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Maoists winning the battle to control India

Friday’s train crash in India has been blamed on “sabotage” by Maoist rebels. It was the latest in a series of rebel attacks after the government launched an offensive against them. The BBC’s Soutik Biswas asks whether the rebels are gaining the upper hand.

It is not surprising that Maoist rebels are being blamed for the derailment of an express train in India’s West Bengal state, in which 71 passengers were killed.

The police claim they have found posters signed by a local Maoist militia claiming responsibility for removing part of the track, which led to the train skidding off and colliding with a freight train coming in the opposite direction.

West Midnapore district, where the incident happened, is the hotbed of Maoist rebellion in West Bengal, one of the states where the rebels have a presence.

Tribespeople dominate the district, especially the forested Junglemahal region bordering Jharkhand state.

They feel ignored and deprived by the Communist government which has been ruling the state since 1977. Most live in abject poverty. The only visible signs of “development” I spotted during a trip to the area some years ago were cheap liquor shops.

Strong support

Fed up with the state of affairs, Junglemahal’s tribespeople even agitated for a separate state.

When neighbouring Jharkhand was carved out as a separate state, their alienation grew and they were quick to welcome the Maoists, who wield most influence in areas which are poor and dominated by tribespeople.

The security forces are on the backfoot after a spree of rebel attacks
The Lalgarh area in Junglemahal is the rebels’ most formidable stronghold.
In February, they stormed a police camp in Lalgarh, killing 24 policemen.
Rebels love to describe Lalgarh as a “liberated zone” where the state has withered away – schools and medical centres have closed down because teachers and doctors are afraid to attend, and policemen are confined to the police stations fearing reprisals.

Friday’s incident in West Midnapore demonstrates how the rebels are taking the battle to their enemies ever since the federal government launched an offensive in what is known as India’s “red corridor” earlier this year.

This comprises 223 of India’s 636 districts in 20 states which the government says are “Maoist affected”, up from 55 districts in nine states six years ago.
Ninety of these affected districts, the government says, are experiencing “consistent violence.”

The rebels have been carrying out attacks with impunity in recent months – two major attacks Dantewada in Chhattisgarh state left more than 100 people dead, including 75 paramilitary troops.
But there are also theories that in this case the Maoist script went slightly awry.

Maoists frequently tamper with railway lines and often these lead to minor derailments; a number of such attempts have been caught well in time. There have been hijackings but no major attacks on civilian transport with such a death toll.

In the past year, Maoists have carried out 32 attacks on railways, mainly in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh – but no major casualties have been reported.

Support for the Maoist cause across India generally will be dented by such an attack, just as it was after the assault on troops in Dantewada.

Following the twin Dantewada attacks, the government said it was reviewing its strategy for fighting the rebels, who have refused to respond to repeated government offers for talks.

Analysts say that the strategy of “clearing, holding and developing” rebel-affected areas evidently inspired by the US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not working.

‘Visible retreat’

One reason, they say, is that the surge of security forces and resources on the ground are not sufficient enough to take on the rebels who are spread over a vast swathe of remote mineral-rich forest lands.

Maoists call Lalgarh a “liberated zone”

The government is now in a “visible retreat” after a spree of rebel attacks, says security analyst Ajai Sahni.
He believes that a lack of adequate forces, training and intelligence is leading to these “disasters”.

“Unless local capacities for intelligence and operations are enormously augmented, this [offensive] can go nowhere, and lot of lives are going to be lost for no useful purpose,” Mr Sahni says.

But the under-equipped local police and intelligence-gathering networks remain Indian security’ s weakest link, and there no visible efforts to bolster them.

The government appears to be confused over how the rebels should be tackled – there are differences in the ruling Congress party itself on whether the state should strike hard against it’s own people.

Recently federal home minister P Chidambaram requested wider powers to deal with the rebels, saying that he had been given a “limited mandate.”
He said the chief ministers of some of the worst affected states have asked for air power to be used against the rebels – a measure that the government has refused to sanction.

Analysts believe that many states are not doing enough to take on the rebels, leading to a “centralisation” of the problem.

