Kaalkut. A military thriller story.

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 15

1 July 2017
Office US Federal Communications Commission
15:00 Hours, Local Time


Wilford Sawicki, US Defence Secretary was not in the best of moods when he entered the meeting room. There were a lot of fires raging all through the world and he mostly felt overwhelmed trying to deal with them all. He had read the news about Xijiang spyware in one of his many briefings, but had not paid much attention to it. What happened in a few phone and internet companies was not directly related to his mandate. There were a lot more important things that needed his full attention like emergence of another islamist faction in Syria, Chinese activities in it’s neighbourhood and beyond to list a few.

So when he got a notice about an urgent meeting with Geoffery Stilwell, Chairman of US Federal Communications Commission, first thing he felt was exasperation. Now that he was in the meeting room unexpectedly 10 minutes early, he just wanted the whole thing to be over as soon as possible.

“Hello Mr Sawicki, thank you for giving us some of your time and I am very sorry to keep you waiting. There are some things related to this meeting which kept us busy. ” Stilwell rushed into the meeting room and offered his hand to the already bored Sawicki.”We are going to start the meeting right now. Under Secretary Richard Barrow from Homeland Security was supposed to join us too, but he got stuck in Florida. He’ll probably join us through a video link. There is a short presentation by Clarke Marias, our technical espionage expert. He will explain what we are doing.” No description was given about who the other four people were and Sawicki didn’t feel like asking.

He was followed in to the meeting room by 5 other people, each one with a tired expression on their faces. Marias fiddled with a digital projector and put a screenshot of Axone’s report on the screen.

He began after getting a nod from Stilwell, “As we are all aware this article declared that Xijiang is using hardware trojans in it’s telecommunications equipment. These trojans or backdoors are stealing data from our voice and computer networks and sending it to Chinese operated servers.”

Sawicki interrupted, “ Pardon me for interrupting Mr Marias. As far as I know, Xijiang has no presence in our military networks.So what’s my role in this meeting?”

Stilwell nodded, “You’re right, we’re coming to your point just now.”

Marias resumed his briefing, “As Mr Defence Secretary mentioned, Xijiang has been kept out from our military networks. But unfortunately a huge part of our civilian network including some vital parts like internet, telephones, some power plants, traffic control among others are using Xijiang equipment. We’ve done our own research about the Axone report. We actually started working on it a few months before this report was published and every thing that they’ve published is true.”

He clicked the forward button on the remote control to bring in a data network map of USA on screen. “I am assuming that all of us have read the report and our remarks in the meeting brief already. So I’ll save some time and not go over all those points again. Our focus will be on how it affects USA and what we can do about it.

This chart here shows the general outline of our communications structure and presence of Xijiang backdoors is indicated by red triangles. As you can see, two of our biggest telecommunication companies Cellcom and Mictel are using Xijiang’s equipment in a total of 29 states across USA. In total this covers 142 million mobile phones, 40 million broadband connections and 90 thousand dedicated leased line connections for vital civilian infrastructure such as traffic control, banks, stock exchanges, hospitals, electricity generation & distribution in addition to e-commerce and other internet infrastructure.

He paused to change the slide which presented names of some companies and government agencies. “With trojans in networks of these companies, China now has nearly full access to networks of all these companies and government infrastructure here which are vital for our national security and interests. We believe that China now has a huge database of data related to identities of our citizens, even their financial and medical records.

That itself is a huge security breach. But the worst part is that now they have nearly full access to our civilian infrastructure which is absolutely vital for national security. With these backdoors, they can cripple our power grids, hospitals, food distribution, internet, traffic and almost every other thing which is necessary to keep our country functioning properly. They can do it all from China without firing even a single bullet or bothering to arrange a huge cyber attack.”

“In short, if a war breaks out between USA and China, they can cripple most of our infrastructure within a few hours.” Sawicki said with a sigh. “How did they manage to install such spyware on such a wide scale? Why didn’t we know about it?”

Stilwell looked at the man sitting furthest away from him who spoke in a nervous voice. “I believe we can answer this question. My name is Bryan Kemp and this is Eric Adams. We are representing Cellcom and Mictel respectively. There is one simple reason how Xijiang managed to create such a strong foothold in our country; that is cost. The equipment bought from Xijiang was 25 to 40 percent cheaper than all other comparable competitors. Additionally, they offered us very favourable payment terms which made them the obvious choice. Even the installation and maintenance of first 2 years was included in the cost.

For Cellcom’s upgraded broadband network, we saved 110 million US dollars by choosing Xijiang.

They bid for the projects in open market, had all clearances from all government agencies including FCC, State Department and others. Not just in USA but in 18 other countries when we signed the contract with them. Now they are present in more than 40. There was no way for us to know they had installed backdoors in their equipment.”

Sawicki pointed to the mobile phone in his hand, “So if my mobile phone connection is serviced by either of these two companies, then Chinese have a tap on me?”

Stilwell hurried with his response, “ Not at all. All of our sensitive communications are through a secure network. I believe that it’s impossible for China to eavesdrop on it.”

“Fair enough. But what about phone or internet connection of my son or my parents or your family Mr Stilwell.”

“Well, I can’t really answer that with any certainty.” Stilwell answered uncomfortably.

Sawicki stared at the slide for a few moments and spoke again, “I believe we have one of the best and most extensive surveillance networks on the planet. How did Chinese manage to do all this without us knowing? How did that small Dutch company manage to discover this before us?”

Marias cleared his throat before answering, “We were investigating this for last 4 months. It took a long time due to reduced manpower and budget cuts. Also, we are not completely sure whether Chinese have activated these backdoors in USA already. It’s not like these backdoors continuously steal and transmit data. It’s done in very small bursts, encrypted and hidden very cleverly with normal data which makes it impossible to find without use of supercomputers powered decryption rigs. Axone managed to do it after they managed to lay their hands on a data dump and a partial decryption key posted on dark web.”

“So, what do we do now? Can we stop these backdoors from being used as kill switches and stealing our data? ” Sawicki didn’t have enough technical understanding of the issue. He understood the severity of it only in non-technical terms and wanted simple, to the point answers which could be understood and approved by people in the government with similar or even less knowledge.

In answer, Marias changed the slide and began, “We have some options. Whatever we’ve managed to learn so far indicates that the backdoor needs external commands to do whatever it can. If we can block the incoming commands then it wouldn’t turn on to either steal data or shutdown the network it’s connected to. Our teams are creating software patches which can be installed in majority of Xijiang equipment to do this. We should be able to release a working version in 4-6 days as a short-term measure. If we manage to find out IP addresses of servers the data is uploaded to, then we can investigate them to see what kind of data is being stolen and by whom. We actually do have some addresses, but those servers are just proxies which transmit the data to some other servers for storage and analysis. We suspect that the actual servers where data is stored may be hidden behind 2-3 such layers which will take a lot more time to analyse fully.”

“OK, how long will it take?”

“Once the software patches are ready, it’s up to them to install them as soon as possible.” Marias replied while looking at Kemp and Adams.

Kemp rubbed his neck nervously and responded, “Testing and installation of the patches on our nationwide network should take 8-10 days.”

Stilwell interjected, “8-10 days is too much. This is a matter of national security. Millions of lives are at stake. Once we release the patch, it should be installed in all of your network in no more than 2, at most 3 days. “

Adams opened his mouth as if to say something, but thought better of it.

Sawicki addressed Stilwell, “What if the software patch doesn’t work as expected?”

Stilwell smiled wryly, “Then we cut the cables or let Chinese do what they want. Even this software patch is a temporary solution at best. What we need is complete replacement of Xijiang equipment immediately. It’s not going to be quick, easy or cheap, but this has to be done as soon as possible and with minimal fuss.

There’s another thing. We should not make our vulnerability public for obvious reasons. We are supposed to take this to President too before we take more steps. So whatever options we have should be ready before meeting with him tomorrow.

In any case Cellcom and Mictel should get ready to replace Xijiang with a trusted non-Chinese vendor as soon as possible.”

Adams protested, “If the software patch works, there should not be any need for replacement. Any such step at this point will cause huge losses. We may even go out of business due to this.”

“Do you really want your customers to know that all of their data is being stolen by Chinese and you don’t want to put an end to it? When American public comes to know that their trusted internet and phone providers are routing their data through malware infested Chinese equipment, what do you think will happen? You’ll be lucky if the people just abandon your service. Knowing the pulse of United States as well as I do, both Cellcom and Mictel will be drowned in so many lawsuits that you’ll go bankrupt fighting them all. Take some advice from me. Take a hit of a few hundred millions, replace the equipment and you can save your reputation as well as companies. I don’t really think that you have any other choice.

When this goes to Congress, they’ll ban Xijiang without much hesitation and perhaps even impose restrictions on their clients. It shouldn’t be a very difficult decision for you as you hardly have any choice.”

Adams started, “In last 3 years, 4 non-Chinese companies have taken Xijiang and Wuman to international courts as well as their countries’ local courts and regulation bodies for theft of intellectual property including designs, corporate espionage and unfair trade practices. Not one government agency in any nation lifted a finger against the Chinese even when their own companies were getting screwed. Why would US Congress do anything now?”

Sawicki grimaced, “Are you saying that you knew of Xijiang’s wrongdoings and still gave them business leading up to this situation ? I should get both of you to appear for the committee meeting.”

Kemp and Adams both went pale and hurried to say something but Sawicki raised his hand and addressed Stilwell, “I think we should wrap up this meeting. President needs to hear about this as soon as possible before a decision is made. Is there any other thing that needs to be discussed now? ”
 

Chinmoy

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Seems the link of your blog is not working. While clicking on it, it does redirects to another chapter.
 

jamwal

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Thanks. Sorry for extended delay. I was traveling in mountains with limited internet access. Will be posting new posts soon.
@Shanunoy
Seems like a good idea, but I think they have better writers already and I don't have the energy to chase them
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 16

8 January 2018.
Mardan, Pakistan


Young Mohammed Tareen, the local Paksitani assistant to the lead construction engineer of an upcoming 900 MW coal power plant was having a bad day at work. He had earned his civil engineering degree in Germany and had spent 2 years learning Mandarin on his father’s suggestion. He wanted to stay there but there were not many jobs in a sluggish economy. Also, Europe had made life for Pakistanis a bit more difficult since last few years. He drifted through a bunch of low paid temporary jobs in Germany before his father, a retired Pakistani army Brigadier had pulled some strings to get him a job with Chinese construction giant, Infra Sino.

The company assigned him to the construction project of the 3rd largest coal powered power plant in Pakistan and he joined in as an assistant to the head engineer of the project, a Heng Bai from Shenzhen, China. There were nearly 400 people involved in first phase of the construction and he was one of only 75-80 Pakistanis in the whole team. He was also the senior most and youngest among all of them. Rest of Pakistani workers were all labourers on daily wages. All the construction work including design, measurements and machine operations was done by Chinese. He had joined the job expecting Chinese to be in a few important positions, but even the earth moving machines were being operated by Chinese workers. The amount of money spent as airfare of one single Chinese employee would have paid 3 month’s salary of a local Pakistani.

After arriving at the site, he had done some calculations about the finances of the project and it didn’t make much sense to him. There were 3 such power plants to be constructed by Infra Sino in Pakistan with equal investments from both sides. He did some research about similar projects elsewhere and realised that the amount of money being paid by Pakistani government was almost enough for construction of all 3 plants without any significant financial investment from IS. Additionally, Pakistani share of the revenue would have been zero for first 5 years of operation and only 30 percent after that.

The coal produced in Pakistan was not of desired quality and even that’d have been imported from China. Negotiations were going on with another Chinese company for mining of a high quality coal block in Balochistan, but they were asking for nearly full control of the mining, processing and sale of coal. If that contract was signed, Chinese could have sold that coal to the power plants at the same price as imported. Local Paksitani electricity boards were legally bound to purchase and distribute the electricity produced at these plants for a minimum of 10 years at prices which were not clearly defined.

His father had laughed and asked him not to worry about it when he had pointed it out. When he persisted, he was told sternly to shut up and ensure that the construction goes on without any issues. He then started to realise how his father could afford his own lavish lifestyle and fully paid studies in a foreign country for him. He too decided to just play along, collect the salary cheques and hope to land a better job once he gained some good work experience.

This power plant was one of the many Chinese projects under progress in Pakistan as part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and like quite a few of them had run in to trouble for one reason or another. The main problem today was a large group of protesters from the village where construction was taking place. Around 400 acres of land was acquired from the farmers and compensation paid according to current market rates. There were around a dozen families which were unhappy with it and had been a thorn in his flesh since the beginning. A crowd of 200 people, some from the families and a few curious locals were massed in front of one of the approach roads blocking the traffic. As the senior most Pakistani employee of IS, he was the one usually tasked to deal with such issues. Not exactly what he wanted, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter. Not a single Chinese worker knew any local language and most seemingly didn’t understand English either. So a fair amount of his workload involved acting as a liaison between Chinese staff of IS with Pakistani staff, contractors and government officials.

He called the local police station and explained the situation to them. The inspector in charge either had instructions or payment from the correct places and was usually quite prompt with such issues. He assured Tareen that he’d be there shortly. He disconnected the call and considered going out to talk with the protesters while waiting for police to arrive. Then decided against it. Most of those people were usually highly irate and had no interest in civilised talk. After explaining their grievances to him 3-4 times and seeing no result, they’d either just ignore him or shower him with the choicest abuses. He also feared for his personal safety in front of such a mob. His father had made it very clear that he was not supposed to make any attempts to deal with these mobs in any case.

He watched the commotion from his temporary shelter, an air-conditioned metal container repurposed as a field office and tried to hear their angry rants above the din of construction machinery. Some of the local workers were from the same village and they had complained about their families were facing social boycott from the angry villagers. Ten of them had not shown up for work under pressue. It was not a huge number, but it slowed down the work a little bit and if more Pakistani employees stopped work, then he’d have to bear another tongue lashing from Bai. Latter had no concerns about who Tareen’s father was.

A police van reached the site 20 minutes after the call was made and he saw some heated conversation going on between the protesters and the police. Then it ended like it did usually with police brandishing their sticks and two three fires in the air. He winced at the noise and felt a twinge of pity for the protesting families. Majority of them needed their lands to grow their food crops or raise animals. The compensation given to them was barely enough to meet their expenses for a few months. They were not entirely wrong in asking for more money. But this land acquisition part of the project was handled by a committee staffed exclusively by some colleagues of his Brigadier father. There was not much he could do to help those protesting farmers even if he wanted to.

14 Jan 2018
Pakistan News & Information Service
BREAKING NEWS: Scam worth PKR 400 Billion alleged in Infra Sino Thermal Power Project


A group of civil activists led by noted advocate Shahbaz Zaman have filed a petition in Pakistan Supreme court demanding immediate investigations into the finances of a multi-billion dollar thermal power project under construction by Chinese company Infra Sino. As proof, they’ve submitted some documents from the joint Sino-Pak committee overseeing the project which allegedly expose the massive fraud at cost of Pakistani people.
In his address to the reporters outside the court, advocate Zaman alleged that the Pakistani government has been taken for a ride by the Chinese and this project will end up pushing Pakistan in to a deeper debt trap. He claimed that even though Pakistan is paying for half the project cost, all the construction material, high value labour and expertise is 100% Chinese with Pakistanis acting as menial labourers and mere clients instead of equal partners. He claimed that Pakistani electricity boards are obligated to start paying for electricity produced in these plants from 2020 onwards even if the construction of power plants is not finished by then. He said that it’s completely preposterous as the construction is completely controlled by Chinese companies and their Chinese employees with no input of any Pakistani company or government agency.

He further claimed that under the terms of the project, per unit cost of electricity produced will have to be PKR 39 or more for Pakistan to break even after they start to get 30 percent revenue. With current electricity tariffs starting from PKR 10, this type of tariff structure seems completely unaffordable for Pakistani public.
This project was already under heavy criticism from various quarters for various reasons. Only last week, World Bank had raised some concerns over the extraordinarily high cost of older technology based coal power plants and about the rise in pollution.

Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muzammil Hussain dismissed the allegations saying that all the details about the project were considered carefully and are available for anyone to go read and analyse. He expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will dismiss the petition after going through what he alleged was a politically motivated petition.
 

FalconSlayers

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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.
Bro Are you from Jammu?
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 17

8 November 2019
Pano Aqil, Pakistan


Major General Qasim Rizvi entered Usmania mosque dressed in white salwar kameez and white skull cap. The salwar (pants) was stitched to end two inches above his ankles to meet with the guidelines laid down by Maulana Ilias Yasir, preacher and chief cleric of the mosque. For the last two years, Maj Gen Rizvi had made it a habit to dress up in the same clothing when not wearing his uniform. Most of the congregation of the mosque was dressed like him too. He liked the uniformity of thought that this mosque and it’s preacher offered. For him, it was a lot like the army, where he had spent the last 35 years of his life. Only less corrupt, more helpful and closer to teachings of quran.

When he had been transferred to Pano Aqil Aqil, he used to go to a large army funded mosque in the cantonment where most of the army men went to offer prayers. But he never liked the servile behaviour of the staff and the debauched behaviour of the congregation in a place which was supposed to be free of all pretensions of rank, power and wealth. He hated seeing the clerics trying to curry favour with uniformed generals and could barely control himself when he saw his co-workers making plans involving alcohol and prostitutes even as they washed up for namaz.

