Thursday, October 20, 2011

What do Gwadar Port and Mehran incident have in common?The Great Game

While our leaders are busy politicking, keeping each other busy through aimless discussions on the TV much is happening around the region. Our well wishers concurrently are equally busy to ensnarl us, tie a loop around us and then dispatch us to where Osama was sent. For instance what connection does the following, seemingly unmatched events have in common? What do Gwadar Port and Mehran incident have in common? Or Afghanistan Indian strategic pact and murder of Saleem Shehzad? Then we have our nukes safe guard policy, Haqqani network and not the        
least the recent Hazara pilgrims’ killings. And yet when the dotted line is completed — there appears a connect with an ugly and a dangerous face.Gwadar Port was planned in the early 90s during Mohammad Nawaz Sharif rule. It is at about 275 nautical miles from Karachi by sea and about 620 KMs by road, called the Makran high way. There had always been a reluctance to build this highway due to some security parameters. However, the economic sense of it appeared to have prevailed more than the security compulsions. It has been about six years that the port was completed by the Chinese. It was in between that the Pakistani team of professionals were phased out, who at that time were also carving out the parameters to make it the regional hub. The replacements selected were by design or default inadequate professionally to manage the port operations –- and the decision to hand this over to Singapore Port Authority had the stamp of some move other than making the port a hub. Singapore is one of the best managed ports in the world and yet it has been more than four years that the port was handed over to the Singapore fellows – a subsidiary of PSA, and yet it continues to be in a hibernated state. The question is why? The location is one of the best in the region, quite capable to leave Dubai way behind. And despite all the ingredients to set the port go at the outset, it has not been able to take off. In fact there has not been a single ship carrying non-government cargo that has touched this port. The GPA board contends that it was our Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who took the decision for the Singapore Company. So? Were they rubber stamps? And especially that they were advised to seek the clearance of ISI before finalizing the contract.Singapore has a special MOU with the USA – call it a sort of strategic pact. Their armed forces have and are being trained by the Israelis. It was even that time opined that the port will never be made operational. In addition to other reasons this would have been at the cost of Dubai which apparently is also part of the special interest group of the US. The contract is such that anyone would have taken a built port laughingly on the conditions agreed. And now to reverse the process to re-take the port will be very difficult. The status qou is likely to continue. The port has a slip way about seven feet thick ostensibly made for the ro-ro cargo but will be able to withstand weight of the heaviest tanks in the world. Gwadar is on the flank of Iran at a distance of about 70 miles. Any army knows what it means to be attacked from the flank. Status qou is likely to be continued till the time for military operations through Gwadar come about in the future.Much has been written about the security lapses that made Mehran attack possible. But the information suggests that it was more of a Mehran – gate rather than an isolate work of a few misguided jehadis. Of the three aircraft one most probably had been lately used for eves dropping and gathering intelligence off Balochistan and Afghanistan. The intelligence equipment possibly was yet to be disembarked when the attack took place. It is also believed that it had the fit of strategic weapon system. It was for no reason that the Jehadis came straight for these aircraft, possibly guided by courtesy of our friends the Americans, and not for the C130’s or the other aircraft also parked in juxtaposition. It should ordinarily been the PAF which should have drawn the wrath of the so-called Taliban because of the air actions carried by the PAF against them in Swat and Bajaur. It seems then that it was not a revenge attack. When the attack took place immediately Rehman Malik appeared on the scene and took over the show. In no time the US fellows at the base were evacuated, sent to the airport and flown out of Pakistan, in a prepositioned aircraft.The naval Intelligence had no opportunity to question them. But the Chinese instead were fired on. These factuals and more of these must have come to the knowledge of Saleem Shehzad when he was compiling his findings on Mehran case; his inquisitiveness alerted the planners and got him disposed off quick enough – thanks to the Xe fellows – before he had the chance of recording or speaking to anyone. And once accusations at the ISI had been set- through word of mouth or the “grape vine” as is also referred, that the crooked faced Admiral Mike Mullen blamed the ISI where he had no business to comment on. However, it was only one of the perorations of the CIA- a crude attempt at covering up their own monkey business. The so-called insurgency is continuously being fuelled in Balochistan. In the early 70s it was the Russians, normally supplying weapons / ammunition through the coastal belt of Makran coast by their ship “Cyclopes” possibly in preparation of their grand designs on the subsequently failed hold on Afghanistan/Balochistan. Now it is the CIA / RAM/RAW combined with sprinkling from Mossad — the end game remaining the same. In the mid 70s I saw a satellite imagery of Balochistan’s Chagai mountains. Chagai was an unknown place at that time. It clearly showed the copper deposits running around ridge. And where ever is copper is the gold. So the technology must have significantly advanced by now for the US to map the natural resources of Balochistan. No need for costly surveys. What else is there -–oil, minerals, stones etc.! So is there any truth in the 2012 map that showed Balochistan to be a separate country?We have to issue statements every so often that our nukes are safe. We have also been asserting that their parts are separately stored so there is no risk that any one will walk away with one under his arm but the accusations continue unabated on selected occasions. Even if the parts are safely stored, We have to be very sure that the weapons are available in short time should the need so arise; just in case we may not be taken with a surprise. The Americans have an unwritten way to deal with contingencies. The recent actions at various places