The train ‘”sabotage” was one of the biggest attacks launched by the rebels
“The principal responsibility for dealing with the Maoists remain that of the states; the first responders, the local police stations, have to be strengthened and equipped to deal with the task on their own.”

Till that happens, the rebels will be seen to have an upper hand in what promises to be long drawn out and bloody conflict, the like of which India has never seen.

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At least 35 die as Maoists blow up bus in India

RAIPUR: At least 35 people were killed after Maoist rebels blew up a bus carrying police and civilians in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Monday, an official said.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh told reporters in the state capital Raipur that the dead included 11 police personnel.

“Twenty-four civilians and 11 policemen have died and 15 persons including 14 police personnel were injured in the blast,” the chief minister said.

He said an unspecified number of bodies were still trapped in the mangled bus following the mine blast in Dantewada district, a Maoist stronghold where rebels ambushed and killed 75 policemen last month in the bloodiest massacre of security forces by the extremists.

Television footage showed bodies laid out on the road next to the wreckage of the bus. The front portion of the vehicle had been almost completely destroyed by the force of the blast.

“The killing and targeting of innocent civilians travelling on a bus is to be strongly condemned by all right-thinking people,” Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told reporters in New Delhi.

The security men among the dead and injured were special police officers, who are recruited from the civilian population to help security forces in anti-Maoist operations, said S.R. Kalluri, deputy inspector general of police.

The left-wing guerrillas have stepped up attacks in response to a government offensive against them that began late last year in the forests of the so-called “Red Corridor” that stretches across north and eastern India.

The insurgency began in the state of West Bengal in 1967 in the name of defending the rights of tribal groups, but attacks have since spread to 20 of India’s 28 states.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has labelled the insurgency the biggest internal security threat to India.
Tribal groups and many rural areas have been left behind by the country’s economic development, and the poverty and discontent with local government corruption is seen as a major source of Maoist support.

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The Missile Gap and the Indian Myth of “Indigenous” Technology

Daily.Pk

A Times of India report last year claimed that ” Pakistan has surged well ahead of India in the missile arena”. It also lamented that “the only nuclear-capable ballistic missile in India’s arsenal which can be said to be 100% operational as of now is the short-range Prithvi missile”.

Along with raising the alarm, the Indian report offered the usual excuse for the alleged missile gap by boasting that “unlike Pakistan, our program is indigenous”.

Let’s explore the reality of the “indigenous” claim repeated ad infintum by Indian government and New Delhi’s defense establishment.

US-European Origins of Indian Missile Program

APJ Abul Kalam is credited with designing India’s first satellite launcher SLV3. Its design is virtually identical to the American Scout rocket used in the 1960s. According to the details published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Abul Kalam spent four months in training in the United States in 1963-1964. He visited NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, where the US Scout rocket was conceived, and the Wallops Island Flight Center on the Virginia coast, where the Scout was being flown. Soon after Abul Kalam’s visit, India requested and received detailed technical reports on the Scout’s design, which was unclassified.

US Scout and India’s SLV3 are both 23 meters long, use four similar solid-fuel stages and “open loop” guidance, and lift a 40-kilogram payload into low earth orbit. The SLV’s 30-foot first stage later became the first stage of the Agni.

The United States was followed by others. Between 1963 and 1975, more than 350 US, French, Soviet, and British sounding rockets were launched from India’s Thumba Range, which the United States helped design. Thumba’s first group of Indian engineers had learned rocket launching and range operation in the United States.

India’s other missile, the “Prithvi” (earth), which uses a liquid-propelled motor to carry a one-ton payload 150 miles, resembles the widely sold Soviet Scud-B. Indian sources say that the Agni’s second stage is a shortened version of the Prithvi, according to Gary Milhollin of the Wisconsin Project.

France also launched sounding rockets from India, and in the late 1960s allowed India to begin building “Centaure” sounding rockets under license from Sud Aviation.

The aid of the United States and France, however, was quickly surpassed by substantial West German help in the 1970s and 1980s. Germany assisted India in three key missile technologies: guidance, rocket testing, and the use of composite materials. All were supposed to be for the space program, but all were also used for military missiles.