He had stopped going there after his wife had suffered a stroke and had been bed ridden. The sterlised and groveling sermons made by the greedy maulvi always left a bad taste in his mouth. Few days after her death, he had been aimlessly wandering around the city on a holiday when he noticed the blaring sermons from Usmania mosque over a loudspeaker. The preacher was speaking with conviction, had extensive knowledge of quran and had a strong yet melodic voice that was pleasing to the ears even over loudspeakers. He had entered the mosque which was almost full as if in a trance and sat in a corner listening to the not so old preacher quoting islamic verses and imparting life lessons for a pure islamic life.

He visited the mosque again after two days to see the same preacher leading the prayers. Then again and again till it became a daily habit for him. Most of the time, he was in his uniform and had a mandatory armed escort. He couldn’t tell if anyone noticed or cared. He appreciated the fact that the people there didn’t try to get close to him for asking favours or avoided him, just treated him as a fellow muslim. After around two months of regular visits, he went ahead to introduce himself to Maulana Ilias Yasir and request blessings for his only son who was going to leave for higher studies in Canada. Maulana Yasir was courteous and even kind enough to offer a few kind words to sooth the pain of parting.

Over next few months, Gen Rizvi opened himself to Yasir as suffering person would do to a therapist. His crisis of faith after sickness and death of his wife, lack of faith in Pakistani armed forces and general public, their defeats against kafirs and all around decay and debauchery were all shared with the calm and understanding islamic cleric. It was during one of such long talks that Yasir opened up about himself. He had resigned from his job as Major in Pakistan army over their support for American invasion of Afghanistan and had joined Taliban militants. He had fought against the American marines and Northern Alliance guerillas for four years before being injured and captured in Herat. He spent five years in the hellish Afghan prison without trial before being released. He had utilised his time in the prison to get closer to allah. The shrapnel wounds he had made combat impossible for him. So he served allah in only other way he knew, by spreading his knowledge about quran and way of islamic life.

Under his influence, Rizvi adopted stricter islamic practices, started praying five times a day compulsorily and even grew his beard minus the mustache. In increasingly radicalised Pakistani society, this was nothing extraordinary. He was already close to retirement and had no interest in lobbying for promotion in an organisation full of power hungry backstabbers. He sometimes thought that his lack of further professional ambition and monetary greed made him less of threat to his competitors and he was fine with that.

He had a loyal following in the lower ranks though due to his fairness in professional matters. With his increasing display of islamic piety, his popularity grew steadily. At first, it was his security detail which followed him inside the Usmania mosque. About a year later, he could see a lot more uniformed men, most of them from his unit praying alongside him. At first, he was concerned that this mosque would turn in to yet another site of sin like the one in cantonment. But to his relief, neither the sermons nor behaviour of Maulana changed.

On that day, he offered namaaz as usual and sought an audience with Yasir . After the mutually respectful greetings, Rizvi informed the cleric about his upcoming retirement and his plans to go on a pilgrimage. Yasir smiled and congratulated Rizvi but felt that he had something else on his mind. “It seems like that there is something else keeping you awake at nights.”

Rizvi sighed and rubbed his hands trying to think of suitable words to say. Noticing him struggling with words, Yasir invited him to his office and offered him a cup of hot tea. After a few encouraging words from the cleric, Rizvi spoke, “I think I’ve done my job to the best of my abilities, but I can’t honestly convince myself that it’s been enough.”

“Enough for what Rizvi sahib?” Yasir enquired gently.

“Enough for… , “ Rizvi stopped to search for words and then took a hurried gulp of the tea as Yasir waited patiently. “I’ve given all of my life to Pakistan Army. I started as a mere lieutenant, son of a almost illiterate farmer and reached the rank of Major General, not due to my family, corruption or boot licking. But by my hard work, competence and honesty. Well, if I were not honest, perhaps I could have reached higher or maybe even to the top spot myself. But I could never bring myself to be a slave to either my seniors in the army or their dogs in politics.

I can guarantee you that if a war breaks out today, then most of these generals with kilos of medals on their chest and stars on their shoulders will do everything but fight honourably. These Indians, Americans and even Afghans and Iranians are slapping us wherever and whenever they want. But all these politicians, soldiers and even the Pakistani awam are interested in is squeezing anything they can out of this poor country. I don’t know if I should feel happy or sad retiring like this.”

“Can I ask you a few personal questions General?” Yasir asked gently to which Rizvi nodded yes.

“You blame your comrades in army, politicians, normal citizens of the country as well as foreigners for things that are wrong with our country as well as unislamic degradation. But what gives you the right to be so critical? Outside of your job, have you done anything to change things for better yourself?” Rizvi stared at Yasir pondering over this question.

Seeing him quiet Yasir spoke further, “There have been lakhs perhaps even crores of us who’ve made huge sacrifices for Pakistan and islam. Many left their families and comfortable lives to fight, many suffered terribly, many died but stayed pious and faithful. Let me ask you general sahib, do you count yourself in the same league as the shahids, the mujahideen and the pious jihadis?”

Yasir stopped and waited for an answer as Rizvi stared off in the distance and answered slowly, “No, I don’t think that I have done enough to be counted in the same league. “

“It’s understandable if you didn’t know your failings and live your life in ignorance. But you do know your shortcomings and still don’t do anything to fix them?” Yasir’s usually calm voice suddenly took an edge. “All around us, you see your incompetent coallegues and politicians doing everything except serving islam and Pakistan. They make deals with our mortal enemies, sell off our lands, snatch everything from the poor to fill their own mansions and drink and fornicate and still decorate themselves with medals. Look at your Army chief. He is perhaps the richest man in the country with more houses and shops in Canada than here. Then look at his Vice Chief, owner of 5000 hectares of land in Pakistan and his underaged sons driving imported Italian cars. While you can barely afford to buy a house for yourself after working all your life. ”

All you can be proud of is that you were not a thief and a fake muslim unlike other generals, air chief marshals and admirals. But search deep inside you and tell me; tell Allah and yourself, have you done enough to serve islam and Pakistan?”

Rizvi sat quietly with the same distant stare in his eyes and then spoke slowly, “Is being a good muslim not enough?”

Yasir sighed and shook his head gently, “Don’t you know the answer yourself? If what you have done till now was enough, then why is islam facing so much humiliation, why is Pakistan almost a failed state and why are we having this conversation?”

Rizvi’s hand shook as he put the cup of tea on table. He spoke weakly, “I am just a single man, weak and alone”

Yasir immediately switched to his soothing calm voice, “Don’t say that General sahib. You are not weak and certainly not alone. There are so many men in my congregation who will follow you to sure death if need be and I am sure there are a lot more. You yourself control the biggest weapon that ummah has. How can you call yourself weak and alone when you have such a powerful weapon and such dedicated followers?”

Rizvi was on verge of tears and spoke with a breaking voice, “Isn’t it too late for this?”

Yasir walked up to Rizvi and patted his shoulder, “It’s never too late. Have faith in allah. He’ll guide you.”
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 18

17 November 2019
Wuhan Virology Research Institute, China

Rui Guan, one of the Senior Virologists in Wuhan Virology Research Institute (WVRI) was could barely keep his eyes open. He had spent the last three days in the lab working with only a few hours of sleep and countless cups of coffee and ramen. He took yet another sample collected from the District Hospital and put it the dish for analysis. He had to wait for 3 hours while the sample was analysed and the DNA signatures of yet another sample analysed by the advanced custom built analyser powered by a powerful supercomputer.

Yang Bo, his immediate junior, walked into the lab carrying another collection of samples and started putting them in the vials for analysis. Guan looked at him with a questioning glance, “If you want this crap analysed too, do it yourself. I am going home after the current batch is finished.”
Bo sighed and nodded; he was in the same boat as Guan, “I want the same thing as you, but this comes directly on Director’s orders from Xiagon. Seems like they’ve found the same problem as Xianning and Qichun.”

Guan groaned, “He’ll send samples after samples but not allow us to involve other people in the lab for any assistance. What exactly is going on in his brain?”

Bo just shrugged and started arranging vials for analysis.

WVRI was one of the premier institutes in not just China but the entire world for virology. It was built over 90 acres of land with numerous sections specialising in their own line of work. Chinese government had spared no expense and hired leading experts from all over the world to make the facility as advanced as possible. The institute financed research in many universities and associated labs and attracted the top talent from all over the country. Chinese government directly controlled and financed all the activities in the institute under supervision of a PLA Political Commissar holding rank of a Major General.

During late November, some hospitals in the nearby region had reported increased cases of patients being admitted with flu like symptoms and many more in out patient departments. At first, it was diagonsed as influenza in 2-3 hospitals but it didn’t respond to most traditional treatments. Then a local doctor had shared his experience of seeing the increasing number of such cases on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform. Following his post, a number of doctors and health professionals had posted about similar experiences. When the number of fatalities started to increase, more and more doctors from the province started to share reports of similar cases in their hospitals and clinics. At first, they considered it a seasonal flu, but then a doctor who had a previous history of heart disease died while suffering from similar symptoms. It caused increased activity not just on social media but newspapers too.

Chinese local authorities took notice and the censors deleted such posts after issuing doctors warning against creating unnecessary panic. The information about the possibly new infection was passed on to WVRI few days back which had sent it’s sample collection teams to some of the hospitals which had reported such patients. The collection team had reported up to 30% mortality rates in admitted patients which caused researchers of the institute to take notice.

After reading initial reports, director of WVRI Major General Wuxi Zhang, ordered a communications lock down between the different wings of the institute and took charge of the whole operation. A small team of scientists involved in research related to infectious disease was given special charge of analysis of the new samples as they arrived. Their preliminary analysis indicated the presence of a certain type of virus in most of the samples. As soon as they had isolated the suspected virus, they were taken off the case and research about the virus was handed over to the team of Rui Guan and Yang Bo who were tasked with mapping the genome of the suspected new virus.

After this, their access to most of the database of the institute was completely cut off. They could only map the genome of virus, but had no way of comparing it to the existing database of viruses they had catalogued. After yet another sleepless night, the small team of scientists had managed to map the genome of new virus and had confirmed that all except a handful of the samples had contained the same virus. After this, Zhang had gotten all samples removed from the lab by a PLA team and asked the scientists to delete all data they had collected about the virus. A team of technicians was sent to ensure that every trace of the research was wiped out from the institute and couldn’t be recovered.

A lot of people in the loop were quite concerned about the actions of General, but kept quiet.


Few Days Later,
Beijing


The small meeting room in PLA headquarters had three people wearing PLA uniforms and one in civilian clothes. He was talking animatedly while gesturing to the large projector screen displaying magnified visuals of biological samples.

Lieutenant General Chen Youxia walked in to the meeting room leading to everyone standing up and greeting him deferentially. As one of the senior ranked Political Commissars in China, Youxia had been recently promoted in to Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and outranked everyone in the room. He acknowledged the congratulatory address to him politely and asked the meeting to start.

The man near the screen, Doctor Zhao Leji was the deputy director of WVRI. He bowed nervously and started, “Thank you for giving me this chance. I’ll start with the basic work behind this issue and then move on to current events. This whole topic is quite expansive, so I’ll keep my focus only on the relevant issues. If you have any questions, you can ask them anytime.”
He hurriedly cleaned his throat and continued, ”In September last year WVRI was tasked with cataloguing certain categories of viruses present in local wildlife of China and a few neighbouring countries. Our teams of researchers which included students from four central universities, their professors and some scientists from our institute spent months in collecting wildlife samples and extracting virus and bacteria samples from them. Actually the process is still not over as it’s a huge task and will take atleast 3-4 months more.

The animal samples were processed in various local laboratories to isolate the microscopic organisms infesting them and then sent to WVRI for DNA analysis and cataloguing. I want to stress that every living being has countless number and varieties of bacteria, viruses and other organisms like mites in and on its body, even humans. Not every such micro-organism is harmful or even a parasite. Any animal or insect may be a host of a number of such viruses or bacteria which will be completely harmless to it but lethal to a different specie.

Our task was to identify as many such previously unknown organisms as possible with special focus on viruses. We wanted to collect data related to possible transmission vectors, infection rates and their effects of human and animal physiology. “

One uniformed general spoke, “Is this research relevant for biological warfare?”

Dr Leji blinked rapidly as if he didn’t understand the question and furtively stole a glance at Major General Wuxi Zhang and replied in a hesitating tone, “Yes, it is possible to use this research to create biological weapons.”

Xi asked another question, “Was it your primary motive?”

Zhang rubbed his neck nervously, “ Our motive was and still is to ensure the safety and prosperity of China. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Another person in the room asked, “What experiments were done with the viruses collected from the wild animals?”

Youxia turned his neck to give that PLA general a look which caused him to stop asking further questions. Dr Leji looked around in confusion for a while then started again, “Well yes, so as I was saying, one division collected and collated data related to virus genome. Another division in WVRI was tasked with studying the effects of viruses on other possible hosts.” He paused with a nervous look on his face and changed the slide to show a list. “This slide on screen lists the hosts which were used to test the effects and infectiousness of some of the microbes.”

Everyone in the room read the slide and exchanged glances, Leji began again, “As you can see, humans were involved in most of the tests. But there is one thing that you must know. The genome of CX virus which is causing this outbreak is only 99.3% same as that of the virus that was used in the human tests.
Additionally, all the tests were done in world class laboratory standards with highest possible safety protocols. It’s highly unlikely that some person or any animal used in the trials could have gone on to spread the virus outside. All the animals were destroyed after testing and humans were kept in full isolation and tested multiple times before being released. We made sure that the human test subjects were carrying no microbes from our tests before their release. ”

“What is the probability that the CX virus mutated during your human or animal trials? Just 0.7% deviation is not that big of a number. ” a voice in room asked.

Dr Leji was not enjoying the meeting at all. His body language and unsteady voice made it clear to everyone in the room, “In our line of work, a 0.7% deviation is a huge deal, it doesn’t happen very often naturally.”

“But it can happen, can’t it?”

Dr Leji cleared his throat and looked once at Zhang, “It can happen, but chances are extremely rare. And considering that safety protocols that WVRI follows, chances of a harmless virus jumping from humans to another one and causing a pandemic is next to impossible.
The original virus that we tested in the laboratory is related to a family of viruses which can cause influenza like symptoms. But that virus itself can’t cause any such symptoms by itself. It can’t be transmitted from one human to another. For all we know it could have originated in a farm or some meat market which sells wild animal meat and spread from there.”

Another Major General asked, “II also have one question, “What was the primary military purpose of human and animal testing?

“This was part of a military study meant to collect data for war planning and simulation. We wanted to see if it was possible for our population and livestock could get infected if an enemy nation bombed or disturbed any wildlife habitat causing the animals to enter cities and villages.” Zhang answered a question for the first time.

Youxia seemed lost in deep thought, “So it’s either a bio-weapons research gone wrong or a disease from unregulated meat market.”

Zhang allowed himself an imperceptible sigh of relief, “As Dr Leji explained Comrade Lt General, chances of former are almost negligible compared to the latter. After going through thousands of pages of data, all the scientists of WVRI are quite sure that the CX virus originated in some natural source or was brought in to China by a foreign entity..”

Youxia scoffed, “Ofcourse they are sure and frankly at this time I don’t care. This disease has the potential to turn in to a worldwide pandemic. I want everyone present in this room to start making preparations to control it’s spread before it becomes a major headache. Major General Lee, I want your Ministry of Health to start taking steps to implement quarantine measures and work with WVRI to develop a cure as soon as possible. Work with our people at WHO to make sure that the news of this virus doesn’t get too much attention and China is not blamed in anyway in case it spreads outside.

Comrade Zhang, I’ll need a detailed report about your research project along with all the data your lab collected on my desk by tomorrow afternoon. You’ll also cooperate with local hospitals to make sure that there is no panic among general public and health professionals. Anyone who goes against this directive needs to be disciplined.”
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 19

2 January 2020
New Delhi.

CDS Rajinder Singh spoke, “I don’t believe that Chinese are very interested in a full fledged war right now. Some of their leadership is aggressive, yet the overall mood is against starting a major conflict right now .”

The emergency meeting was called in after reports of three nearly simultaneous incursions by PLA troops in Laddakh and Sikkim. When challenged by ITBP troops in SIkkim, Chinese had turned belligerent and tried to use their vehicle to run over the Indian soldiers. This had led to an ugly brawl between the two parties with multiple injuries on both sides. News channels in India were already hyper-ventilating with every news anchor and random panelist picked from Facebook and Twitter turning defence and strategy experts overnight.

DM had been surfing through a few such shows on his way to the meeting and asked “What do you think they want?”

“They have multiple reasons for land grabs in Indian territories. Major one is ofcourse creating and maintaining tactical superiority by capturing strategically favourable locations all along the border. They hope to neutralise threats of our land and air invasion by this. They have already more or less succeeded by capturing all of Tibet. Now most of these incursions are meant to consolidate their positions.

It also puts military and economic pressure on us all along the border. For example, if China or Pakistan manage to wrest control of Siachen and nearby areas from us, they have a virtually free run in to our territories up to Srinagar. From there, it’s just a matter of weeks, till they can reach Indian plains. We not only lose strategically vital territory, but also major sources of quite a few important rivers.
We need to defend our positions in all these sectors, for more than one reason. Not just for defence of border areas of J&K itself.

Additionally, with their expansion of their China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), they feel that it’s important that we can’t interfere. We’ve tried playing nice, but just like Pakistanis only language they understand is that of force. If we concede these unpopulated areas now, they will feel emboldened to grab our towns after a few years. We can’t allow that.

