity and military was even more extensive which proved to be invaluable for RAW. His best work was his intelligence on Chinese and their links with Pakistani politicians and military. This intelligence reached a few important desks in RAW as well as a number of other places which made decisions about Indian foreign policy and defence.

In mid 2015, he expressed his desire to go back home. There was a limit to which he could collect intelligence efficiently without getting caught. RAW realised that and sent three other agents which were established by Safi in his own place. Only thing he felt bad about was leaving the woman he married without any goodbye. But he had left a house and enough cash for her to last her life. It’d not be that bad for her to believe that her husband was killed during a smuggling trip to India.
 

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When could we expect the next update?
Posted one just now. If you wish to read 2-3 chapters in advance, you can check link posted in 1st post of this thread. I post here 3-4 days later after I am reasonable sure that there wouldn't be any more edits.
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 12

7 November 2016


Mob rampage over cattle theft in Meerut leaves 5 dead. – Dainik Bharat News

Five people died and twenty one were injured in an incident of mob violence in Meerut yesterday. The violence started after a mob of locals attacked a local police station to protest the arrest of three people under charges of cattle theft. Meanwhile, another mob attacked the house of person who had lodged the FIR about three cows stolen from his house. He was dragged out of his house by the mob and beaten to death in the street. All of his family members suffered serious injuries in during the assault too. His son and wife later died in hospital. Another mob at police station prevented the police from leaving the police station to help the besieged family and set fire to police station and five vehicles parked there.

The two mobs went on a rampage later and set fire to three other houses, multiple vehicles and shops in the area. A video recorded by a resident shows some people who were part of the mob gathering in front of a local mosque and carrying out petrol bombs and sharp edged weapons from inside. Victims of the mob violence admitted in hospital alleged that the local maulvi (islamic cleric) made announcements on loudspeaker calling for an emergency gathering. They also alleged that the mob was shouting Islamic slogans during their arson and assault on people.

This part of Meerut is infamous for cattle theft by organised gangs since quite some time. Local chapter of Bharatiya Hindu Sangh (BHS) released a press statement asking for quick arrests of the perpetrators and provision of security for the local Hindus which are a minority in the area. Some members of BHS were arrested by the police when they tried to take out a protest march against the violence and alleged non-action of local police.


This is the third such incident of mob violence and rioting in last 2 months. On 3rd July, there was a similar incident in Hyderabad when a gathering to discuss the allegedly islamophobic content on Facebook turned violent leading to 6 deaths and multiple acts of arson. On 9th August, another mob had damaged a temple in Thane which was allegedly encroaching on a local graveyard. Elderly priest of the 160 years old temple was stabbed to death and all idols destroyed by the rampaging mob.

Journalist Baba Naqli condemned the registration of FIR against the alleged cattle thieves calling it misuse of state machinery by militant Hindus against peaceful muslims just trying to earn a living. Noted Hindi film personality Bhara Dancekar posted a picture of her holding a poster which read, “BHS should be ashamed” and asked muslims should not be discriminated against due to allegations of a few militant organisations. Another Bollywood personality Khusroddin Khan claimed that she now feels unsafe in India because of hatred against muslims.


Same Day, New Delhi

HM Sudarshan didn’t seem happy. A few sections including a few in his own party had already started calling for his resignation over a spate of riots in different parts of the country. He had summoned Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) Secretary Govidam Rao and Intelligence Bureau’s (IB) Deputy Director Ranjeet Shekhar to the multi department meet with NSA Dhumal,and DM Kamat being other participants. PM and EAM were not present as they were on a state visit to Saudi Arabia.

Officials from IB and RAW had been summoned by the minister multiple times in last few months after each such incident.


NSA Dhumal put up a few pictures on a screen. “This intelligence was collected by our assets in Pakistan few weeks back. An official from Deen Maryam Inc. gave USD 1,10,000 in cash from a hawala operator in May this year. We have a tap on this operator as his services are being used by a few people we monitor there. The money trail led us to Hong Kong registered shell company used by their military generals for collecting their cuts. Then shortly after, he deposited USD 1,05,000 in accounts of people related to or working with some NGOs, political parties and organisations like Islamic Students Federation (ISF), NGO Bediyan Tod, Socialist Party of India and their student wings in two universities in New Delhi.