The cryogenic stage used in a recent failed satellite launch by India was a copy of the Russian cryogenic rocket engine and the cryogenic technology transferred to India in the 1990s. According to Non-proliferation review of 1997, it has emerged that Russia continued transferring rocket engine technology to India in 1993 after its agreements with the United States to stop such transfer under MTCR. This reportedly resulted in the completion of 60 to 80 percent of the transfers to India.

North American Origins of India’s Nuclear Bomb

India’s nuclear program would not have advanced without a lot of help from the Canadians that resulted in Indian copies of Canadian reactors to produce plutonium for its nuclear bombs.

India conducted its first atomic bomb test in 1974. The Indians used the 40 MW Canadian Cirus reactor and US heavy water both imported under guarantees of peaceful use and used them openly to make plutonium for its 1974 nuclear blast.

In 1972, the Canadian-built 100 MWe Rajasthan-1 nuclear power reactor became operational, serving as a model for the later unsafeguarded reactors. Another Rajasthan unit started operating in 1980 and two units in 2000. In 1983, India’s 170 MW Madras-1, a copy of Canadian Rajhastan-1 reactor, became operational. A second Madras unit followed in 1985.

According to the Risk Report Volume 11 Number 6 (November-December 2005), the heavy water and other advanced materials and equipment for these plants were smuggled into India from a number of countries, including the USSR, China and Norway. Some of the firms, such as the West German firm Degussa, were caught and fined by the United States for re-exporting to India 95 kg of US-origin beryllium, usable as a neutron reflector in fission bombs.

In May 1998, India conducted two rounds of nuclear weapon tests. Last year, the media reports indicated that Kasturiranga Santhanam, the coordinator of India’s 1998 nuclear tests, went public with allegations that India’s Pokhran II test of a thermonuclear bomb in 1998 was actually a fizzle. The device, designed to generate 45 kilotons, yielded an explosion equivalent to only 15 to 20 kilotons of TNT.

Summary

There is plenty of evidence and documentation from sources such as the Wisconsin Project to show that the Indian missiles and bombs are no more indigenous than Pakistan’s. The fact is that neither India nor Pakistan was first to split the atom, or to develop modern rocket science. The Industrial Revolution didn’t exactly start in India or Pakistan or even in Asia; it began in Europe and the rest of the world learned from it, even copied it.

The differences between India and Pakistan in terms of the technology know-how and the knowledge base are often highly exaggerated to portray India as a “technology power house” and Pakistan as a backwater. Some of these analyses by Indian Brahman pundits and commentators have racial and religious overtones implying that somehow Brahmin or Hindu minds are superior to those of the people of other religions or castes in South Asia.

What is often ignored by such Indian analysts is the fact that neither of the two Indian pioneers, nuclear scientist Homi Bahbha and rocket scientist Abul Kalam, belong to the Hindu faith or the Brahmin caste. The false sense of Indian superiority is pushed by self-serving Indian and some Western analysts to justify their own biased conclusions.

These analysts have fed what George Perkovich described in his book “India’s Nuclear Bomb” on page 410 as “general Indian contempt for Pakistan’s technical capabilities” and may cause serious miscalculations by the Indian security establishment about Pakistan’s defense capabilities. Indian chauvinistic analyses have been put in perspective by another piece in Newsday (Friday, May 15, 1998; Page A5: “India Errs Nuclear Power Isn’t Real Power”), in which George Perkovich talked about the rise in India of a radicalized, ultra-nationalistic BJP for the “glory of the Hindu race and rashtra (nation)”. Perkovich added that “the Bharatiya Janata Party, has long felt that nuclear weapons offer a quicker ride to the top. Like atavistic nationalists elsewhere, they believe that pure explosive power will somehow earn respect and build pride.”

The extreme right-wing influence on South Asian analysts has the potential for serious miscalculations by either India or Pakistan in the nuclear and the missile arena, and it does not augur well for the future of the Indo-Pak region and the world at large.

R Haq