They are trying to grab as many territories as possible in multiple sectors for numerous reasons including their concept of national pride and historical boundaries. But one of the main strategic reasons is their desire to keep the Han homeland safe from a future conflict. Most of their population centers and economic strongholds are near their eastern shores. By grabbing islands in South China sea and beyond, they are consolidating their defences against their neighbours as well as NATO.

In case of a naval or air conflict, their enemies will have to deal with dozens of their defences on the islands before they can reach the Chinese mainland. There’s also the issue of security of sea lanes, natural resources etc, but you know about it as well as I do.

There is another factor which we need to pay attention to and that’s Chinese internal politics. Zheng Jun has declared himself president for life, a dictator for all intents and purposes. This hasn’t gone well with a fairly powerful faction in CCP. Some members in Politburo (group of 25 most powerful members of CCP) were against this move but were overruled, some by bribery, blackmail and threats. He has filled Central Military Commission and Standing Committee with his loyalists and expelled a most of dissenters. He control all aspects of Chinese armed forces directly through his title as Commander-in-Chief as well as numerous ‘committees’ he has created to overlook the different commands. Even the Chinese PM has been divested of whatever little powers he had and he has been increasingly sidelined from most of decision making So in order to look strong internally, he is picking up fights to divert attention from his internal political problems.”

“What can we do about it?”

“All along the border there are some sectors where they are in stronger positions and some where we are. If we want to defend our sovereignty, we can’t let them do whatever they want at our borders. One plan of action we have wargamed with some success is that if push comes to shove, we capture some of Tibetan territories where we are stronger and use it as a bargaining chip to get Chinese to vacate our lands.“

“Are you sure that it will work?”

“If we want to deter them for this kind of land grabbing, this is the only possible choice which can work without assurance of a full fledged war. We’ve tried almost everything else apart from force till now and this is the way of application of least amount of force.”

“What if they refuse to vacate our land and escalate the conflict?

“There is a fair chance of it happening.”CDS conceded. “That’s why we have deterrence of conventional and nuclear forces of our own. If they escalate, then we fight back.”

“Do we have enough weapons and resources for it?”

“We’ll have to fight with what we have. Like I’ve said before, we lack enough fighters, a proper Mountain Corps and not enough cruise missiles. But there have been some improvements since last few months. In any case, we have a good bit of buffer for most of our ammunition, fuel and most other needs. If we can keep Pakistan from interfering,then our job will be a lot easier. Without them trying to run interference, we can concentrate most of our forces on the Chinese border.“

DM shook his head, “Fat chance of that happening! Pakistan now is all but a Chinese colony for all intents and purposes. If Chinese ask them to jump, only question they’ll ask is how high. It’s just my personal opinion, but we should be preparing to fight war on both fronts. China will not let all it’s money, weapons and diplomatic capital it has invested in Pakistan stay idle in case of a war.”

“There is no certain way of avoiding Pakistani interference, we can only try to reduce it. Like if we take advantage of terrain and weather. Most of our possible land conflicts with China can happen only in summers when those zones are not covered in snow. If we can find a way to nuetralise Pakistani threat in winters, there’s not much that China can do to help them. With assurance of Paki support on western front gone, PLA will be in a comparatively weaker position.” COAS General Gurunath added.

“Excuse me for the stupid question, but what does nuetralising Pakistani threat mean? Are we talking about a surgical strike kind of thing, full scale war or some diplomatic or economic measures?” DM seemed confused.

CDS took this question, “Ideally it should be a bit of everything. They can fully rely on only China for weapons, ammunition and some money. Rest of the things like fuel, majority of the finances required to run the country and foreign investments come from US and Saudis. They may get some weapon systems, new and second hand from Turkey and 2-3 other muslim countries, but that’s it. If we can convince their main financiers to put a squeeze on them, restrict fuel supplies, decrease subsidies for their industry, put them on a few watchlists for supporting terrorism and so on, their war fighting capability will be severely affected without us firing a bullet.
As far as military action is concerned, we have a few battle plans ready which can be executed at the right time to curtail their war fighting capability without crossing the nuclear threshold.”

“Yes, of course! We are already doing that for quite some time now and results are starting to show. US senate is likely to pass a bill restricting supplies of spares and support for their F-16 fleet. We have convinced Saudis to go slow on their cheap loans for oil too. Pakis are not going to get anymore oil from them on deferred payments unless they pay off pending amounts first. World Bank is going to announce the same thing next month citing their support of islamic terrorist agencies. They need 4-5 billion USD by end of next month to prevent defaulting on two major loans. Their economy is going the drain slowly but gradually.“

NSA Dhumal had been reading the intelligence reports coming in from China desk for better part of the week, “We’ll still have to take care of People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) from coming to aid of Pakistanis. Even if their air force is not fully combat ready due to lack of proper airfields, weather etc, they can still cause serious damage with their cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. It seems like they are not short on them.”

ACM Maadhav answered the query, “We have some new batteries of Akash, S-400 and local Anti Ballistic Missile System (ABM) coming online soon. It’s next to impossible to defend against a saturation strike or sneak attacks, some missiles will inevitably pass through the strongest of defences. But China cannot perform multiple such strikes without running out of their missiles meant for their eastern front. Our defences against their cruise missiles are going to be fairly robust once we finish plugging the holes in our air defence net.

As far as ballistic missiles are concerned, S-300, S-400 and ABM used judiciously can provide a fair degree of protection. It’s not perfect by any chance, but they’ll need to launch a lot more missiles to score a hit and they don’t have that high number of them. “

PM had attended raising of a new LCA squadron in Jodhpur in May and had detailed discussions with Air Marshal Swaroop Shastry and ACM Maadhav about IAF’s state of preparedness. They had again raised the issue of shortage of fighter jets and a few other items. Lack of good budget, dependence on imports and corruption had taken their toll. Things were improving but war didn’t wait. Indian armed forces suddenly had to face prospect of war at two fronts just when they had begun to get back on track. He was going through the discussion he had in his mind. He addressed ACM Maadhav “Isn’t it true that we have some advantage over PLAAF due to location of airfields?”

“Yes, the airfields they have in Tibet within operational range of their aircraft are at high altitudes and most of them don’t have hardened shelters. Even in best of conditions, their planes can’t carry their full loads and have a handicap against us. They certainly have some good fighters in their arsenal like J-10, J-11, Su-30MKK which are not easy to beat. They also have a big lead in heavy bombers, more AWACS and tankers. But most people don’t realise that there are only a handful of bases in Tibet where these platforms can be deployed against us. We certainly need upgrades of our own, but IAF can handle most of what PLAAF can throw at us.”

RAW had shared reports of increased maritime traffic from Iran to China and people in the room were not very happy about it. India didn’t have that much leverage over Iran as in the past and China didn’t have to try hard to bring the sanctions ridden country under it’s own sphere of influence. They had managed to strike a deal for cheap oil in return for infrastructure projects and favourable payment terms. India had partially vacated that position under sustained US pressure and to get more influence with the Saudis and rest of Arab world..

Every tanker of oil from Iran to China increased their fuel reserves for a war by half a day. Additionally, they were planning for a oil and gas pipeline from Iran through central Asia or Afghanistan and Pakistan. India had abandoned similar plans over security issues of line passing through Pakistan and high cost of undersea pipeline completely scuttled the project.
He addressed Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Jayant Suman, “Can we do something about Chinese shipping through Malacca Strait.”

CNS Admiral Suman was expecting this question, “With INS Vikramaditya carrier group and 2-3 submarines, we can dominate the region. However, any interference with movement of sea vessels can be taken as declaration of war. Once we attack or interfere with Chinese shipping, we must be ready for a high intensity conflict. Additionally, we also have to consider loyalties of Malaysia and Indonesia along with the effect such a move can have on global economy..”

PM read through the list of possible Chinese naval assets in the region with a frown on his face. “Admiral, what can we do in case of a full scale naval conflict?”

“We can handle our own over waters around Indian peninsula, but we are not strong or big enough for expeditionary missions in South China sea. If China dedicates majority of it’s naval forces against us, then we will have a tough fight. Sheer number of ships and submarines that they have will keep us very busy. But if a few other countries like Japan, US, Australia tie up some of their fleet in Pacific and South China sea, they’ll be on backfoot. With all the anger due to Chinese mishandling of Corona virus, territory grabs and belligerent behaviour, they don’t bank on support from any other countries apart from Pakistan and North Korea.”

“A man is known by the company he keeps. In this case, a country.” EAM muttered half to himself.

CNS nodded, “True, they have a lot more enemies than allies around them. We have wargamed this scenario a few times in naval exercises. PLAN is powerful, but quite beatable under right conditions. We’ll be in a much stronger position once INS Vikrant becomes operational.”

“What’s stopping it from being operational?”, PM asked.

“Sea trials! We are still in testing and troubleshooting phase. Only a few systems on the ship have been cleared for operational use. We have accelerated the pace, but it’ll still take around 9-10 months for it to be ready for deployment.”

“The war maybe over by that time.” DM interjected.

“Perhaps. If we skip some procedures, we may be able to launch the aircraft carrier directly without undergoing extended trials. Air wing, escorts and trained crews are ready. If we are given permission to accelerate and skip some trials, we can deploy INS Vikrant carrier wing in Lakshdweep Sea or Bay Of Bengal with some restrictions in 5-6 months. Pakistani navy can be handled with our western fleet and maritime Jaguars and Sukhois. “

“Do you think that it’s worth it? What about it’s airwing” PM didn’t seem fully convinced.

Admiral Suman was unfazed, “We have enough air assets for the carrier. Even if the it’s air fleet is working at two-thirds of it’s full capability, I think that having two aircraft carrier groups in the sea instead of just one is worth the risk at these times.

PM looked at CDS who nodded. “All right Admiral. We’ll trust your judgement on this. INS Vikrant will be operationally ready in 5-6 months, right?”

Admiral Suman cracked a rare smile, “Yes sir.”

PM nodded and addressed EAM Vajpayee, “What do you suggest about proposal of Tibetan PM Kalsang Gyatso? I think we should take some steps about it now.”

EAM considered his words for a moment and spoke,”This will be taken as a major provocation by the Chinese, but I am personally completely in favour. Chinese have occupied our lands and are trying to grab even more, they don’t respect sovereignty of any single nation around them. It’s time we return the favour. My only concern is military fallout, but the people in this meeting are better judges of that.”

PM looked at the faces of three service chiefs and saw quizzical expressions. “I am assuming that you are not aware of all the details, right? Vajpayee ji, if you would please give a summary of our discussions with Tibetan leadership.”

“Well, as most of the people present here know that TIbetan leadership has been requesting that we discard the One China policy and give recognition to Tibet as a fully sovereign nation. They also want us to sponsor a motion in United Nations over this. There are a few hurdles but nothing that can’t be handled by us.There’s another reason for the timing of their request and that’s the failing health of Dalai Lama. Chinese have kidnapped and either killed or hidden his successor and things will get complicated when he passes away. So they feel that having a central authority will be important to keep things under control.

We wouldn’t know how many countries will support us in UN till we do it. I am assuming that most wouldn’t for fear of upsetting China. And as most of you know that not just CCP, even the majority of Chinese public will be very unhappy over this. We can handle most of political, diplomatic and even economic fallout of such a move. But we need your opinion and advice whether to go on with it or not?”

All service chiefs considered the words of EAM carefully. Gen Gurunath was first to speak, “This will be good move only if Tibet can back it with some military muscle. As of now, any independent Tibetan regime doesn’t have any military power to defend itself apart from our troops from Special Frontier Force and a few intelligence personnel operating in Tibet. They too are our men for all intents and purposes. If Tibet has to be an independent nation, just the teachings of inner peace will not be enough.

Before we do anything like that, we should create an army or atleast a guerilla army consisting of Tibetans only. It’ll give some legitimacy to their struggle against the Hans. If we provide political support and also fight the war for them, then it’ll not work out well. What worked against Pakistan in 1971, can also be utilised against CCP with some modifications.

“That’s a valid point. What do you suggest?”

“In simple terms, help Tibetans create an army for themselves. I’d suggest atleast 2 brigades for starters. It can have a few battalions for special operations and regular infantry and limited anti-air roles if we can spare some resources. We can assign a few operatives from SFF, ITBP and AFSOD in each battalion as advisors and observers. If we start the process right now and enough Tibetans volunteer for this, we can have these two trained brigades ready in around one year. Chinese are financing and training dozens of terrorist groups against India. This would be a nice enough payback for all the blood they’ve spilled on Indian soil.”

“If we recognise Tibet and discard One China policy, then we might as well do it for Taiwan too. They can be a useful ally for us in many ways.” DM added.

“We’ll consider Taiwan too. But Tibet is our immediate priority and it has to remain top secret till we’re ready.” PM said and then addressed the army chief, “Can you assign a senior officer to liaison with Tibetans for this? We want him to be a member of our panel during our meeting next week.”

“Yes sir!”
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 21


1 March 2020
23:40 Hours IST, Palam Airport, India


The gray Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft had landed at Palam in the increasingly cold and foggy night. Some new crew got in and a few got out quickly as a refueling truck filled up the tanks and air force technicians did the customary checks..

Within an hour of landing, the plane was up once again on a northern bearing. Some aviation enthusiasts noticed the flight with interest on their tracking softwares and aviation websites. Flights of Indian Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) were a semi-regular thing and only the hardcore defence enthusiasts among the aviation trackers paid much attention to it. But only a handful of people knew about the changes done to this particular aircraft in last few days.

A small team of scientists from Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) had worked tirelessly to replace and flight test some of the Electronic Warfare (EW) systems of the aircraft with some new ones which were still under prototype stage. As soon as the basic testing was completed, the new equipment was fitted on one ERJ-145 in possession of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Primary use of such aircraft is as an airborne radar which has an extended range uncluttered by ground reflections and limited line of sight which limit ground based radars. Depending upon their capabilities, a handful of such aircraft can monitor aircraft movement over a large area which’d take dozens of ground based radars. Mounting radars on planes also makes them a harder target for the enemy compared to mostly static land based ones. In addition to tracking airplanes and missiles, these planes can be used for managing military resources, electronic warfare like radar jamming and electronic signals intelligence.

Attempts to build a indigenous airborne radar and warfare platform in India had started with a project called Airborne Surveillance Platform, code named ‘Airawat’ in early 1980s. India had tried to shop around for this technology after learning lessons about the changing face of air warfare in 1971 war. After unsuccessfully trying to buy the technology or suitable systems from abroad, it was decided to develop the technology inhouse.

A Hawker Siddeley HS-748 license built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was chosen as the platform to carry the radar. A number of advanced technologies like the airborne radar, secure datalinks, power generation systems and a few others were developed from the ground up. The program showed a lot of promise but suffered a setback when the sole flying prototype was destroyed in a crash during a test flight in January 1999 killing eight people on board. In any other country, the setback would be acknowledged, cause of crash analysed and work resuming on the project as soon as possible.

But Indian attitude to local weapons procurement meant that the project and most of the advanced technologies developed from scratch at huge cost were put in cold storage. By this time, foreign countries had started to show willingness to sell their own systems. In 2004,, India paid Israel around USD 1.05 billion to purchase their Phalcon radar system which used Active Phased Array Electronic Scanning Technology mounted on Russian Il-76 planes. It’s interesting that this system was meant for sale to China, but USA got Israel to cancel the deal forcing Israelis to sell it to India.

IAF calls ERJ-145 platform based radars as Airborne Early Warning and Control System while the bigger Il-76 based radar system is called Airborne Warning And Control System. Both have mostly similar functions, but bigger size of latter enables larger crew size and it can serve as a better mobile command post.

Surprisingly, Indian project was restarted again in 2004 with a very different set of design goals. Jet powered Embraer ERJ-145 was chosen as the platform in place of prop-engined HS-748 which had been out of production for quite some time. Instead of Mechanically Scanning Antenna housed in a Rotating Radome which looks like a fluffy ‘chapati’, the new radar mounted on ERJ-145 was chosen to be a static Active Electronically Scanning Antenna which had a few better characteristics than the older radar but only 240 degrees of coverage unlike a full 360 degree coverage of older design.

With these two major changes a lot of the older technologies had to be abandoned and redeveloped leading to more wastage of resources. It took a long time to bring the aircraft upto ever shifting standards of Indian Air Force and the new system named NETRA (Eye in Hindi) was finally awarded Initial Operations Clearance (IOC) in February 2017. After hundreds of crores spent on customisations and development, and requirements of IAF, one would have thought that atleast 10-12 of the platforms would have been inducted to make all the investment worthwhile. But only 2 of the systems were built before Embrarer was blacklisted over corruption charges.

No company can hope to sell weapons in India without bribing politicians, bureaucrats and military personnel involved in the purchase process. Yet only the companies are punished while the people who enforce corrupt practices in India go scot free.The people involved in setting up requirements also come up with insanely preposterous ideas such as Indian Army asking for guns which can fire bullets of two different calibers, carbine with two triggers and IAF asking for an AWACS system which can also function as an aerial refueler. Most such tactics are meant to delay or cripple development of local systems to favour foreign imports. It’s not that Indian defence laboratories and production facilities are perfect or even competent as evident from workings of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) enterprises . Mostly Indian defence procurement is nothing more than a huge circus of semi-legalised corruption and incompetence which gets rewarded. Only people who suffer are honest tax payers and military personnel who actually put their lives on the line almost daily.