And as most of you may know already, every single riot or any other islam related controversy in India since last three years has footprints of one or more such organisations.We have reasons to believe that atleast 3 riots this year including the one last week Meerut were sponsored by Pakistanis. Some of the incidents were definitely due to latent islamism in India. But we should start putting more focus on the external instigators too.”

HM stared at the screen and then spoke, “Are we taking any action against these foreign agents and their collaborators here yet ?”

NSA Dhumal looked around the room not sure about whom the question was directed at. Ranjeet Shekhar spoke first after some pause, “I can answer about local instigators. We have many of these people under surveillance already. But just transfer of money is not enough to make a strong case against them. We have made some progress against a few of them by communication records, HUMINT and witnesses. It’s good enough to just arrest them, but we’ll need a bit more to get them in jail. “

Shekhar looked through his notes before resuming, “For example, we have this Sohail Ayub of ISF. Five lakh rupees were transferred to bank account of his cousin Tufail Ayub. Most of that money was then withdrawn in next 4-5 days. Then there is this Rajdweeb Banerjee of Today’s India who was very supportive of muslim mobs and published a lot of fake and provocative articles. 7.5 lakh were deposited in his wife Khannum Sharafa’s account.



We can get people like Tufail and Khannum arrested or at least taken in for questioning right now. Some of them can be imprisoned too, but the charges will be comparatively lenient and hard to prove. Even as we speak, our people are hard at work following the money trail and gathering more evidence. We need 12-15 days more to have enough evidence for strong chargesheets. ”

DM nodded in approval, “That’s good to hear, but you need to pickup the pace. We can’t give these traitors too much time.” He then looked at RAW’s Govindam Rao, “What about their financiers in Pakistan and elsewhere ?”

“We’ve managed to activate a few more assets in Pakistan over the last 2 years. We have a few planned missions that were shared for approval. As far as their agents in Nepal, Bangladesh and middle-east are concerned, we are keeping them under close watch. Some of them can be neutralised or arrested as soon as we get approval. You already know of our proa-active actions on the border.

Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is trying to use muslims in India to replicate what they’re doing in Kashmir. But we have some leverage against them too. Every group in Pakistan like Balochis, Shias, Pakhtoons, people of PoJK, Sindhis, Punjabis and many others have one or more problems with Pakstani state and each other.

Additionally, we can make most parts of Balochistan, Pak Occupied Kashmir and most of their border with Afghanistan very hot. We have a few high level assets in Afghan National Army (ANA) and their intelligence agency Khadamat-e Aetela’at-e Dawlati (KHAD) who hate Pakistanis with a passion. Only problem with Paki western sector is meddling by Americans and the leaks in Aghan agencies. Even Americans don’t trust them much.”

Rao explained and stopped for a breather only to get another question by DM, “What about the economy part ?”

“We are putting some effort into the Pakistani economy. It’s not like whatever they are doing is helping them, but a bit of push from our side will help them slide down the gutter much faster. One major issue is that most of their profitable ventures are controlled by military and their allies in China, middle-east and even USA are not very cooperative when it comes to curtailing their illegal activities.

I am no economist myself, but whatever China is doing in Pakistan seems to be bankrupting Pakistanis. At the same time, I request that we get the approvals to do something about some of their strategic projects like ports, railways and roads, specially for CPEC projects. Pakistani public doesn’t realise this, but they are paying through their nose for something that’ll be useful for China only. It’ll be in our interests to see that some of Chinese projects are delayed or abandoned there. ”
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 13

19 November 2016
National Technical Research Organisation, New Delhi


The latest high resolution satellite images along with notes about things of interest had arrived at the desk of senior analyst Subhash Punia. The tall and burly Jaat from small town Haryana looked a bit out of place in a desk job analysing complicated intelligence briefs. But he was one of the sharpest minds in the secretive agency who had a reputation of making out patterns in intelligence reports which most other people would dismiss as useless chaos. He was going through the imagery analysis reports of Pakistani air bases when one particular point caught his eye.