especially Iraq, it was observed that they first draw out country’s systems if these can any way put their forces in the harm’s way -– even if the threat be insignificant. So continuous flooding of misinformation questioning the safety of our nukes should not compel us to disperse the components that the readiness becomes time lagged; as good as neutralizing the same in time and space.India has recently signed a security pact with Afghanistan. Why? The move seems to have similar footprints as of the 1971 Indian-Russian Pact when East Pakistan was to be attacked by India. But this time the difference is that it seems to have the blessings of the US. Until a couple of years back Pakistan was complacent that East Pakistan had different geography where India could play the music. The stage now is being set on similar lines; two impediments however exist. The likely role of Iran and that of the Haqqani group or for that matter that of the true Taliban. Endeavour is in the making to sow seeds of mistrust and misgivings between Pakistan and Iran. The killings of Hazara pilgrims are a pointer to that. Then there is a claim by some Jhangvi group claiming responsibility. Should this be true then Pakistan needs to get after this group who are not only conducting the most heinous crimes against humanity but also against the national interests of the country. Efforts are also afoot by Afghanistan to ask Iran for allowing Afghan goods to land through Iranian ports, Afghanistan being a land locked country. If Iran is not careful then under the garb of Afghan cargo and in particular declared for development works in Afghanistan, may well contain NATO and Indian cargo. This then will reduce dependence on the Pakistani ports. Alternatively, Gwadar could be made use of by sending the Afghan cargo through Iran, the port being under the direct control of the Singapore Company. This would be quite legal — Pakistan unable to do much about it. The road between Gwadar to Gabd at the Iranian border could be used, with NATO cargo disguised as Afghan cargo.Pakistan is already under pressure to contain the Haqqani group. This group and Mullah Umer’s Taliban Will however stand for us should India and Afghanistan try to fish troubles. It is for this reasons that Pakistan is being pressurized to act against them so that either of the cases Haqqani goes anti. Also getting army involved in North Waziristan would make them sink in a black hole while fiddle is played vs Balochistan. And most importantly what is India having over four consulates for; at Kandhar, Herat, Mazar-e-sharif and Jalalabad, with embassy at Kabul, except to fomet trouble in Balochistan. Mazar-e-sharif comes in handy to lift CAS fellows to be thrown in our tribal areas as Pakistani Taliban and Herat must have been used additionally to sponsor actions inside Iran through fake Jundullah. But the swift Iranian response has mellowed this frontier somewhat. But our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, should have likewise set up equal if not more consulates in Afghanistan to neutralize the affects. Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to come forward to make us understand the in-ability of having the same implemented. The upshot of the discussion is that India is in the process of encircling Pakistan to repeat East Pakistan style maneuver with shock and awe tactics. She seems to have the blessings of USA. She would want Iran to distance from any likely conflict. Iran, despite outward differences, has a history of helping Pakistan. Our nukes will be the obvious targets for the US who would like to take advantage during the confusion that takes place. P3C were destroyed to eliminate future operations. With a 16hrs of endurance and with standoff strategic weapon outfit along with Intelligence capability, it had a long arms reach and would have been considered a potential threat for a number of countries; and Gwadar port -– in time of crisis could be used for build up operations.CIA sponsored propaganda on the media presents distorted facts regarding ISI or the Pakistan Army. This affects the public opinion in USA. And in turn provides their government with significant flexibility without any checks. It would be of greatly useful if arrangements are made by the media or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have some of our learned Anchors or some selected politicians are made to participate in discussions on the selected US TV channels. And conversely invite their anchors/politicians/writers to take part in discussions on our channels. Unlike Indian External Affairs Ministry which always worked like an institution ours work like a government department, with all the manifested ills. We throw out competence and opt for glamour. Resultantly, whenever there are some tense moments to give India a bad press, the competence of Indian external Ministry handles it superbly. But with favourites in our case being housed at lucrative places, bears no fruit. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs a very competent Minister and not one that is meant for a fashion parade.It may be added that Iran is very important to us at this moment of time. We must reinvigorate our relations. And if US can continue to pay Haqqani money for safe passage of their cargo in Afghanistan and if they can negotiate with them then the least we can do is not to make Haqqani anti us. We have to urge China to make the Chinese shipping lines use Gwadar port as a trans-shipment hub. The CAS and Chinese cargo will also find a way in and out from Gwadar port with Iran providing the transit routes to such cargo ex-Gwadar/Gabd through to Iran and then all the way to Tajkistan/CAS and China. Iran has the road and rail link/infrastructure all the way through. In this process Iran earns from its transit routes and Pakistan through the Shipping charges. The cost of carriage of the cargo also reduces, so it would be a win–win situation for all. The operations of the China Shipping Lines through Gwadar will be advantageous to us both financially and strategically. It appears that in the recent past the government sold our souls and pride for a mere one and a half billion dollars – most of which either went for the fees of the consultants or in the pockets of the corrupt rulers. We get 11 billion dollars from remissions of our people abroad. Had we ensured transparency, the income from abroad would have significantly increased. Even now with only a slight belt tightening, additional one and a half billion should pose no problem.Once peace and harmony returns so would the investments with exponential growth and produce within the country.


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