The embargo resulted in production of only 2 AEW&C aircraft while the requirement was for much more. In normal operational conditions, military aircraft usually have serviceability rate which is never 100%. This means that in a fleet of 10 aircraft with serviceability rate of 70%, only 7 can be in flightworthy condition, while the rest are grounded for repairs at any time. How many Netras could be used in wartime is anybody’s guess. So while any other country the size of India would have inducted such a system by dozens, India had only two and the scientists had just one spare aircraft to work with for improvements and upgrades.

The third aircraft in possession of DRDO had only a few systems common with Netras in IAF service and no IAF personnel had been fully trained in their operation. So three scientists from DRDO were assigned to the mission to help train the IAF personnel while on live missions. They had flown in the plane dozens of times during the development trials, but none of them ever expected to fly in to a live mission just like that.

The aircraft codenamed Lochan took a leisurely turn as it gained altitude to reach 4000 meters and started cruising towards Indian border with China Occupied Tibet in Laddakh and northern Lahaul Spiti sector. Normally most invading aircrafts will fly at as low altitude as possible to avoid being detected by enemy radar. As mentioned earlier, ground based radars have a limited line of sight and a minimum and maximum detection altitude. By flying low, invading aircraft can escape detection by radar waves emitted by the antenna. Flying close to the ground also enables them to use terrain features of earth such as mountains as cover.

Since flying so close to the ground is dangerous, most aircrafts use a Terrain Following Radar to make the task of pilot easier. In many such aircrafts, waypoints (coordinates in the path followed) can be programmed in and altitude adjusted automatically at different places according to requirements. Lochan had no such radar, but the two Jaguars which joined it over east of Dhualdhar mountain range did. Neither of the aircraft had their radars switched on and they were too far off to be detected visually. But pilots in all the aircraft knew the exact position and bearings of each other via the secure datalinks which connected them to each other and multiple ground control stations via satellite links.

There are two types of modes of radar operation, Active and Passive. Active mode is when the radar is transmitting a radar pulse and looking for reflections from targets to collect data like distance, velocity, altitude and bearing. Passive mode on the other hand involves collecting radar emissions falling on their sensor and gathering information about targets emitting them. Passive radars can use emissions from a third source like TV, microwave or radio broadcast signals to gather information about a target of interest, This is better for stealth than active mode as no signal is emitted by the radar. But this has limited use as if the other radar is in passive mode too, then it’s much harder to know about the existence of the other. Active radar mode has no such limitations, but it’s bad for stealth as it alerts everyone to it’s presence as soon as it’s switched on. One can think of Active mode as a person searching for another person in the dark using a torch and Passive mode as searching for other people without turning on own. Sonar in ships and submarines follow the same principle. Only major difference is that Sonar uses sound waves instead of electromagnetic waves of radars.

As it neared the border, Lochan increased it’s altitude to 5000 meters to get a better look at Tibetan territory under Chinese occupation across the Himalayan mountain ranges. It took a sharp turn and started flying in a loop over the skies staying a few km inside India. Once Lochan was in position, the Jaguars given code names Sparrow 1 and Sparrow 2 dived close to the ground and started flying towards the border. Lochan had a limited number of contacts in Chinese territory as it was flying at 4000 m, but as soon as it went over 5000 m and mountains blocking it’s line of sight went below, the consoles lit up with multiple contacts.

.

On a normal day, an AEW&C would’ve put it’s radar in active mode and started tracking the area around it by sending it’s own radar emissions. Then there’d have been dozens of contacts on the screen instead of just a handful. The flight computer analysed the signals and marked them automatically. There were a quite a few active radars in the Chinese side including some for civilian use such as weather, civilian airports and a smaller number of military radars. One mobile radar source was detected around 250 kms away in roughly the same bearing as them, which the computer identified as Chinese built KJ-200.

This is the closest Chinese equivalent to Netra with a few key differences. The type of radar is similar but the platform is slower and larger 4 engined Shaanxi Y-8 turbo-prop built in China and based on Russian AN-12. KJ-200 too had suffered a lethal crash during development which had killed 40 people, but unlike Indians, they had persevered and instead of abandoning the project inducted 10 of them in a short period of time.

At this distance it was not likely that KH-200 radar could have detected any of the Indian aircraft as the radar returns would be too weak and scattered for the antenna to collect and it’s computer to process. But it could change any minute if and when any of the aircraft got too close. In addition, there were a number of ground based radars which could detect Indian planes once they got high enough. This happened just a few moments later when there was another active radar contact on the consoles.

One of the contact was identified as a Type 305B search radar employed by Chinese HQ-9 Surface To Air Missile (SAM) batteries. HQ9 is a copy of lethal S-300 SAM system of Russia which also has a limited anti-ballistic missile capability. Both India and China have S-300 and were inducting S-400 (in 2020), it’s advanced version. So Indians had a good understanding about S-300 systems worked. Since Chinese had copied a very similar S-300 system with only a few modifications, Indians knew most characteristics of it’s radars and missiles. Lochan’s mission today was to test the newest technology developed by Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) against the Chinese copy of S-300, HQ-9.

A SAM system generally uses more than one radar to track incoming aircrafts and missiles. The primary is called a Tracking Radar which keeps on scanning a certain area assigned to it for any possible targets. Once it finds a target of interest, the data is passed on to another radar called Fire Control Radar (FCR) or Illuminating Radar (IR). It’s job is to gather data such as range, bearing and azimuth of the target. This data is utilised by the control center which allots a best firing solution with data like best firing angle, time etc to the missile or gun used to attack the intruder.

In certain types of systems, the missile is guided up to the target by the same radar. In a few other’s the radio frequency or heat based seeker within the missile take over after launch which then guides itself to the target. Additionally, there are certain radars which combine all these functions in just one radar system instead of fielding so many. This is just a simplistic explanation and there are many variations even within same families of SAM systems

The civilian technician felt his heart skip a bit as a chirp announced that the plane was being tacked by the HQ-9 SAM’s long range search radar and then another just a few seconds later which was identified as KJ-200, nearest competitor to Indian Phalcon AWACS. It was still a few minutes away from being detected by it, but once it range, it could accurately provide intercept instructions to fighter jets or surface based anti-aircraft assets. The smaller KJ-200 had probably landed already or switched off it’s radars as it’s signals hadn’t been noticed for some time. Lochan kept flying in straight bearing for a while then dived below the tracking cone of Type 305B to break the track. Symbols of most ground based radars on the Tibetan plateau went dark soon but that of KJ-2000 stayed. Lochan gained altitude again not too far and turned to repeat the pattern. Again there were multiple radar chirps and their old symbols lit up again. The plane’s crew was hoping for a bit more activity to incite Chinese to turn up as many radars and other assets in order to collect as much data like location, radar signatures, ranges etc as possible.

As the plane moved in a north western bearing along the border, it detected a few more radar emissions from two other military radars but the contacts vanished soon as the plane probably got out of their line of sight or a mountain peak at some distance blocked the view.

All of these radar positions were marked and transmitted to Jaguars and ground control. A few possible approach vectors were calculated and the one with most chance of success chosen and provided to the pilots. A few minutes later, the Jaguars popped up in line of sight of HQ9 radars and started following the waypoints provided to them. There were audio and visual alerts in Jaguar cockpits as the 305B tracking radar immediately picked them up.

On a normal mission, Jaguars would’ve masked their approach behind mountains and flown as close the ground as possible before reaching a suitable altitude to drop their ordinance on the target. But on this mission, they were just carrying fuel tanks and prototypes of an advanced Electronic Warfare pod. Few seconds after getting in the range of 305B, the Jaguars started flying in an 8 shaped pattern with a portion of it inside Chinese border. Crew in both flights noticed multiple radar contacts coming online as the Chinese got alert of a possible incursion in their air space.

Of around a dozen plus active radar contacts, Indians were interested in HT-233 Fire Control Radar of the HQ9 battery which turned on fairly late compared to the rest. Unlike what many people think, not all the radars are turned on all the time. It’s done to save power, extend usable life and reduce possibility of tracking and analysis of signals by the enemy. The positions and time between detection and turning on was recorded and the next phase of mission started. Sparrow 1 turned on it’s yet unnamed EW pod and Sparrow 2 turned away in the opposite direction flying a flight path roughly parallel to Lochan but just inside Indian territory. They didn’t want to provoke Chinese in to shooting them down by deep incursions just yet.

At this time, Lochan crew noticed the KJ-200 heading in their direction. They knew that it’ll have an escort of minimum two fighter jets armed with long range surface to air missiles which couldn’t be detected till they turned on their own radars. Mission Controller in Lochan pored through the data being displayed on his screen and allowed himself a wry smile. They had collected all the data they had come for and it was time to go home.

The new EW pod deployed on Jaguars and it’s bigger version on Lochan had done their jobs as well as expected. They had managed to spoof multiple powerful Chinese radars in to thinking that Indian planes were 10s of km away from their actual positions. LRDE had managed to pack it all in a small pod 3 m long and 0.5 m in diameter deployable on a fighter jet. This Range Deception Jamming technology could come in handy in case Chinese ground based Air Defence (AD) network had to be beaten.
 

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Kaalkut.
Chapter 22

5 March 2020. TAIWAN



First Lieutenant Kuan-Lin of Republic of China Air Force (RCAF) adjusted his back slightly and stretched his legs in cockpit of his Mirage-2000. He was scheduled to finish his mission in fifteen minutes and then land back at Hengchun airbase after flying for 90 minutes. Sun was getting low on the horizon and Li could see sunbeams being reflected off from the ocean and ground below. Visibility was extremely good and he craned his neck to get an eye on his wingman FLt Chia-Hao flying 2000 m above him. He was happy to get some flying hours in his Mirage 2000 before a final decision was taken to retire it. There were some problems with the fleet which were attributed to French reluctance to provide upgrades and proper repair services at a reasonable price. There were murmurs that the French were deliberately denying Taiwan their services because of Chinese pressure.

Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan has been a bitter enemy of People’s Republic of China (PRC) or China ever since the end of Chinese civil war in 1949. It was fought between Communist Party of China led by Mao Zedong and Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang), led by Chiang Kai-shek. After their defeat Chiang transferred his regime to Taipei calling it Wartime Capital. Nearly 2 million refugees from China poured into Taiwan which had only 6 million population before the migration.

ROC was considered a legitimate government of China till 1971 when the UN had voted to shift it’s recognition to PRC. India along with it’s mortal enemy Pakistan had voted in favour of China. This came after 1962 war, 1967 border conflict and an imminent war just months later in which China was providing full support to Pakistan against India. 50 years later India was in an informal military alliance with Japan, USA and Australia which had voted against PRC. India had formed formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan only a few weeks before along with USA and most of NATO allies. Chinese image and list of allies had gone much shorter due to Corona Virus pandemic and the bullying behaviour. So the list of countries interested in having diplomatic relations with Taiwan was only getting longer with each passing day.

China was not happy and they had shown their displeasure in multiple strong statements, warnings and actual actions. A wave of cyber attacks originating from North Korea and Chinese mainland had hit the technically advanced island nation causing some economic damage and panic. Taiwan had taken security measures to bring most of vital national infrastructure under a special act in 2018. But progress was slow and Chinese had managed to find some unpatched vulnerabilities in some of older networks. As a result, parts of southern Taiwan had suffered due to bad electricity supply and user data of a few companies was leaked causing panic selling in the stockmarket. Most of the hardening measures worked well overall and the country’s basic communications and power infrastructure stayed functioning even during the worst period of attacks.

These cyber attacks were accompanied by aggressive military posturing and multiple incursions in to Taiwanese waters by PLAN as well as PLAAF. A number of military and civilian ships carrying Chinese flags had performed aggressive maneuvers in multiple sectors and had even intruded in Taiwan’s waters. PLAAF fighters were doing similar harassment in air with multiple air intrusions and targeted jamming of Taiwanese communication channels, military and civilian alike. Just minutes before he climbed in to his plane, Lin had watched news about Chinese jets flying only tens of meters above a few Taiwanese civilian ships south of Penghu Islands. Intelligence reports suggested that China planned to take control of these islands and use them as staging ground for further attacks on Taiwan.

The defences on the islands had been fortified recently with 1 armoured brigade, 1 infantry brigade along with an amphibious reconnaissance battalion. Two missile batteries each of latest Sky Bow 3 SAMs and Hsiung Feng II anti-ship cruise missiles for anti-air and anti-ship roles had been placed on full alert. To make matters worse, PLAN had announced military exercises in Taiwan Banks area involving their Liaoning aircraft carrier along with most of the carrier wing ships on what was declared as anti-piracy and coastal defence exercises. The fact that most of aircraft sorties from Liaoning poked Taiwanese territory proved otherwise.

RCAF had been flying near continuous patrols to keep a watch on increasingly belligerent PLAN and PLAAF activities for last eight days. Some of PLAN activities had become almost routine over the last week. A flight of two J-15s would take off from the carrier, fly at an altitude between 500-800 meters and whenever they spotted a civilian ship heading towards Taiwanese ports, they’d do 1-2 low flying passes making a point to show off YJ-83 anti-ship cruise missiles (AshM) hanging from their fuselages. US Navy had deployed it’s own carrier task force in Philippine Sea and was observing the Chinese exercise with it’s own assets.

An export version of the YJ-83 had already seen combat few years back. In 2006, Hezbollah fired 2 YJ-82 at an Israeli corvette scoring one hit. The ship had turned off it’s radar and defence systems temporarily due to presence of friendlies in the area and suffered serious damage. In 2016, a guided missile destroyer of US Navy came under attack from same missiles fired by a Houthi group. But none of the missiles scored a hit.

J-15 was a Chinese knockoff of Russian Sukhoi 27K (commonly known as Su-33) and had a somewhat troubled history. While fully fuelled, it could barely carry two tons worth of weapons from the ski-jump of Chinese aircraft carriers. It’s Chinese made WS-10 engines were notoriously unreliable and it had to use Russian AL-31F for most of the fleet. A later variant of WS-10 was supposed to replace the Russian engines, but progress was slow. There were numerous other technical programs and atleast four crashes had forced China to look for a new naval fighter.

Taiwan had raised alert level and deployed 2 La Fayette-class frigates and one Cheng Kung class destroyer Su Ao to monitor Chinese activities. One of the La Fayettes was it’s specialised submarine hunter Kang Ding class and other was Formidable class. They were supported by two squadrons of F-16s, Mirage-2000 fighters, 3 P-3C Orion and 2 E-2K Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft flying near continuous sorties. Lin and his wingman Hao cruised slowly around the slower Orion as it’s escorts. Hawkeye that was scheduled to be in air at the time had developed some problem with it’s landing gear and the replacement plane was being readied causing a gap in the deployment. A pair of F-16C was supposed to escort Hawkeye and they were not airborne yet either. The three ships were somewhere west of the islands out of his visual reach.

Lin looked at his fuel gauge and noticed 15 minutes to bingo fuel (minimum amount of fuel left to reach back homebase). His replacement jets for the escort were undergoing pre-flight checks on ground and were expected to reach the patrol area shortly relieving him for the day. He looked at the general direction of his landing strip towards the east trying to see if he could spot it on the unusually clear day. He could see the lone Orion around a 1000 m below him on his starboard side flying low and dropping sonobuoys in the water. It could carry around 90 active or passive sonobuoys and was almost finished deploying last of them few km south of Penghu islands.

Sonobuoys are usually disposable sensors which can be deployed by naval vessels or aircraft for detection of enemy ships and submarines. They are usually deployed over a certain area and they keep monitoring till recovery or till battery runs out. The data from these sonobuoys can be transmitted via a radio link to the aircraft that deployed them or to some other receiver within range. That day, Orion was supposed to stay in the area for 2 more hours monitoring the incoming data for signs of any Chinese submarine activity near Taiwanese coast. He had made a few friends from the crew of bigger aircraft in last few days. “Stay there Mace 1, I’ll save some Chiayi for you .” he thought while remembering the night’s menu..

Voice of the mission controller pulled him out of his somewhat relaxed mood, “Ground Control to Walker flight, we have noticed one, possibly two fast moving contacts at bearing Two-Two-Zero, altitude 600 m moving towards you. Move in front of Mace 1 and investigate the bogeys. Stay within 30 nautical miles of coast and do not turn on your radars. You are not weapons free.”

Lin and Hao noticed the Orion take a sharp turn and move to the safety of land based air defences. Further chatter on radio confirmed F-16s of 21st Tactical Fighter Group scrambling from Chiyai as the two Mirages-2000 moved forward to shield the retreating Orion. Ground control had marked the incoming bogeys as Pirate 1 and 2 and they could see them as two red triangles in one of the screens in the cockpit marked nearly 100 nautical miles south west of their position. Before the days of data links and sensor fusion, pilots didn’t have the luxury of such degree of situational awareness even with their radars on. The data about friendly and enemy assets was being collected from a network of sea and land based sensors and beamed to them via secure communication links. Had the Hawkeye been operational, they’d have a warning much sooner. But it was not due to whatever reason at the time and they had to make the best of it.