The report written by a junior imagery analyst mentioned creation of new semi-permanent structures next to Belab airstrip. The airstrip was located in the middle of nowhere, 150 km west of LoraLai and Multan lay 120 km east. Former had a cantonment of Frontier Constabulary, a Pakistani paramilitary mostly meant for law-enforcement, anti-smuggling and similar activities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and sometimes in other parts of the country. Closest sign of any human habitation was an MG Syed Cement Plant and the small residential colony 2 km south of it. Effective control of the plant was in hands of Pakistani army for all intents and purposes, just like majority of other profitable businesses in the country.

The images and analysis further suggested that the structures which looked like air traffic control tower and civilian terminal seemed a bit too large for the small airstrip. It was 1400 m long and barely had any traffic apart from very rare small planes and helicopters. Constructing such large temporary structures for an airstrip was somewhat strange and didn’t fulfill any real purpose.

Multiple high resolution pictures did show some armed people in and around the structure and their positions and movements suggested that it was being used as a training area instead of airport infrastructure.

Punia stared at the screen for a few minutes and then quickly opened a report he had read a few days back. It was based on debriefing of a RAW agent extracted out of Pakistan a few weeks back and had a few updates added to it provided by the other agents put in his place. One of the updates had mentioned arrivals of a group of 15-18 “daarhiis” (beards) in the area. They were living in tents away from the plant but near the airstrip and were noticed driving out to LoraLai in civilian cars driven by drivers with fauji bearings. The local asset had reported that the group was a mix of some Mirpuris, Pathans and Punjabis who usually went out in groups of 5-6 every 4-5 days.

To a casual observer, it looked like that the facility was being used by FC or some other Pakistani organisation for counter-terrorism training. But the local intelligence reports went against it. He went through the agency’s database of aerial imagery looking for something to confirm his suspicions. He fed the design of new Belab facility into a custom designed software built for the agency and scored a partial hit almost immediately. The basic design matched that of Kolkata airport.

He wrote his own report about this and marked it important before sending it to RAW Joint Secretary Shankar Kaushik. 2 hours after sending the report, he was called by Kaushik and asked to attend a meeting with a few other officials the next day.

He reached the meeting room the next morning attended by Kaushik, Major Abhinav Samant from Military Intelligence (MI) and two officers from Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) Girish Joshi and Arvind Sahay. All of them had read his report and asked him a few questions about it. Joshi’s job was to analyse the financial transactions made by Pakistan based organisations of interest. He was first to offer some information of his own, “We had noticed a few suspicious transactions from bank accounts belonging to Pakistani Jamat-Ul-Dawa to bank accounts of a few Pakistani citizens. We have a tap on databases of some of those banks and managed to get pictures of four account holders. All of them are males aged between 20 to 25, three from Mirpur and one from Lahore. We’re now working with our local assets in LoraLai to confirm if these four are part of the group present there. We expect to get confirmation in 3-4 days.”

Major Samant looked through the pictures and transaction details, “All of them got exactly 5 lakh Pakistani Rupees in one to two transfers from the same four accounts. The patterns speak for themselves. This is the price for their lives as jihadis.”

Punia felt a bit out of touch and asked a question of his own, “Are we sure that people in this list are the same as those mentioned in my report? What gave this impression?”

Arvind Sahay answered, “This is a long story and I am making it short. We had helped Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Bureau (CTIB) of Bangladesh catch a large shipment of arms and a few people of interest some time back. We interrogated the prisoners and went through the data captured from them. Most of the weapons were meant for NNFC and a few other terrorist groups in India and Bangladesh. Additionally, there was a smaller package of 25 assault rifles, 70 grenades. 2 RPGs and some explosives that were supposed to be transferred to someone related to BMC politician Tahir Hussain based in Hingalganj, near India-Bangladesh border.

This Hussain had received a payment of 20 lakh from the JuD around the same time rest of the transfers were done. When you submitted that report about the replica of Kolkata airport terminal and presence of suspicious outsiders, Joshi here put it together and called this meeting. We’re not 100% sure if their intentions and possible targets yet.

That’s why we’ll be working together on this mission with Major Samant from MI. Going by the intelligence collected so far, it seems like that Pakis are trying to do something unusually big, something like 2007 Mumbai attack. Normally Pakis train terrorists in ISI and Army operated training camps in PoK and push in the terrorists across J&K LOC. Even if these terrorists have already received regular training in PoK, bringing them to a faroff airstrip for an unusually detailed and expensive training program raises a lot of red flags.

Additionally, the cement plant next to the airstrip is owned by some people who’ve served.

Most of the routes which these terrorists use to infiltrate into J&K will be closed very soon due to snow. Some are already snowed over. Lately Pakis have started to push in terrorists even during winters, but their success rate is quite low. All evidence says that these terrorists will use Bangladesh route to cross over to India and their most likely target is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata. It is a civilian target and any attack there will be nothing short of catastrophic.

Your job will be to keep an eye on them from the sky, our assets in the region will be monitoring their movements and should be able confirm the identities. At the same time, we’ll keep a close watch on Tahir Hussain and his contacts. We’ll take care of him at a later date. Any action against him and his contacts in Bangladesh right now will alert Pakis. Bangladeshi intelligence has promised their full cooperation to us. They are pretty happy with our help with foiling a few major terrorist attacks in their territory. We are trying to gather ELINT (Electronics Intelligence) at the same time. If they’re using satellite phones or even mobiles, we may be able to get a toehold. At the same time, we’re sharing this data with Americans and see what they come up with.

Our mission objective is to arrest or kill the bastards as soon as they try entering India. “

3rd December 2016

Satellite pictures around three weeks after the meeting showed that the tents near the airstrip were removed and most of the temporary structures without signs of any movement. Girish Joshi had managed to confirm the identities of three suspects as Amanatullah from Haji Kot, Lahore, Assad Ul’Din from Chitterpari, Mirpur and Abdul Qadir from Muridke.

22 years old Assad was the son of two Pakistani immigrants living in London and had come to Mirpur for a vacation previous year and to meet the rest of his family in Mirpur. For unknown reasons, he had not taken a flight back home and had gone underground. On his Facebook profile, he had posted a long rant against atrocities of kafirs on muslims and claimed to have dedicated his life for glory of islam.

23 years old Amanatullah was one of 7 children in his family and he worked as a porter for Pakistani army in Attock. He managed to send 3000-4000 PKR every month to his family for a few months after moving there. Then he had called his family one day, expressed his desire to be an Islamic mujahid and deposited PKR 5 lakh in the family’s account.

Abdul Qadir, 21 years old son of an islamic preacher in Muridke was the third suspect. His father was a cleric in a local salafi mosque. Abdul had spent most of his life helping out his father in the mosque’s madrasa.

During their training period in Belab, the terrorists in training were not allowed any contact with the outside world. Few of them were taken to LoraLai every 4-5 days where they relaxed and some of them called their families. A RAW operative managed to get the number of Amanatullah’s father, but a tap couldn’t be placed on his phone before the camp was disbanded. Surveillance on Tahir Hussain gave hints that he was supposed to get a group of eight to ten people out of Bangladesh in to India and host them for two to three days in one of his houses in Kolkata.

RAW had a bit of luck, when they captured image of Abdul Qadir in surveillance recordings of Dhaka airport. He had arrived in Bangladesh via a flight from Malaysia on a Pakistani passport with a different name. CTIB managed to locate him by tracing his taxi to a double story house in Shantibagh, 7-8 km from the border. Three other people were already staying there and five more joined in a few days later. Abdul Qadir was among the last. Surveillance of the house led them to a man named Sharjeel Ajiz from Pakistani embassy who visited the house in an unmarked car three times in twelve days. During his second visit, he entered the house carrying two bags. ELINT surveillance detected the presence of two Thuraya satellite phones but no call was placed from them.

On the evening of 10th November, all 9 men left the house in three cars one after the other and drove towards Ichamati river which formed the border between India and Bangladesh. Most of the area was under dense fog and only the thermal imaging cameras on the surveillance UAV tailing them had constant eye on them. They got into a motor boat which was waiting for them and crossed in to Indian side under cover of darkness and fog.

On Indian side, there were two trucks waiting for them. The area on Indian side had a lot of brick kilns, so a few trucks were always moving in and out of the area. All nine of them got into two trucks laden with bricks which dropped them just outside Kolkata. Two SUVs belonging to Tahir Hussain were waiting for them there which took them to a house belonging to his brother. Once inside the house, one of the satellite phones was switched on and a call placed to a number in Rawalpindi. One hour later, a team of National Security Guards (NSG) raided the house and arrested 11 people from the house. Two other people were identified as Tahir’s brother and the other one his aide and member of BMC. He himself was picked up by a NIA team as he was driving to his home a few minutes later. 10 AK rifles with multiple full magazines, material to make IEDs, grenades and three RPGs were recovered from a hidden cabinet in the house and two imported pistols from Tahir’s car.