Based on approach vectors, Taiwanese were pretty sure that the two bogeys were J-15s from Liaoning positioned south-east of Hong Kong. Previously a flight of two or sometimes four J-15s had come within the sniffing distance of Taiwanese waters, made a show of their presence over civilian vessels by flying low and then flew back. It was a dangerous game and even a small mistake could cause immense damage.Lin was quite aware of it and was not particularly relishing the idea of being the first one from his side to dive in to hostilities. He was pretty sure that the Chinese ground based as well as air-borne radars would have been monitoring their movements and sending updates to J-15s as well even as they flew in with radars switched off. One dangerous thing about this was that some of the Chinese Air to Air missiles like PL-15 didn’t need to be guided or provided targets by the planes themselves. The targeting data could be provided by another fighter or AWACS and the missile could be guided to target without the plane ever turning on it’s radar.

Moments two new red contacts came alive on Mirage-2000 screens around 70 nm from Chinese mainland and mission control informed them of two more Chinese fighters lying roughly 200 m above sea in direction of 3 naval ships. The F-16s were still just about a minute away from takeoff. Seconds later, Pirate 1 and 2 suddenly changed their bearings and turned west and then north again bringing them on a bearing towards the ships. Mirages maneuvered to intercept them, but overshot and turned around to get a bead on J-15s again. Now they were within visual range and Lin could see sunlight’s glint on the canopy of J-15s flying 2000 m below him.

Lin noticed with concern that the Pirates were within firing range of their AShM and then heard on radio that they had turned on their tracking radars. That was the first step to acquire a target, gather data about it’s position, bearing etc, provide the data to missile and then fire it. The ships reported the same from two J-10s who were within 70 nm of them and getting closer with each passing second. Neither of the Chinese fighters could get a lock because of intense jamming by the ships as well as ground based assets. This defensive measure was only temporary and he knew that as soon as the fighters got past the burn through range, they’d have a radar lock on the ships.

Lin noticed a tinge of excitement in mission controller’s voice as he changed weapon status to Weapon Hold. This meant that the Mirages and ships were free to attack when under attack, but they still couldn’t fire the first shot. Walker flight turned on their radar and both of them locked on to the J-15s racing below them immediately. Just then they noticed another fast moving bogey racing in at near Mach 0.9 speed from bearing 180 flying 20 meters above water. Intrepid’s computer detected it as a YJ-83 missile coming in it’s direction and launched three RIM-66 missiles at it.

The two J-15s in front of Mirages suddenly tried to gain altitude and Pirate 1 tried to turn to face the Mirages. Lin had him on his targeting radar and fired off one Matra Magic AAM at it before J-15 had a chance to do anything more. The missile locked on to the sizeable heat signature of twin engined J-15 and exploded a few inches away from it’s port engine shredding it and tailfins with hundreds of small shrapnel. That engine flamed out immediately and the sudden loss of power and control plunged the aircraft in to the sea before the pilot had any chase to control it.

Even as the Magic hit the J-15, Lin could hear screaming voice of MC telling him to disengage. Intrepid had fired it’s SAMs on a ghost, the target had vanished a second after the missiles had left their launcher. Bandit flight too had turned back immediately after the missile launch. Nobody knew for real what exactly had happened and the voice channel was full of people asking for information and passing instructions Lin had a dreadful feeling that he might have started a war.
 

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Kaalkut. Chapter 22.
Continued
Global Network News
Tensions rise between China and Taiwan over shoot down of Chinese jet

Taiwanese defence minister Wang Shizhen has rejected Chinese demands for an apology and compensation for shooting down a Chinese naval plane last week. Taiwanese defence forces had shot down one Chinese J-15 fighter jet after a pair of them had flown close to their naval vessels and performed threatening maneuvers. Blaming China for the incident, the minister claimed that two Chinese planes performed extremely dangerous and provocative maneuvers which led to Taiwanese forces believing that they had launched missiles before they were shot down in self-defence.

He also said that Chinese navy was harassing Taiwanese civilian vessels and violating territory in the guise of an extremely aggressive military drill. Taiwanese defence forces had practised extraordinary restraint but had only defended themselves.
A spokesperson from Chinese defence ministry termed these comments as lies to cover up wanton aggression and unprofessional behaviour of Taiwanese defence forces. He claimed that Taiwan was being egged on for a conflict with China by certain foreign powers who are jealous of Chinese increased military and financial stature. He refused to answer who these countries might be but said that Chinese stance over the issue remains unchanged and that Taiwan should render an unconditional apology.

Ties between the two countries have become extremely strained and there have been multiple anti-Taiwan protests in China. CCP has threatened a trade embargo on Taiwanese companies but whether they’ll follow through on their threats remains to be seen. Any such action is likely to hurt China as much as Taiwan.

In the meanwhile, two American ships including one advanced Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer docked in a Taiwanese port for what was termed as a routine refueling and resupply mission. A powerful US naval fleet led by aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is expected to be in the area in the next few days which may raise tensions even further. Although it’s passage was declared many weeks back as routine freedom of navigation exercises which US performs often, it may be seen as a provocation in China where tempers are already running high.



Kaalkut. Chapter 23
14 April 2020
South-West Tibet

Rinchen crawled slowly on his knees and elbows and stopped just short of the edge of cliff. He was wearing three layers of insulated clothing under his special snow and ice camouflage, yet icy wind still managed to chill his bones. The fact that he was lying on an ice cold rocky surface didn’t help either. He cleared his throat softly and wiped his nose under the mask.

“So tell me once again Pema, why are we freezing our ass off here on this icy cliff for two days in such suicidal conditions when the same job can be done by UAVs and satellites.”

“If you manage to not get us killed in next 4-5 hours, you’ll see for yourself.”
“Oh believe me you jerk. I certainly don’t wish to die here on this cold as fuck mountain. I do have a girlfriend I’d like to see again back home.”

“Yeah and maybe lose your virginity too.”

“I lost that with your girlfriend. Didn’t she tell you?”

“I’ve only had a boyfriend, that’s you.”

The idle chatter of two SFF soldiers was broken by sight of a small dust cloud in the distance.

“Target in sight.” The attitude of two soldiers changed instantly to mission mode. Pema adjusted the focus of his high power binoculars to get a better look while Rinchen reported the update via a secure communications console. Feed from Pema’s binoculars was being fed to the communications console and streamed to Indian intelligence centre hundreds of kilometers away. They watched the convoy come closer over the mountainous roads and stop at an open flat spot in between the mountain peaks.
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“4 launchers, 5 what seem like radar vehicles, 14 supply trucks, 3 troop transports, 6 mounted ack-acks, (slang for anti-aircraft guns) and they are all stopping in the reported coordinates. So one whole S-400 battery to defend just this sector.” Pema spoke softly.

“I hope that they don’t ask us to go and destroy all that stuff there now.” Rinchen put gloves back on his hands and rubbed them to get them to warm up again. It was difficult handling the small buttons with thick gloves, so he had taken them off.

“Well, if we want to stop Chinese supply lines and hit them where it matters, SAM batteries like these need to go. By the way, did you notice that they have a full company worth of soldiers deployed just for perimeter defence? I can see a few RPGs too. They’re not taking any chances. ”

“Yeah, let’s just hope that they don’t feel like coming in our direction or deploy their UAVs over us.”

A handful of Indian reconnaissance teams like them had placed a few cleverly hidden sensors on surrounding peaks over the last few days. Many years back, CIA had employed Tibetans to deploy sensors to spy on Chinese nuclear weapons program. “Somethings really don’t change much.” Rinchen thought to himself and switched on the console again after observing completion of radar deployment process by the Chinese crew. The sensors collected whatever radio frequencies Chinese were using for radars and communications and sent it to the console operated by Rinchen. The data was then encrypted, compressed and transmitted via satellite to Indian control center at random intervals. Whole thing had been planned carefully over months to prevent the enemy from detecting the transmission and it’s source. Even if they managed to detect the radio traffic by some blind luck, they were more likely to dismiss it as some normal radio interference or reflections rather than a spying device. Indian familiarity with this series of missiles helped a lot.

With tensions rising everyday both India and China were doing their best to be prepared for war. This reconnaissance mission was just one of many such similar ones under progress of being planned by both sides. Indian police in Sikkim had arrested three men a few days back under suspicion of being Chinese spies.Chinese too had arrested a number of people in Tibet as well as a few other provinces under charges of spying. Some of the arrested people were spies indeed, but most were not. In China, with no proper justice system, it didn’t matter much. Suspicion and circumstantial evidence was more than enough for years in a jail or even execution. The best the two men could hope in case of capture was a firing squad.

It had been made very clear to all the recruits on their first day of training. Out of forty volunteers and after a year of training, only eight had been chosen for cross-border operations inside Chinese held territories. Each one of them had accepted the mission knowing very well that their chances of dying were much higher than that of survival. Pema and Rinchen had been operating in Tibet for two weeks and expected to stay for perhaps four more.
This mission of monitoring Chinese anti-air assets was one of many in their list. Now that they had completed it, they were free to move on to the next one. The two man team would leave the equipment behind to let it operate for six to seven months before it needed a new battery.
 

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Kaalkut Chapter 24
16 April 2020
Beijing.


Sachin Kumar was happy that he had managed to take a day off to see the city and take some pictures after a long time. He had bought his Canon mirrorless DSLR few months back after he was posted to the Indian consulate in Beijing. After settling in his work routine, he had made it a point to go out in the city to take pictures of tourist sights, buildings and people whenever he had time for it. Only thing he couldn’t do was bird photography which pinched him a bit as he had bought a very expensive long zoom lens for it. He had spent 2 months in Beijing looking for birds to photograph in the city and it’s outskirts without any success. It was only after a local employee had told him about the Chinese habit of capturing and eating local birds in various kinds of soups that he had stopped carrying his heavy zoom lens while on his photographic expeditions.

He was on yet another city discovery walk by himself trying to get some good pictures of Beijing National Stadium after dark. Someone in the embassy had marked out a good spot on his paper map of the city from where he could get the kind of shots he wanted. He had been in the same spot for about an hour taking pictures and waiting for light to change for different types of shots. There were 3-4 people like him doing the same things with their own cameras and phone cameras.

He was fiddling through the camera setting trying to set up the best settings for his next shot when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see a Chinese man dressed in civilian clothes he had never seen before. He had been approached by many tourists in the past who’d ask him to take their photos with their cameras. So he assumed him to be yet another such tourist who liked a regular picture better than selfies. “Yes hello, how can I help?” he spoke in his broken Mandarin.

The Chinese man replied in fairly good English, “What are you taking pictures of?”

Kumar showed him the screen of his camera, “This Stadium building! Quite interesting, right?”

“Any reason why you are taking so detailed pictures of the building?” came yet another question.

“I like taking pictures of buildings among a few other things and this one is quite beautiful.” Kumar replied.

Chinese man stared at the stadium in background and then at the screen, avoiding any kind of eye contact even while talking. “Do you know that a City Parade will start from there next week?”

Kumar just shook his head, “No idea about that.”

“And what do you do for work? Do you have any id?” Came another question.

Kumar was starting to get irritated, but asked a question of his own, “May I know who you are and why are you asking me this?”

The Chinese man took out his ID card with the logo of Beijing Police displayed prominently and the rest of text in Chinese, “Superintendent Liu Wenqing, Beijing Police.”

Kumar was slightly concerned but took out his own wallet to show his ID,“I am Sachin Kumar, Second Secretary at Indian embassy in Beijing.”

Wenqing took the ID from Kumar’s hand and took a long hard look at it. He then lit a cigarette and spoke casually, “Gather your things Mr Sachin Kumar. You’re coming with me.”

Kumar stood his ground, “May I know what I am being charged with? I have diplomatic immunity and I was not doing anything illegal.”

Wneqing looked at him in the eyes for the first time since the conversation had started, “I didn’t make a request, but ordered you. Come quickly.”

Kumar shook his head, “If you don’t like me taking pictures of the stadium, I’ll leave the place immediately. But you can’t arrest a diplomat, that too just for taking pictures that hundreds of tourists do everyday.”

Wenqing took a deep drag of his cigarette and made a signal. Three men in plain clothes who had walked in slowly from a distance suddenly rushed in. Two of them forcibly handcuffed him and the third searched him. They took out his wallet, phone, keys and sunglasses and put it in a bag. Kumar shouted in surprise and anger, but two swift punches to the ribs left him breathless and writhing in pain. He was dragged to an unmarked car and forced to get in. Two of his captors took seats on his both sides and other two sat in front.

Once in the car, Kumar tried to talk again, “Let me make a call to my office.” Wenqing reached back from passenger seat in front and blew cigarette smoke in his direction. “Go ahead Mr Kumar, call whoever you can.”

Kumar received a punch to his side of his head leaving him dizzy and shocked. For the first time in his life, he feared for his personal safety. But there was nothing much he could do in the car.

19th April, China
China United Television & Information Agency


Two Indian spies arrested in Beijing
Amidst growing tensions between China and India, Chinese security agencies have arrested two senior Indian diplomats on charges of spying and espionage. Two men from Indian embassy, a Second Secretary named Sachin Kumar and Air Attache Group Captain Gautam Pant were arrested by officers of internal security with some incriminating material which included maps, memory sticks, cameras, encrypted phones and some sensitive documents.

One of the spies was arrested as he was doing reconnaissance in front of Beijing National Stadium which is going to host a CCP Rally in a few days. Both men have been handed over to Ministry of State Security and taken to an yet undisclosed location for interrogation. A spokesman from Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the illegal activities of Indian embassy and declared the two men persona non grata. It’s expected that they will be extradited from China within 3 days.

With these arrests, China has busted a massive spying and propaganda ring spearheaded by these two men in China for infamous Indian spy agency Research & Analysis Wing. More details are expected to come out once the data in memory sticks and phones confiscated from the two spies is analysed.

After the news about the arrest of two spies was released, a crowd of 350-400 Chinese citizens laid siege to Indian embassy in Beijing forcing it’s closure. Riot control police was deployed after the crowd turned unruly and damaged some embassy property. Some people have reportedly been hurt and hospitalised in the chaos.

Indian consulate in Shanghai has ceased all official functions this morning. Chinese staff of the office was told to stay home pending further instructions. It’s still unclear when they will resume normal duties.

A spokesman from Indian External Affairs Ministry declined all charges about the spying activities of the two embassy staffers and criticised their arrest and subsequent actions. He demanded immediate release of the two officers and more protection for Indian embassy and consulate.

Same Day, New Delhi, India

“This is simply not unacceptable at all, sir. Chinese have gone too far with this.” External Affairs Minister Piyush Vajpayee was uncharacteristically angry.

Defence Minister Maadhvan Kamat was no less riled up, “They’ve arrested our diplomats on made up charges and are most likely torturing them for a fake confession. These two are not even spies for real! What exactly do these morons want to prove or do by arresting diplomats on made up charges?”

“You both are preaching to the choir. Let's decide what should be our plan of action for now. We can’t jeopardise safety of our people in China by any rash action.” PM Angad Bisht tried to cool down tempers.

“An eye for an eye, that should be a good start.” DM replied after having a sip of tea.

“An eye for an eye” PM said contemplatively, “But how? Arrest some of their people here and send a murderous mob to 50-D, Chaanakyapuri? (Address of Chinese Embassy in New Delhi).
By the way, what did Jil Ron say?” PM asked, referring to the demarche issued to Chinese ambassador earlier in the day.

”Nothing of substance really, just the usual platitudes he is so good at.” DM replied and shook his head in frustration.

There was a knock on the door of the meeting room and personal assistant of NSA Ajay Dhumal furtively walked in but stayed near the door. Normal protocol stated that no such interruption was to be allowed except in a truly exceptional case. Dhumal got up to talk to him and sent him outside after hearing his message. “Seems like some of our Chinese friends from 50-D are making a run for it. Their plane has made a request at the airport for flight clearance and fuel.”

EAM seemed unfazed, “Do we know who is going to be on the plane yet?”

NSA Dhumal nodded, “Some of them, yes. Three Secretaries, one Attache, two employees from their visa section and some family members. Atleast two of them are confirmed spies. What do we do? Shall we let them leave?”

PM Bisht shook his head, “Of course not. Tell the airport to refuse permission for take off and fuel supply.”

DM and NSA exchanged a look which led to PM remarking, “And you have already done that. Good! We also had some input about some Indian citizens with links to them. Are we doing anything about them?”

DM Dhumal nodded, “I’ve already set the ball rolling. CBI is submitting chargesheets against National News editor board and some comrades from Socialist Party Of India. We already have more than enough dirt on them to keep them in courts and hopefully jails for atleast a few years. After their statements in support of China in last few days, there is no need for us to play nice.

As far as some other moles are concerned, we’ve increased surveillance on some and started to whack a few. We don’t want Chinese to realise that we’ve penetrated their spy ring so soon.”

“Good, do as you see fit. What can we do to get our people back safe and sound?” PM asked.

EAM Vajpayee seemed to have calmed down a bit and answered, “As long as we have their people here, they can’t do much to our people there. I highly recommend that we tighten the screws here. Once they see that we are going to match and perhaps even overmatch their moves, they’re sure to back down. None of these mandarins have the stomach for real action when their own butts are in line of fire.”

NSA Dhumal warned in his customary manner, “Although I approve what EAM said, I must remind everyone present in the room that there is a real danger of this progressing far beyond an ugly diplomatic spat. Whatever we are doing are calculated risks but there is no reliable way to be sure.”

PM nodded, “That’s true, but we need to draw a line in sand and start to take some visible actions. Their bullying has gone on for far too long. They are just testing our resolve with childish moves like these. If we don’t reply back in the same tone, I’m sure that they’ll do something worse next time.

Apart from that, what’s our status with Tibetans?”