There were some news reports about the disappearance of the local politician and arrests of some illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Subhash Punia, Girish Joshi, Arvind Sahay, Major Abhinav Samant and some other people were given promotions and commendations in private that not many people even in their own agencies were aware of. Indian public had been protected against yet another incident of Pakistan sponsored islamic terrorism and no one outside a small circle was any wiser.

7th December 2016
14:30, West of Multan


Birgadier Muhammad Taj was driving his official car himself for a change. He had taken over the wheel after they had gotten out of the congested city to the main highway as a way to blow off some steam. His driver was sitting on the passenger seat praying to allah for their safety as the Brigadier pushed the not that new car to its limits. A team of bodyguards followed them in a SUV few meters behind.

His morning meeting with Lt General Hamid Hussain, Director General ISI and a few other ranking officers of the agency had not gone very well. The failure of Kolkata airport attack under his leadership had brought his reputation down by many notches and his promotion seemed to be a far fetched dream. Lt Gen Hussain had almost laughed at his face when he tried proposing another plan to hit India. If his previous plan had succeeded, he could have expected reaching the rank of Lt General and perhaps even General before his retirement. But the setback had proven to be costly and he doubted if he’d ever get promoted to a higher rank. He had not suffered any official punishment like a transfer, written or verbal rebukes due to his seniority and family clout. In his place, one of his closest aides, a Major Salman Butt had been transferred to Taftan, an ugly border town on Pak-Iran border. Major Butt had been personally involved in training and subsequent shortlisting of the final team. His transfer orders had come directly from the DG office and he hadn’t been given even a single chance to explain himself.

One saving grace was his family owned cement plant on which he could rely to lead a comfortable life even without the ISI job. His uncle, a retired Rear Admiral wanted him to get more involved with the working of the plant and had asked him to go there to sort out some labour related problems. The plant itself was far out of any other human habitation and he wanted to stop at one of his favourite dhabas (roadside restaurant) before dealing with yet another problem. Thankfully the dingy, yet popular place still had most of his favourite lunch items and he had his fill before resuming the drive.

The familiar sight of old family owned plant spread over hundreds of acres came up on the windscreen and he started to consider resigning to start working at the plant full time. It was far away from the noise of big city, he’d have a huge apartment in a quiet location and there’d be no need to lose sleep over the clusterfuck which most ISI missions usually turned out to be. He’d still need to deal with a lot of high ranking military officers to ensure that bribes were paid on time to ensure smooth sales, but even that procedure had been set up a long time back and the job would be a lot less taxing than this spy stuff.

The security guards raised the barrier on seeing his official car and saluted smartly. Many of these people were ex-servicemen from his uncle’s and father’s old units and they gave him same amount of respect. He drove up to the porch of main office, switched off the engine and took a deep breath. It proved to be his last as a powerful explosion ripped the car into thousands of pieces just then. Front of the building was completely destroyed and most of the windows in nearby buildings were shattered.

Same Day, Taftan Bazar

Major Salman Butt was not enjoying his new posting in the godforsaken town at all. It had all the perils of a field posting with none of the perks. He had to keep track of all the rebels belonging to dozens of Balochi, Afghan and even Pakistani factions running in and out of the porous border with zero infrastructure and support. Only other thing of interest was a copper mine around 30 km from the main town which employed a lot of Chinese. He had wondered why the mine in Pakistan employed more Chinese than local Pakistanis. But he never had the time to think about it much.

His new boss visited the place maybe twice a year, but wanted a work report every other day. One thing that helped him deal with all the bullshit was a small shop which existed to cater to the Chinese. It had a stock of imported and smuggled snacks, alcohol and porn which made life somewhat bearable. The shopkeeper sold him stuff at a discounted rate after realising that he was military, so Butt had that going for him. His fifth bottle of whiskey since his transfer less than three weeks back was already finished and he wanted to get 3-4 of them at one visit.