“We are taking it slow after the spy bust in January. The main mole arrested was just an aide to someone close to PM Kalsang, but it’ll not be a stretch to assume that Chinese now know what we are doing with respect to recognition to Tibet as an independent country. I also talked with Major General Vats last week and he assured that the 7 battalions of new Tibetan Army will be fully trained and equipped by end of June. We can start moving them in to Tibet after that or declare their existence, depending upon the conditions then.”

“That’s good, let’s not waste too much time doing that. We need to finalise date of declaration about Tibet after the troop movement starts.”

“We also need to make a decision about Maldives. Shall we issue another package or keep it as it is for a while?” EAM said while displaying a copy of the letter sent by Maldivian finance minister.

The letter thanked India for the USD 110 million soft loan and requested assistance with more projects in coming months.

Maldivian economy was reeling due to collapse of tourism industry caused by Corona virus. Chinese saw it as a perfect opportunity to put more pressure on them and demanded payments for their projects and loans in the small island nation. China had financed infrastructure projects worth USD 1.5 billion as part of its Belt & Road Initiative during the reign of Maldivian President Abdul Gayoom.

He had sought to increase ties with China by snubbing India and favouring Chinese companies in all major projects in the country. One major such project was USD 500 million island airport project which was awarded to a Chinese company even when it had lost out to an Indian competitor in the tendering process. His reign was marked by numerous allegations of money laundering, corruption and illegal sale of Maldivian islands and other assets to foreign interests. During the last year of his term, he had put all major opposition politicians in jail and sought to postpone the elections via an amendment to the constitution.

Indian regime saw this move as a coup by China who wanted their puppet to stay in power indefinitely. After a request for help by the main opposition leader and former president Ibrahim Wahid, India intervened by exercising it’s long standing diplomatic and intelligence influence. NSA Dhumal had led the mission personally and had managed to get the political prisoners released from custody and attempt to modify the constitution were defeated in the national assembly. There were unconfirmed reports of Chinese trying to land a battalion worth of troops in Male in support of Gayoom,, but no information was released about what had actually happened to their transporters carrying the troops. All three governments had dismissed the reports calling them rumours.

Wahid won national elections in early 2019 with near 60% of votes and took oath as President. Gayoom was caught by Maldivian coast guard as he was allegedly trying to escape in his yacht and tried in court for multiple charges of corruption and illegal use of power. The court found him guilty of most charges and he was imprisoned for 17 years and permanently disbarred from fighting elections.

Since then Indian and Maldivian governments had worked closely to repair the relations between two countries. Maldivian government investigated some projects started by China during Gayoom’s trial and found out that quite a few were awarded without following due process and benefitted members of Gayoom’s regime and Chinese companies instead of Maldivian economy. Many such projects were renegotiated or were put on hold if no middle ground could be found with Chinese.

As expected, Chinese had not taken this lying down. They had slowed down work on their projects and started putting diplomatic and economic pressure on Wahid regime. Maldives’ economy was in a bad shape after the spread of Corona virus and resulting collapse of tourism industry and they were finding it difficult to pay back the due loans to China.

Indian government had seen this as an opportunity to increase it’s goodwill and had extended a credit line worth USD 300 million along with a currency swap agreement of worth USD 250 million. But Maldives needed still more assistance for a new saline water treatment plant and a 100 MW solar power plant which were held up after the Chinese contractors working on them were disqualified for having used corrupt means to grab the projects and using sub-standard equipment. The latest letter requested Indian assistance with the delayed yet vital projects.

DM Kamat scoffed, “Isn’t this solar project the same one for which an Indian company had bid the lowest, yet was elbowed out?”

EAM nodded, “Yes, it was done by Gayoom. This was one of the charges he was convicted of.” Then addressing the room he asked, “I think we should say yes. They’ve agreed to award the project to the same Indian companies if we offer favourable loan terms.”

DM read through the Maldivian letter, “Aren’t we extending ourselves a bit too thin here? We’ve already spent around USD 900 million on Maldives, 790 on Sri Lanka and 440 on Mauritius just in the past one year. And there’s no guarantee that we will recover our investments, more so if Chinese manage to install their puppets in these countries yet again.

We still haven’t managed to solve the Nepal issue yet. Bangladeshis have asked for more money too, Afghanistan definitely needs stuff worth 600-800 million, Same with Myanmar and we may have a Bhutan problem soon. We can’t be seen throwing money to anyone who asks for it.”

EAM mentally rolled his eyes but answered patiently, “Not disputing what you said, but it’s not like we are just giving them free money all at once. All these aid packages, loans and lines of credit are spread over months and years. Most of them are investments in industrial projects, infrastructure and high visibility and goodwill projects such as colleges and hospitals. The goodwill that we earn from this more than just pays for the monetary investment we make.

Chinese are spending many times this number in a single country and are on verge of making a number of them their vassals. We can’t be counting paisas when our allies turn to Chinese sphere of influence enmasse.”

DM conceded, “You’re right. All I was asking is If we can afford it.”

“I will get Deshmukh ji (Finance Minister) to look in to it and see what we can do for Maldives. I don’t think it should be a problem.” PM spoke and changed topic, “Any update about Nepal?”

NSA Dhumal shook his head, “Nothing really important that needs to be discussed right now apart from a few political things. The alliance between NPS and NCP has started to show friction as predicted. A group of NPS legislators have threatened to withdraw support for the alliance or resign, but their numbers are not that strong yet to bring the NPS-NCP alliance in to minority. ”

EAM showed a pie chart of seat share in the Nepalese assembly on the screen, “The rebel faction still needs 12-14 more legislators to pose any serious threat to the alliance. ”

“I don’t really disagree with you, but you are missing the fact that most of NCP is Chinese proxy. They are playing it slow and not making the same mistakes they did in Maldives among a few other countries. But I can bet that they are just biding their time and will cause more problems for us very soon.” NSA raised his objections.

“That’s also very true.” PM observed. “So what can we do about this?”

“We have adopted a wait and watch attitude but keeping our options open. We’ll not do anything in the short term if the Uttam Maharaj plays nice after our latest approach. But if and when he does, we will get him kicked out without letting the rest of Chinese stooges any close to the power centre. “ NSA spoke quickly, “And if you’ll have my opinion based on many intelligence reports, it’s just a matter of when, not if. Chinese will definitely do something to needle us through their Nepalese proxies. We just don’t know what and when.”

PM thought about it for a moment and looked at DM, who nodded his approval to what NSA had said. “You have my permission. Keep our options and eyes open in Nepal, but don’t take any rash decisions.”

“We also need to talk about Saudis.They have kept us busy since last few days.” EAM spoke hurriedly and shared a document with the room.

For a long time, Pakistan sold itself as the mercenary to Arab countries, acting as the self-proclaimed guardian of ummah and the sole Islamic nuclear power. A lot of Arab nations employed Pakistani in their defence forces and funded Pakistani military in return.One of the Pakistani dictators, Gen Zia-ul-Haq commanded a Jordaninan army division in a bloody fight against Palestinians in 1970 leading to deaths of more than twenty five thousand Palestinians, most of them unarmed civilians. Some people had noticed that Jordaninans and Pakistanis had killed a lot more Palestinians in 10 days than what Israelis had in 20 years. Pakistani pilots had also flown sorties in Arab campaigns against Israel.

Many analysts believed that Pakistani nuclear program was financed by Saudis in return for transfer of some nuclear tipped missiles. Saudi investment in Pakistan was quite a more diverse affair than just financial and military. Ever since Pakistan had adopted a full fledged Islamist ideology under Zia-ul-Haq, Saudis had pumped in billions of dollars promoting their brand of strict Wahabi Islam by way of direct financing, construction of mosques, seminaries and propping up islamist mullahs and politicians which promoted their ideology. This meant that Saudis had a lot stronger grip on Pakistani internal politics, religious affairs and civil society than most people gave them credit for.

Even as Pakistan jumped from one sugar daddy to another, grip of Saudis on what it could do remained strong yet hidden as most analysts felt uncomfortable analysing role of islam in the power play. Saudi money and influence played a big role in this too. They were not very pleased when Pakistan started shifting its allegiance to China and Turkey. All of Islamic world was willing to overlook and even condone Chinese atrocities on Uighur muslims, but their tolerance ran thin when Chinese started to expand their influence in their backyards. Although the two countries shared good relations, Saudis were not happy with how Chinese were gaining power in Pakistan with their money and weapons. They had curtailed their financial and diplomatic support to Pakistan knowing very well that China with all it’s money could hope to have as strong a grip on Pakistani psyche as them.

Indian policymakers had realised the fact and were using the fact to counter Pakistan. A number of trade deals and military pacts signed during last 3-4 years had made Saudis more appreciative of Indian concerns too. Even as Saudi society remained in the vice like grip of the royal family and their islamic edicts, their actions in international forums were a bit more progressive. Unlike in past, they had voted against Pakistan on numerous forums and had supported Pakistan’s blacklisting due to its support for terrorism. The fact that Saudi promoted Wahabi ideology had played a huge role in the rise of islamic fanaticism in Pakistan was a point neither acknowledged nor discussed.

Over the last few months, Indian diplomats had persuaded Saudis to go slow on their economic assistance to Pakistan. Collapse of oil prices and Saudi desire to have a few allies outside of islamic world had also played a role. NSA and EAM had multiple meetings with their Saudi counterparts and hammered out a number of trade and security agreements. Under US pressure, India was being cajoled in to distancing itself from Iran, a mortal enemy of Saudis. So as India bought more oil from Saudis, latter was more than willing to address Indian security concerns. EAM wanted to get inform about Saudi offer of emergency sale of 30 million barrels.

“30 million barrels at USD 46 each, that’s a lot of oil at above market prices!” DM exclaimed.

“Yes, but they are kind of desperate right now. Russians are not agreeing to OIC proposed oil production cuts, Corona has nearly crippeled the world economy and are willing to undercut them even more. Saudis want to get rid of as much oil as possible before oil prices collapse even further.”

“That’s all right. But why should we buy more oil now when it’s going to sell for much lower in a few weeks?”

“They’re willing to stop all monetary aid to Pakistan and support our pending motions in UN and other agencies. If they get on our side here, then UAE, Qatar and most of OIC will likely vote in our favour too.” EAM smiled and looked at PM. He had spent a lot of time courting most major factions in he Arab world and his work was finally bearing fruit, “Additionally, this purchase will fit nicely with our project of upgradation of national oil reserves.”

PM looked at his watch and paused for a moment before speaking. “If finance people approve it, I don’t have any objection. It’ll be good to have as much reserves as possible in conditions like these.”
I think that’s enough for this meeting. I have to reach Tawang by 6 pm.”


Global News
Cooler heads prevail in an ugly diplomatic braw
l
Tensions between China and India which started over the arrest of two Indian diplomats in Beijing in last week of July seem to be cooling down. The stand down happened when India removed the barricading of Chinese embassy in New Delhi following the same move by Chinese authorities in Beijing and Shanghai. Chinese secret police had arrested two Indian diplomats and what India alleged in a chain of illegal actions, detained and tortured them in custody. Following news of the arrest, a Chinese nationalist mob had attacked Indian embassy in Beijing with rocks and petrol bombs. Several Indian embassy staffers were injured in the attack and were forced to seek medical attention within embassy premises as the mob refused to let any vehicle out of premises.

The two arrested diplomats who were declared persona non grata and were seen at the airport boarding a flight while handcuffed with visible injury marks on their faces. Some of the eyewitnesses at the airport claimed that the Chinese security personnel escorting the diplomats were unduly violent and unruly with their prisoners.

Following this, India had refused fuel supply and permission to fly for the Chinese aircraft that was supposed to bring a handful of diplomats and their families back from New Delhi. Some of the Chinese embassy personnel who had reached the airport were confined in there and denied permission to either board the aircraft or go back to their accommodations in the city. India had also accused three Chinese embassy staffers including one First Secretary of being Chinese intelligence agents. They were detained from their residences and held up in custody of local military intelligence unit. One of the diplomats was injured when he suffered a fall down the stairs in his apartment while trying to escape from Indian security agents sent to detain him..

A spokesman from Chinese foreign ministry later alleged that their diplomats were beaten in custody, but their Indian counterparts rubbished the allegations calling them delusions of a bully with a perpetual victimhood complex.

Following the removal of barricading, both embassies are expected to start basic work from tomorrow though it’s not clear if either country will reduce it’s embassy staff. A senior Indian bureaucrat from Indian EAM had hinted of such a decision a few days back. China will be forced to do the same if India goes ahead with such a move.

This incident had sparked a global fear about a war between the two nuclear armed countries. A lot of analysts had expressed their fears over an imminent war as the two countries had a lot of other disputes going on related to territory and trade among a few other issues. A lot of people on social media have expressed their happiness over the deescalation. Though a large number of people from both countries have been calling for stronger measures and even war to teach the “enemy” a lesson.

Citizens of both countries had engaged in a virtual war over the latest conflict on various social media platforms. A lot of websites in both countries were hacked and defaced by self-proclaimed nationalist hacker groups from both countries, Since China has a closed internet system, most of the Chinese users on platforms banned in China like Facebook and Twitter were not as numerous as Indians. Chinese social media like Weibo on the other hand, had only pro-Chinese posts. Both places had a large amount of racist and hateful content against the other. Some of it has been deleted and many users banned for hate speech in India, but there are no reports of any such action in China so far where internet is strictly controlled by the CCP regime.

This propaganda war is still going on even after recent developments and is unlikely to cool down anytime soon.
 

jamwal

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Kaakut. Chapter 25.

29 May 2020
19:10 Hours IST
New Delhi, India



PM Bisht was about to leave for his home after a long day in the office. His security detail was going over the last minute checks as he waited inside the air-conditioned office avoiding the humid weather. There was a knock on his door and chief of security crew Abhay Nambiar entered the room along with two other Special Protection Group (SPG) special agents. He spoke quickly, “Sorry for the interruption sir, but there has been an emergency situation and evacuation protocols have been initiated. We need to get you to Air Force 1 as soon as possible.”

Taken by complete surprise, the PM asked, “Do you know what this is about?”

Nambiar shook his head in negative, “From what I was told, it has something to do with Pakistan. Someone from NSA’s office will inform you on the plane or helicopter.” PM nodded and followed their instructions. They had practised this drill in the past and it played out just like they had planned.

The three SPG agents escorted the PM out of his office and to the waiting helicopter. He was then taken to Palam airport where a special Boeing 777-300ER designated Air India 1 was already refuelled and waiting. DM arrived just a few minutes after PM and was escorted in after him. The plane took off soon after escorted by two Sukhoi-30MKIs armed with jammers and air to air missiles. The Boeing aircraft itself was fitted with multiple self defence systems like Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM), multiple radar spoofing and jamming systems, flare & chaff dispensation systems and extra shielding for protection against nuclear blasts and Electro Magnetic Pulses (EMP). Multiple communication systems with redundancies ensured that the plane’s occupants could stay in contact with anyone they needed to. President and some other members of the cabinet were taken to similarly equipped Air India 2.

NSA Dhumal was already waiting for PM via a tele-conference screen from plane AF1 as soon as he reached the plane’s meeting room. “What’s going on Dhumal? Is it China or Pakistan?”

NSA looked tired on the teleconference screen. “We have an imminent threat from Pakistan. If China is involved in some way, we don’t know about it yet.”

“Imminent threat! What do you mean?”

“NSA fiddled with his tablet and sent images of Major General Qasim Rizvi and Pano Aqil airbase to another screen in the flying meeting room.”It seems like a Pakistani army officer from their Army Strategic Forces Command, one Major General Qasim Rizvi has gone rogue and taken control of Pano Aqil base in Sindh. There were reports of extended firefights and explosions but Pakistanis have cut off all phone and internet access to the area. So we have only limited information till our assets there manage to contact us on radio or something else.”

DM was brought to AI1 in an abrupt manner just like the PM and he was still trying to collect his bearings. He stared at the screens and papers in his hands and muttered, “Great ! As if Chinese and their viruses were not enough, now we have to deal with nuclear weapons under control of their more than just batshit crazy assholes.” He paused for a second, leafed through papers again and asked, “What are Pakistanis saying officially?

“Their Home Minister claimed on a TV channel that there was a large terrorist attack on the base by unknown terrorists with unknown motives. After that there has been a full blackout. Most of their political administration including the PM and most of cabinet has gone incommunicado. Most of the senior military command is supposedly hiding or gone underground too. But we have noticed large scale movement of ground forces and air assets in the area already. But no plane has been seen taking off from the Pano Aqil airbase itself.”

PM exhaled and looked at DM, “We need to start making preparations of our own.”

“Yes, I spoke to General Bharat Samant from Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD) and Air Marshal Arjun Mukund from Strategic Forces Command (SFC). At this moment, it seems like their people will need to get involved before anybody else. Rest of the command will contact us as soon as there is more clarity about the situation.“ DM answered and then addressed NSA, “Dhumal ji, do you think that Chinese are involved in this incident?”

“I’ve been thinking about this and I can’t discount the possibility. However we simply don’t have enough intelligence to be sure about this. Whatever we know about this Maj Gen Rizvi is not very conclusive either. I’ve sent you his file. Our intelligence marked him as competent, a bit aloof and somewhat of a devout muslim. He had turned a bit more religious after the death of his wife, but nothing out of ordinary. Unlike most Pakistani generals, he had the reputation of being honest, competent and upright.”

“Knowing Pakis as well as we do, it all might just be an elaborate ruse to attack us or get more money from any of their four fathers.” DM responded bitterly.