After the purchase, he got back in to his car and took a couple of long swigs straight from the bottle. He needed some relief after the idiotic conversation he had with a local politician who thought of himself as a master spy of sorts. The strong liquor burnt his insides but the numbness felt good. He started the car and started to take a turn to get on to the main road Lost in his thoughts, he failed to see a huge 18 wheeler truck from the mine barreling down the road. The massive truck hit his small car on the driver’s side and it rolled 4-5 times before stopping on the asphalt. Major Butt died within minutes of the impact, his body broken in numerous places.

9th December 2016
20:45 Hours, Skardu Airbase, PoJK


Sahir Mehmood was having a well deserved nap in his house after a hard day of labour in his farm right next to Skardu airbase in Pak Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. There was hardly any traffic on the barely used airstrip on most days. A few small civilian passenger jets and sometimes some military planes and helicopters used it every now and then. Most of the time it was pretty quiet, just the way he liked it. Even his house was on the far end of the village and his nearest neighbour was 300 meters away. The electricity supply to his neighbourhood and most of the region was patchy even in the best of times. So he preferred to go to sleep early and wake up at sunrise to work in his fields and then do a bit of socialising and other stuff before finishing the day.

His sleep was interrupted by the loud noise of a jet aircraft passing so close to the ground that the windows of his house rattled. He didn’t mind that much during the day time, but hated the ruckus they made at night. He peeked out of his window to see a orange-yellow flame of a jet engine coming close to the ground and disappear as it went out of sight, followed by another a minute later. He knew there’d be still more noise as the aircraft would roll down the taxiway to stop at airport apron to park for the night. The spot was only 500 meters from his house and he lay waiting for the aircraft to reach there and turn off their noisy engines.

Four of the Pakistani newest JF-17 Thunder fighter aircrafts had been temporarily deployed to the airfield around a week back and this disturbance at night was now almost a routine. He got out of his bed and picked up the torch to go to kitchen to get a glass of water. He came back carrying the glass and put it on floor next to the bed preparing to go to sleep again. He sighed with relief as the noise of jet engines started to wind down just then. Just before the noise completely stopped, he heard two near simultaneous blasts and then saw two pillars of flames rising above the boundary wall of airport in the distance. He put on his slippers in a hurry spilling the cold water on his feet. He cursed and pulled the quilt off his wife who was still sitting rubbing his eyes and demanding to know what was going on. He sprinted out of the house to have a better look himself and had reached gate of his property when he noticed 3 men walking briskly on the street outside. He shined his torch on them just to hear one of the men growl in Balti (local language), “Go inside and stay quiet if you know what’s best for you.”

Mehmood noticed a black barrel pointed in his direction and didn’t need further convincing. He turned immediately and shooed his bewildered wife inside the house asking her to stay quiet and not ask any questions. It was only around 02:30 in the morning that he came to know from some investigating Pakistani soldiers that someone had destroyed four of PAF’s newest fighter jets which were brought in from China, assembled and painted in Pakistan just a few months back.
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 14

22 June 2017
Amsterdam
11:00 am, Local Time


Roland Bakker had been staring at his desktop screens for the whole night with just a few bathroom and coffee breaks. His work as a security analyst for one of the top network security firms in Europe and his own nature meant that he never could develop a healthy work life balance. It was not uncommon for him to spend weeks cooped up in his apartment ignoring all but most vital phone calls and emails. He considered himself to be a kind of internet detective keeping poorly designed computer and communication networks safe from malicious people and more often than not, human stupidity.

Most of his work was done solo and he enjoyed the focus that solitude provided him. But for this job, he had to take assistance from another person. Few months back, he had discovered some information about security flaws in the new network equipment which was being used in most of western world. He had seen a data dump leaked by an anonymous hacker on a dark web forum which was soon taken offline. But he had managed to download the dump and had spent 2 months labouriously analysing every bit of it.

There was just enough information for him to discover that many telecom exchanges in Europe were transmitting user data to certain servers in a way they were not supposed to. But his expertise had reached it’s limits and he needed help from a hardware expert who specialised in chip design. They had both worked for 6 weeks putting together puzzle pieces one by one and it seemed like all the hard work was finally bearing fruit.

He read the email that his hardware expert friend had sent and dialled his boss’s number.