“For what we know presently, it could be anything. We need to be prepared for all eventualities. Utilise all resources and get all the information possible you see fit. Our defence command and a few others need to be part of the decision making process. I want another meeting as soon as we have more information. I hope we’ll have enough data by then to make informed decisions.” PM spoke to end the meeting.

20:15 Hours
Pakistan News & Information Service, Sukkur Desk



BREAKING: Pano Aqil Aqil Military Base Under Siege

We have reports coming in from various sources that a military base in Pano Aqil is under attack by yet unknown assailants. According to civilian eye witnesses in the city, there were multiple explosions and heavy firing in the area. A video sent by a local resident shows two helicopters at Pano Aqil air base trying to take off and then being destroyed by heavy machine gun fire from the ground.

Another witness reported sounds of heavy gunfire at a military facility 1.5 km from the airstrip and atleast three pillars of dark smoke rising from the area. After the initial reports, authorities have initiated a full blackout of the region and blocked all kinds of civilian communications and traffic. Electricity supply to most of the city has been cut off increasing panic among the civilian population. But people who were trying to get out of the city were sent back home by Pakistani army personnel patrolling the roads. At the same time, there were reports of unusually heavy air traffic at some nearby airport.

Many defence analysts claim that Pano Aqil is used by Pakistani armed forces as storage for their nuclear weapons and is considered to be highly secured. Some reports suggested that the attack was planned and led by a senior officer commanding the base. One spokesperson from Sindh’s home ministry claimed that an installation in the cantonment was attacked by terrorists and the situation was under control. But everyone including the federal government and Pakistan Army have refused to provide further details.


21:55 Hours
Skies Over Madhya Pradesh


A large screen played a video of bearded Major General Qasim Rizvi talking to the camera in his full military attire. He spoke in Urdu using a calm measured voice.

“My name is Major General Qasim Rizvi and I have served Pakistan as an army officer for 35 years. I started as a Lieutenant and worked my way to the post of Major General after decades of sacrifice, and hard work . There is not a single person who can raise doubts over my integrity, honesty and loyalty to the nation and islam. In our army, there were many others even more dedicated people than me who sacrificed everything they had for betterment of Pakistan and glory of islam. But sadly, people like me are now a vanishing minority. We are punished because we care about the country more than the bank balances of our senior officers. Pakistani army and politics have become tden of a few power hungry and greedy elites who just use their privilege to squeeze out every single paisa from the bones of our long suffering masses.

Most of the politicians are just a tool in hands of these corrupt armed forces officers and in most cases, even more spineless and corrupt. They’ve all abandoned islam and Pakistan for their imported liquor, carnal pleasures, suitcases full of cash and mansions in the west. They rile up masses in name of country, the martyrs, Kashmir, islam and even cricket. But their only motive is to just grab as much money as possible for their lives of sin and debauchery.

I am an devout muslim and a patriotic Pakistani. My grandfather didn’t choose to live in Pakistan just to be a servant of liars, thieves and slaves of the kafirs. I know for a fact that the majority of my countrymen share these feelings but feel powerless to take any action.

I request such patriotic muslims to consider me their representative and allow me and my companions here to truly liberate Pakistan and add stars to the glory of islam. If you are watching this video, then it means that my companions have succeeded in first phase of our campaign. We now control our own Islamic atom bombs. The weapons in our control are enough to wipe out crores of kafirs in India, Israel and their friends in a few other places.

We really don’t want to use these weapons and cause so much suffering anywhere. If we were bloodthirsty terrorists like they’d like you to think, we’d have already fired the weapons months before. But all we want is development of Pakistan and glory to islam in peaceful way. For this purpose, we have decided upon a list of demands that each party mentioned here has to fulfill. Every single point is carefully chosen and completely non-negotiable. Non-compliance of any single order will result in us unleashing everything we have.

1. This regime led by the incompetent puppet PM Sohail Niazi be dismissed and replaced by a military board comprising of three selected honest officers .If this order is not fulfilled within 24 hours, then our men will arrest or nuetralise all members of Pakistani cabinet. If you think that you can save yourself by increasing the security, then think again. How can you be sure that the bodyguard is not my man or the cook will not poison your breakfast?

2. All military officers mentioned in the list I’ll read out in the end should resign of their own accord and handover control of their commands to us. Conditions are same as previous point

3. Americans need to withdraw from Afghanistan within 10 days. We want to hear this announcement of complete and unconditional withdrawal in 12 hours. We don’t care if they negotiate with “terrorists” or not. Refusal to comply will result in strikes on all their bases and Afghan allies in the region.

4. Indian forces deployed all over Jammu and Kashmir should disarm and retreat to their mainland. Muslims of the state shouldn’t be oppressed by guns of Hindus. If this doesn’t happen in next 72 hours, then every Indian city under our reach will turn into a pile of radioactive ashes. And trust me, I am on a very short fuse with this one.


Now my dear countrymen, knowing you as well as I like to think I do, I know that many of you will be happy with these steps. Then there’ll be a few who think just this is not enough. You will rightly say that I should’ve demanded that Jews go back from Palestine, Americans stop their military operations not just in Afghanistan but our whole Arab lands; and there is so much more. But my dear Pakistanis, I am but a single old man and facing huge odds. The fact that you are watching this video itself is such an improbable miracle that I have to ask you for help.

It’s very likely that I and many of my companions on this mission may not survive. But I want this holy jihad to go on with your contributions. I know not all of you can pickup guns, but I implore those who can to do so. Those who really can’t, please pressurise your politicians to do the right islamic thing, abandon the path of unislamic debauchery and become true muslims. Report and confront the traitors within us. If we all work together, then we’ll see Pakistan at it’s rightful position as the head of worldwide Dar’ul Islam.

Allah Hafiz



PM rubbed his eyes tiredly and looked at the video conferencing screen. There were expressions of confusion on faces of all the people. He took a sip of water and asked, “So what do we do know? Any ideas?”

NSA spoke first, “From what we know, Pakistanis have stored 4-8 nuclear tipped Nasr missiles on 1-2 launch vehicles with range of 50-70 km and 400 kg payload in Pano Aqil base. It’s nuclear warheads are low yield type, 0.5 to maximum 5 kilotons. Pakistani doctrine envisages their use against our massed land troops in a Cold Start type attack. If fired from Pano Aqil base, it’ll not even cross the border. It’s major threat is it’s radiation rather than the yield. Missile’s size is so small that Pakistanis need to pack a lot more than usual Plutonium to have nuclear fission.

Then there are 4-6 Ghauri (Hatf 5) ballistic missiles with claimed range between 700 to 1200 km depending upon the warhead size which can be between 700 and 1200 kg. Yield of these nuclear warheads can be 35 kilotons. We are not sure how many of the missiles are armed with nuclear warheads, but even a conventional warhead on our bigger cities will cause thousands of deaths.

Ghauri is a copy of North Korean No Dong 1 while Nasr is based on Chinese WS-2 multiple launch rocket system. We don’t have to worry about Nasr right now, but it is possible in theory that it’s smaller warheads can be mated with Ghauri missile. We don’t know if it’ll work in real life or not, but our plan of action assumes that it will.”

He then paused to take a breather and started again, “We have been trying to get in touch with Pakistani authorities through all available channels. Their Prime Minister’s office says that it’s Pakistan's internal matter and that they’re in control. He himself refuses to talk to us claiming that it’s to comply with safety regulations. Lt General Hafiz of I Corps and the 2nd in command of Pak army virtually threatened that he couldn’t control his subordinates if we even considered taking military action. Their army chief refused to even take our call and has made three calls to China already. Even the US defence secretary couldn’t get him to comply with his demands..
So we have two options now. Either we wait and trust that Pakistanis will sort out this problem themselves or we take some action ourselves.”

Our intelligence sources on the ground reported sounds of more gunfire just 20 minutes back. So I don’t think that they are in control and it’s highly unlikely that they’d allow us to do anything in their territory.”

“So it means that they’re trying to take back control of the nuclear weapons, right?” PM asked in a hopeful tone.

“After what Hafiz said on the phone, I am not sure about what is going on in their minds. Maybe they’re sincerely trying to neutralise Rizvi, but going by their mentality I can’t help but fear that they can use this confusion to launch a few missiles at us and claim that it was done by non state actors.”

Chief of the Army Staff General Gopal Gurunath spoke next, “Our intelligence suggests that Pakistani military is rushing a large number of soldiers to Pano Aqil and has enforced a no fly zone over the whole country. Also the statements through their official channels are very confusing. They don’t want any intervention by any foreign power and are claiming that they can handle the situation themselves. If we can get them to cooperate, then neutralising this Maj Gen Rizvi and his bunch of lunatics shouldn’t be that difficult. But this high level of alert, their opposition to foreign intervention and involvement of Americans and conditions on Chinese border complicates the situation.“

PM nodded and asked, “Any update from AFSOD yet? Do they have everything for the mission?”

CDS Rajendra Singh spoke from his station at AF2, “Special Operations teams are on standby and ready to move in as soon as an assault plan is approved. Air Force is almost done preparing flights for air cover and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD). Pakistanis seem adamant on keeping us out at all costs. So the first phase will involve SEAD and precision air and missile strikes using conventional warheads. Then the ground assault troops will do a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) insertion right in Paro Aqil to destroy the remaining missiles and personnel.“

SEAD operations in a full scale war involve destruction or atleast temporary disabling of enemy air defense systems like Surface To Air Missiles (SAMs), radars, AWACS, air defence guns, command, communications and control facilities. Most common types of SEAD operations involve destruction of enemy radars, communication facilities and other systems using Anti Radiation Missiles (ARM). These missiles can track electromagnetic emissions from a wide variety of sources and guide themselves to the target.
Dedicated Electronic Warfare (EW) aircraft or normal aircraft equipped with EW pods can temporarily disable enemy defence systems by jamming and spoofing their communications, radars and targeting systems. There are a few other ways of SEAD too like laying out a relatively safe corridor for the strike force by use of large chaff clouds, dedicated missions against AD systems using conventional bombs and so on.

HALO is a way to deploy paratroopers in enemy territory by having them jump out of the airplane at high altitude and opening their parachutes at low altitudes, usually around 1000 m. This type of approach is accurate, stealthy and helps evade visual detection or by radar. Another approach is High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) which is less stealthy but the personnel can travel for nearly 60 km after the jump.

“What about extraction of our ground units?” PM asked.

“There is an airstrip within 2 km of our main target area which can be used by our C-130s. If we are unable to secure that, we have some Dhruv and Mi-17 helicopters standing by as the back up plan.”

“Will it work?”

“It’ll have to, one way or another.”

Air Chief Marshal Laxman Mathur spoke next, “We have made battle plans for situations like this before. We can destroy most of that base within 6-7 hours.”

“What will be the guarantee that the nuclear weapons stored there will be destroyed by your strikes?”

“In a joint air and ground mission, chances of success are fairly good. Our air and missile strikes can make sure that everything related to missile launch infrastructure will either be destroyed or made unusable for a few days atleast. We’ll need boots on ground to be doubly sure.”

“What about casualties on our side?”

“We are expecting a few losses..” ACM Mathur answered simply.

There was a momentary pause as people in the meeting pondered over the odds of ground troops and pilots surviving the mission. Traveling over a 100 km over the heavily fortified region back to the safety of Indian border would be as difficult a task as getting in.

“If we do this, then what stops Pakistanis to use it as an excuse for declaring a war? We can’t really hope to inform them before assault asking for cooperation. They’ll most likely inform the terrorists themselves even if they’re not doing anything themselves.” DM asked no one in particular.

ACM answered, “We can’t really wait for or trust their word that the nukes are safe. Although they’ve never made it public, it’s common knowledge that even division commanders have nuclear authorisation in Pakistan. We have to assume that Rizvi and perhaps one or more officers working with him have the launch codes. Our country is under imminent threat of nuclear attack and we have to take every possible action to defend ourselves. There is no need to ask for permission from any other external party. This incident has shown that Pakistani military and political leadership is incapable of even basic nuclear safety measures. Ideally this room should have been discussing the full neutralisation of all Pakistani nuclear assets all over the country. Not just this one small site.”

“You’re right, ideally we should be considering full denuclearisation of Pakistan. Home Minister spoke in support of ACM. “But there’s a lot going on including tension with Chinese. All this could also be a ploy to divert our attention from some other mischief or even provoke us into an attack and cry victim.”

NSA shook his head, “Pardon me for interrupting, I am not disagreeing with you. But I need to point out that all available evidence makes it seem that it’s a real crisis. There has been a bloody combat, our operatives have seen injured and dead Pakistanis and there are eye witness accounts of Pakistani PM and 2-3 other ministers rushing out of their houses escorted by military. Then you saw the video of Major General Qasim yourself. Chances of it being a false flag operation are very low. Apart from that, there is a bigger risk of loss if we treat it as one.”

“And it doesn’t need saying that Rizvi managed to take control of Pano Akil with full support of many serving personnel of Pakistani army. There has been a mutiny and there’s no way to know which faction of their army is fighting for what purpose. For all that we know, all are hostile to us.“ DM added his input.

“Will we need to divert any resources deployed in any other sector to Pano Aqil? Anything about Chinese?” PM interrupted the increasingly hypothetical discussion.

CDS shook his head, “Presently we don’t need to do anything like that. I have a gut feeling that Chinese will try to take advantage of this situation. We should not divert attention from them no matter what happens in Pakistan.”

DM got a notification on his secure tablet. He read it and whispered something to the PM. They talked in hushed voices for a minute and then PM addressed the participants, “We have an incoming call from American Defence Secretary. We’ll resume this meeting again in 20 minutes.”

Few Minutes Later


PM looked slightly relaxed as the meeting reconvened. He streamed a list of American military assets on the shared screen and spoke, “We had detailed talk with US President and Defence Secretary. They are proposing a joint military operation to take care of this threat. This list I’ve shared is the military hardware that they can deploy in the next 2 hours. They’ll be providing air support and help with precision attacks in a few places. They want our help with ground assault and air support in certain sectors.

General Singh, I need you to assign a high ranking team to work with Americans right now and prepare an attack plan accordingly.I am assuming that it will free up some of our resources to finish some of our other objectives related to current situation, right? “
 

jamwal

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Frequency of posts maybe slower from now on. Majority of the story from this point onwards is about combat in multiple sectors.
 

jamwal

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Kaalkut. Chapter 26

30 May 2020
00:05 Hours IST

Somewhere in Rajasthan


Brigadier Ashok Jasrotia from AFSOD was briefing the special operations team.

“The good news is that a Pakistani F-16 shot down a American MQ-9 Reaper UAV which was flown in from Kandhar for reconnaissance. The better part is that Americans had informed Pakistanis beforehand and they still went ahead and destroyed the drone using American supplied F-16 fighter. Ironic, isn’t it? And the best part is that we’re going to take a large portion of nuclear toys away from Pakis.

There’s some more. Now Americans don’t want to play nice with Pakistanis and are launching everything they can to take care of Pano Aqil. Like us, they have made plans for emergencies like these and are now seeking our cooperation with this. Command thinks that it’s a good idea and our mission is to destroy all nuclear warheads and missiles in the Pano Aqil bunkers. The plan is to hit Pakis from as many sides as possible and be quick about it before they realise what’s going on.

Now, we are hoping to avoid any hostile engagement with Pakistani troops. We are still trying to get them to let us in and do a joint operation instead of this unilateral operation. But they’re acting very stubbornly. If we are lucky, they may see sense and agree. But if they don’t, which I think is more likely, they are to be considered hostile and treated as such. All except a handful of Rizvi’s supporters are believed to be serving military personnel. So we can’t expect our troops on ground to waste time deciding their motives and loyalties. If you can safely capture him or a handful of his men who can be extracted safely, you are to do that. If that’s not possible, then just shoot them.

Now for the fun details. Even with withdrawal from Afghanistan going on, Americans still have some good air assets deployed there and some in Masirah, Oman and Al DHafra, UAE. They’re deploying 2 P3C Orion maritime surveillance aircrafts, 1 RC-135W Rivet Joint, 4 EA-6B Prowler and 2 E-3C Sentry AWACS for electronic warfare, reconnaissance, early warning and air-traffic control. For aerial firepower, they have ten flightworthy F/A-18D Hornets, fourteen F-16 block 40 fighters and six top of the line F-22s. Additionally, they have a few armed MQ-9B drones for reconnaissance and air to ground strikes.

That’s not all, fortunately. They are also open to firing up to 108 Tomahawk cruise missiles from their two nuclear submarines lurking somewhere in the high seas. If some of you don’t know about the equipment I just listed, don’t worry too much. It’s sufficient to know that most of Pakistani Navy and Air Force in the region will be a bit too busy to interfere in what our ground teams will be doing.

The attack will begin by Americans jamming Paki radar and communications networks using cyber attacks and their airborne EW assets en route. American Global Positioning System has been blocked for everyone else but Americans and it’s equivalent Chinese BeiDuo system will go offline pretty soon over Pakistan too. It’ll not affect us, as we will be using our own NaviC system,. Once the jamming begins we’ll be firing a few Brahmos and Nirbhay cruise missiles on the Paki air defence radars, anti-air guns and SAM systems to clear a path for our ground assault team.