“Hey Roland, you finally called. I was getting worried about you.” Jasper said in his usual cheerful tone.

“Hello Jasper. Sure you were. I wish I had more time to ask what exactly had gotten you worried, but this is very important and I need your approval immediately.”

Jasper took a serious tone of voice, “Ofcourse, what is this about?”

Roland started talking even before Jasper had finished. “You know about the data leaks from telecom exchanges I was working on, right? The thing is, well as far as I’ve been able to discover that these are not random data leaks but very cleverly planned thefts. This is very serious.”

“All the data thefts are serious in our line of work Roland”, came the reply.

“Well, that’s true but I can guarantee you that this one is going to be as big as Edward Snowden incident. But it’s not the Americans this time but Chinese and you wouldn’t believe how celeverly they have done it. They have their malware in almost every single telecom exchange which has equipment from Xianji. Actually the malware is a very small chip, looks just like a normal diode and is embedded in almost every single Xianji router and switch I’ve managed to analyse. I had Merlin go over the chip and he was the one who actually discovered it.”

“Wait, wait. Jasper interjected. “What exactly have you discovered?”

“In case you didn’t know, a very large number of telecom exchanges which handle voice and data traffic have Xianji hardware these days. This is not just limited to 2-3 countries, but atleast 40 that I know of. And Chinese are eavesdropping on all that data flowing through their equipment. I’ve sent you circuit level analysis of the chip done by Merlin and a sample of data which it transmits to a group of servers spread in different parts of the world. Chinese have the capability to steal almost any type of voice or computer networks data with this and they’re doing it right now.

And before you ask; No, Xianji is not gathering generic anonymous user or diagnostic data or downloading updates or any other benign stuff. These are data dumps from our data exchanges being stolen by Xianji. Well by Chinese government to be exact.”

Jasper stayed quiet for a moment, then asked, “How sure are you about this? You know that information of this kind can disrupt international relations, right?”

“I’d not have called you if I was not sure.”Came the reply.

“When can you send me a full report? I want to get it checked and published as soon as possible.”

“You’ll get it by tomorrow evening. Bye for now“ Roland replied and disconnected the call.

27 June 2017
BNN LIVE NEWS


Xijiang accused of spying on it’s users

In a potentially explosive development, one Amsterdam based web security firm has claimed that Xijiang, one of the biggest telecommunication companies in the world is running a massive global spying ring through it’s equipment. They are alleged to be stealing user data through it’s equipment which is being used in multiple telecom networks around the world. What makes it even more concerning is that the data is apparently being stolen to help Chinese government spy on foreign citizens.

Axone Infosec, the company which published the article has further claimed that the majority of XIjiang’s telecom equipment used in data and voice traffic has a hardware trojan which captures data passing through it and sends it to unverified servers without the user’s knowledge. This trojan can also operate as a killswitch to cripple communication networks wherever they’re installed. In simple terms, it means that any one with access to this trojan can cripple vital telecom networks in a cyber attack. The article has detailed circuit diagrams of a very small chip which Axone claims has no other feasible purpose and yet is present on nearly two-thirds of Xijiang routers, switches and various other equipment they tested.

Xijiang has released a brief press statement dismissing Axone’s claim as mere fiction and claimed that the company is open to any legal investigation of it’s equipment by certified professionals. The press release also claimed that absolutely no user data is either captured or stolen by any of it’s equipment for spying or any other nefarious purpose. But this statement has done little to check the fall of share prices of the company which have fallen by 21% since the report was published.

Some right wing political parties in multiple countries including France, Sweden and Germany have already called for a total ban on all Chinese companies from bidding in creation of new 5G and broadband networks in Europe. This demand is gathering more supporters with each passing day. BPTEL, biggest telecom operator in France with 7 million subscribers on it’s Xijiang equipment based voice and data networks has said that it’s investigating the allegations.

Italian LHCom which was in talks with Xijiang for a new 5G network has suspended the process pending further investigations.

US Federal Communications Commission has also announced the creation of a committee to investigate this issue. Atleast two of the major American telecom companies use Xijiang equipment in their networks.

As of now, we are not sure whether these allegations are true or not. But this incident has brought the issue of user privacy and corporate espionage in limelight once again.
 

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