At about the same time, American fighters will start aggressive maneuvers in their coastal areas and in Peshawar, Swat area trying to keep their air force away from us. A Chinese naval ship and a few suspicious freighters are already docked in Gwadar, so this may prove to be a bit interesting

Even as we speak, our intelligence people are confirming the latest enemy positions using satellites and feeding the data to missile batteries. American Tomahawks will be used for disabling a few key radar sites near coastal areas, a few points up north from there and possible points of resistance at Pano Aqil. We are pretty sure that the initial missile strikes will damage the runways in a few PAF bases long enough to keep Paki fighters on ground. Americans are planning to use their F-22s to destroy Pakistani Karakoram Eagle and Erieye AWACS if they manage to get in the air. Our flyboys in Jaguars will drop a few tons of ordinance in Pano Aqil after the initial missile attack to mop up or atleast soften up resistance against the ground assault. The C-130 transport plane carrying the ground assault team will take off from Jaisalmer as soon as the Jaguars are in air. The paratroopers will exit the aircraft around using HALO and destroy or capture the nukes.

We have one deep cover asset near the mission area who is well trained in special operations himself. We will patch his communication line to the Alpha Team leader a few minutes before the paradrop. We hope that he may be able to recommend good landing spots away from enemy interference. If not, you’ll land at the original places. Once you meet up, he will act as your guide on the ground. You will have to bring him back as his cover will be blown after this.

Once on ground, you can call in air and missile strikes at will to neutralise the remaining resistance. 4 Apaches helicopters will follow you for Close Air Support (CAS). 2 Mi-25 Hinds are also being rushed in for additional support. Alpha teams will attack the missile storage compound and handle the nukes. Bravo will secure the airstrip for landing of C-130. If airstrip is not secure, then Dhruv and Mi-17 will be sent for exfiltration. We can use Mi-25s for exfil in case it’s required.

Remember, your primary mission is to either destroy or get the nukes and their delivery vehicles out of control of Rizvi. They’re suicidal enough to launch them if they think that they’re losing. We are assuming that the Ghauri missiles are fueled already and ready to be launched. Our recon assets are monitoring the bunker and adjoining areas. If a missile is spotted, then we are assuming that it’s about to be launched. You have to destroy them before it happens or mark the target for an aerial attack .

If nothing changes, the C-130 will take flight at 01:45 hours.

Now, I am open to questions.

Few hours later
Pano Aqil


Paratroopers jumping from the C-130 transport plane could see the flashes of numerous small and a few large fires all over their target area. The passive night vision devices amplified every sliver of light and put a gray and green tint to everything. As promised by Brigadier Jasrotia, nearly all of the anti-air assets of the base had been either destroyed by missile strikes and bombing raids by Jaguar deep penetration aircraft. As they got closer to the ground, they could see pillars of dark smoke rising from numerous places.

There had been no contact from the undercover operative. It had been realised quite late that his radio might be affected by the massive jamming of all radio communications by Indian as well as American EW assets. Someone had forgotten to tell him the updated frequencies and codes and he was without a way to contact them. But that couldn’t be helped now. If they were lucky, he would be able to find them after their landing. Otherwise the mission was supposed to go on without his involvement.. As the paratroopers reached an altitude of around 1000m, they deployed their parachutes. The sudden deceleration jerked their bodies strongly and slowed down the descent.

As they got closer to the ground, they could hear the sounds of sporadic gunfire and small explosions not too far from the main landing area. All 65 soldiers had landed within a 300 m circle and rallied quickly. Two sections of 10 men each of Bravo team went towards south-east to secure the airstrip while the rest went northwards to the missile complex.

Missile Compound

Alpha team was divided in four sections of 10 men each with rest five on guard and comms duty. The compact handheld consoles in the hands of each section leader marked the positions of every man superimposed on a tactical map of the area with a blue marker. Live enemy positions were marked red and those with confirmed kills were marked yellow. It was a bit like some video games, but real.

Alpha 1 team approached the missile launch complex from it’s southern perimeter. A soldier opened up a hard plastic case he was carrying on his back and took out a small winged drone with unfolded wingspan of 1.2 meters. He turned on it’s nearly silent electric motor and threw it in the air like a paper plane. It got to an altitude of around 50 meters and started beaming the video feed to a small video console in backpack and to handheld consoles of all section leaders.

Even with it’s monochrome night vision feed, they could see huge craters on roofs of all 9 super reinforced concrete bunkers. All of them had been hit with multiple bombs and all of the roofs had caved in. Even the concrete around the bunkers was all torn up with more holes than original surface left. Numerous small and a few bigger fires raged all over the compound with acrid smoke billowing upwards in the sky. There were bodies everywhere in the compound as well around it.

Tens of tanks and armoured vehicles lay motionless all around the site. Most had been blown to the smithereens and a few had dead bodies hanging out of the hatches. Alpha 1 leader thanked the makers of CBU-105 cluster bombs. 4 such bombs, each with 10 infrared guided sub-munitions had been dropped on site disabling most of armoured vehicles brought in by the Pakistani army as well as a few controlled by Rizvi’s troops inside the compound.

Indian troops moved cautiously forward while scanning the area around them with their night vision sights. Suddenly there was a whooshing sound and a mortar round landed around 150 meters north of theml. Then there were three more in quick succession. All four rounds fired were smoke rounds meant to hide movement of own troops from the enemy. The drone went a bit higher and scanned the area around it with it’s thermal scanners. It detected thermal signatures matching the just fired mortar tube with four human sized targets around it. The coordinates were passed on to the section of 2 Apaches covering them. Apaches acquired the target coordinates from UAV and one fired 70 mm Hydra rockets at it.The spot from where mortars were being fired erupted in a small cloud of smoke and dust. Apaches did a scan of the area with their own more powerful thermal scanners and moved a bit further to find a convoy of 2 Al Khalid tanks and 4 Talha armoured personnel carriers (copy of American M113) racing towards their direction around 4 kms away.

The targeting computer of Apaches assigned one Hellfire missile to each of the vehicles automatically and pilots saw the notification in their targeting monocle. Six Hellfires left their launchers on the Apaches and hit all six vehicles on their roofs in top attack mode. All four APCs were blown to bits with their parts spread in circles all around them. The heavily armoured tanks didn’t blow up like the thinly armoured APCs but their top armour was not strong enough to withstand High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) warhead of Hellfires either. Armour of both tanks was penetrated and the ammunition box of the one in lead caught fire causing the stored rounds to explode inside the tank. There were jets of fire shooting from the turret and a loud explosion causing the turret to separate from body and soar 6-7 meters up in the air before landing in a ditch on the side.

Imminent threats neutralised, Apaches then moved back to take positions around the complex to provide reconnaissance and air cover to advancing Alpha teams. The 3.5 meter tall concrete wall had shattered to ground during the aerial attack and two sections passed it easily to enter the compound. Apart from the downwash of Apaches, nothing or nobody was moving. A few trees lay uprooted accompanied by a few dead crows.

The first attack on bunkers had been done by supersonic cruise missile Brahmos. Two missiles had been allocated to each bunker and none had missed. They had flown only tens of meters above the ground after launch from ground launchers till they reached the target area. Then they had suddenly gained altitude and dived on their respective targets at 90 degrees angles. The Mach 3 diving speed on missile along with a special bunker buster warhead had bored holes in to the six feet thick reinforced concrete roofs. The warheads had then passed the roofs and then hit the floor forming the roof of actual missile storage room below. Some of them had penetrated the second layer too and exploded causing instant destruction of everything present. Even those warheads which had not completely penetrated the second layer had exploded inside it causing large pieces from the shattered layer to bury everything below. Then a half squadron of Jaguars had dropped one bunker busting Sudarshan laser guided bombs (LGB) weighing 450 kgs on each target.

A few soldiers put on their closed loop respirators and went close for a look. The respirators would prevent inhalation of any radioactive particles and toxic fumes of missile propellent. The team deployed another drone equipped with sensors to any radioactive material or leakage and presence of HNO3 (Nitric Acid) and N2O4 (Nitrogen Dioxide). Last two chemicals were used by Ghauri missile as propellants. The drones were specially designed to operate in sites of radioactive and chemical leaks in industrial sites and nuclear reactors by a private company. They were modified for military use by adding a few more sensors, shielding and a bigger power pack. Significant amount of propellants and trace amounts of Uranium-235, the main fission component of Ghauri warheads were detected confirming destruction of atleast six missiles in the compound. Samples from each bunker were collected and the Alpha team started marching towards airstrip.

As they started the march, the Apaches reported movement of a motorbike in their direction and the fact that it was switching on and off it’s headlights. The pattern was recognised as a basic code assigned to the under cover operative who had missed the party but had done a great job by providing precise positions of Pakistani air defence positions. He drove the stolen motorbike to Alpha 1 section leader and confirmed his identity. He had been using cover name Mohammed Gulfam for less than one year, but it felt strange to use the name with his own countrymen. His original identity as Naib Subedar Anil Dahiya, formerly belonging to Para SF was supposed to stay secret even with the Indian soldiers.

Alpha 1 team leader looked at him from head to toe and remarked sarcastically, “Took you long enough. We’re almost finished now and moving to exfil point.”

Dahiya reached into his pockets to show a remote detonator, “You should have not jammed all the radio frequencies then. Anyhow, if I had not blown up two bridges before your landing, then you’d have been busy fighting off more than half a mechanised battalion of Pakis.”

Alpha leader scoffed and patted his shoulder. “Good job, I guess. Now let’s get back home.”

Airstrip


The defensive structures around the airstrip had been bombed using precision guided munitions by Jaguars minutes before the paradrop. The soldiers could see the fire and smoke rising from rubbles of a few checkposts, anti-aircraft guns and watchtowers. In a normal attack, the airstrip would have been the primary target and be full of craters to make it unusable for enemy aircraft. But since they needed the airstrip for their own exfiltration, precision guided bombs were used to destroy enemy positions without causing any collateral damage.

Two soldiers used their handheld thermal scanners to carefully check their surroundings. There was nothing left of the base infrastructure apart from a few piles of twisted metal, shattered concrete and smoke. Like the missile compound, here were a few dead soldiers and around a dozen destroyed armoured vehicles lying around in different places.

A radio signal was given and second section of two Apache helicopters came rushing towards their direction flying barely 20 meters above the ground. All four Apaches had taken off with a payload of 8 Hellfire missiles and 38 Hydra 70 mm rockets. Some soldiers who were close enough noticed that only 3 missiles remained on one of the helicopters. They had to fight their way in even with the massive ordnance drop earlier.

Bravo team formed a perimeter around the strip after ensuring that there were no hostiles in vicinity. 4 men from the team moved towards the only fortified structure, a single story bunker on the airbase. Two Sudarshan bombs had tore through the thick concrete roof and exploded inside itr turning it into a still smoking rubble of reinforced concrete and steel beams. One soldier took out a geiger counter and checked it’s readings from a distance.. There was a large piece of concrete a few meters from it and when the geiger counter was brought near it, it indicated the presence of alpha particles and plutonium.

The soldiers stopped their advance towards the bunkers and took a few samples of the soil and concrete piece closest to them. Then they rejoined the security perimeter with the rest of Bravo team.

After the call of exfiltration by Alpha was placed, the same C-130 flew in low firing chaff and flares as it landed on the airstrip. It was time to go home.

Next Day
NTRO, Pune


“So, what do we know so far?”

“It has been pretty interesting to say the least. I am reading aloud a list of what we know for sure so far. Damaged or destroyed aircraft on ground include four F-16A/B of 14 Squadron in Kamra, six F-7 of 17 Squadron in Peshawar, three F-16A/B of 9 Squadron in Sargodha, five F-7 of 17 Squadron in Peshawar, eight Mirage-III of 7 Squadron and three Mirage-5 of 8 Squadron in Masroor and seven JF-17 of either 26 or 16 Squadron in Peshawar. Additionally we shot down one Saab Erieye in vicinity of Rahim Yar Khan and one Karakoram Eagle near Pakpattan. Some geniuses from the area have already uploaded the pictures of these two planes claiming that those are wreckages of Indian planes.

Additionally, air force is claiming that they downed three JF-17 near Sialkot and four F-16s roughly 80 KM north from there. Then there are three or four helicopters, two JL-8 trainers, two C-130 and three more yet unidentified wreckages on some of airbases we hit. “ the NTRO analyst barely took a breath while talking excitedly..

The other analyst whistled,”That’s a lot of damage for one night! How sure are you about this?”

“Pretty sure! Don’t miss the two AWACS. A lot of Pakis will be very sore over this.” He laughed excitedly and continued, “The funnier part is that we didn’t even hit Masroor and Peshawar.”

“Americans did it?”

“Yeah and they have supposedly downed a few more in the air too. We haven’t received detailed information from them yet.”

“Don’t count on getting it anytime soon. Do we have any information or informed guesses of our own about that?”

“It is all so chaotic and there’s so much information from so many sources, We haven’t been able to process even the CartoSat data yet. So there may still be more to come. But we can assume atleast 8-14 more damaged or destroyed planes on ground, perhaps more when we analyse pictures of shelters that were hit. Some important radars and SAM systems were also targeted in a few locations like Sargodha. Someone here is going through latest RISAT (Radar Imaging Satellite) data for more details.“

Indian expertise is satellites is perhaps not as advanced as a few other countries like USA, Russia but it is fair to say that it is quite substantial. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had launched a number of dedicated spy satellites as well as those with dual use in the last few years. Real capabilities of many of these satellites are usually kept confidential but there are some sources which provide a glimpse into this secretive field. For example, CartoSat series of satellites is said to have an optical resolution of 80 cm, but some people believe it to be much higher. RISAT, another spy satellite which is listed as a earth observation satellite for disaster management during floods, cyclones etc is actually a high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar technology based satellite which can see through to the ground in all kinds of weather conditions.

Additionally, there are a handful of geo-stationary satellites meant for secure communications for each of three services and a few very specialised satellites like EMISAT which is used for space based electronic intelligence gathering. Services of these satellites are utilised by military as well as intelligence agencies and there are some deliberate ambiguities about their exact roles.

“Hmm. And most of these aircraft were either flying or were in open, right?

“Yes, I think that all aircraft apart from a few Mirage-III and F-16s were in flying condition. It’s not exactly a crippling blow, but it sure is very painful. With their economy, it’ll take them years to make up for the losses. Their F-16 fleet is not likely to get much support or spares from Americans for quite some time after this.”

“Let’s hope so. Send me the data after you finish. Dhumal sahib has called twice already.”

“I’ll send it In 40-45 minutes.”

Defence Review Blog
2nd June 2020, 23:00 Hours IST


Unprecedented joint operation by Indian and American forces

More stunning details about the daring raid on Pakistani nuclear weapons storage site in Pano Aqil have started trickling in from various sources. Readers of this blog already know about the nuclear threat raised by a rogue Pakistani Major General Qasim Rizvi who was commanding officer in charge of the nuclear facility. He along with still unknown number of followers had taken control of the atleast 6 nuclear tipped Ghauri and 7-8 Nasr missiles with ranges 1200 km and 50-70 km respectively. The warheads on Ghauri used Uranium-235 and had a blast yield of around 35-50 KT, enough to destroy everything within a 2-2.5 km radius. Nasr warhead on the other hand is meant for tactical uses in a battlefield against the advancing enemy columns. If successfully detonated, it’s Plutonium based warhead is claimed to have a yield between 0.5 to 5 kt with a destruction radius of a few 100 meters to 1 km.

Rizvi had demanded complete withdrawal of Indian forces from Jammu & Kashmir, removal American bases from Afghanistan and handing over control of the Pakistan to a small committee of people chosen by him. It is reported that Pakistani authorities had refused all offers of assistance by NATO and India and had even shot down an American drone sent in for reconnaissance.

A joint raid was then executed by Indian and American units which then destroyed most of Pano Aqil’s military facilities. It’s being reported that Indian forces had fired 35-40 cruise missiles and sent a whole Jaguar squadron to pummel the base. Role played by US forces has not been disclosed yet. But some defence experts have speculated that one squadron each of F-16 and F-18 deployed in Afghanistan and Oman respectively could have been used along with support elements like AWACS, refuelers and Prowler EW aircraft along with some naval vessels.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Sattar dismissed most of these claims in a press conference in Islamabad claiming that Pakistani special forces had brought the whole situation under control long before the aforementioned raid happened. He further claimed that Pano Aqil had only four Nasr missiles of which only two were armed with nuclear warheads. He condemned the Indo-American joint operation calling it an assault on sovereignty of Pakistan and Islamic brotherhood. Twitter account of Pakistan armed forces published a picture of two Nasr launchers which they claimed were recovered from the Pano Aqil nuclear bunkers on 22nd August.

Few other defence analysts on Twitter including AlNihiro, BreadAamLatte and PennyDosa have claimed that Indian Air Force hit four other Pakistan Air Force bases in Sargodha, Sukkur, Peshawar and Chabbar. The exact damage to Pakistani defence infrastructure has not been confirmed by official resources, but Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) suggests that there have been considerable damage to Pakistani defence forces. Some local Pakistani accounts have uploaded pictures of what seems to be wreckages of Chinese built Karakoram Eagle AWACS and of Chinese built JF-17 or American built F-16 mulit-role fighters. A lot of local news channels had reported sounds of loud explosions and fires in the four air bases mentioned but a PAF spokesman dismissed it as mere fiction.

It’s being reported by many Pakistani news sources that most of the Pakistani internet and communications had stopped working a few hours after the release of video by General Rizvi. As the connectivity is being restored, more images and videos from ground zero are coming online confirming some of the claims made by above mentioned experts.
 

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