Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Latifullah Mehsud Arrest Led to Killings of Hakimullah and Haqqani?

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's Deputy Leader Latifullah Mesud's arrest in October by Americans in Afghanistan was soon followed by the killing of TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud in North Waziristan and the assassination of Haqqani Network's Naseeruddin Haqqani in Islamabad. Are all three of these events connected?

It now appears from various reports that Latifullah Mehsud was working closely with the Afghan intelligence to carry out terrorist attacks across Pakistan. But Latifullah and Hakimullah were also in contact with Naseeruddin Haqqani to communicate with Pakistani government to plan peace talks.

Apparently, Latifullah had been working for Afghan intelligence for several months which has now been acknowledged by the Afghan government. It is also known that Afghan intelligence has close ties with Indian intelligence.

Latifullah's arrest and interrogation helped Americans track down both Hakimullah Mehsud and Naseerudddin Haqqani who were wanted for the murder of American spies and soldiers in Afghanistan. Americans also wanted to disrupt both the TTP and the Haqqani network because of their close collaboration with Al Qaeda in Pakistan to plot attacks against western targets. Such collaboration in the past has resulted in the deaths of several CIA agents at Khost forward operating base in Afghanistan, deaths of hundreds of NATO troops, and Pakistani-American Faisal Shehzad's failed attempt to bomb Times Square in New York.

Here's a video discussion of recent events:


Hakimullah Mehsud killed; Reaction in Pakistan; India’s Mars mission from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Viewpoint from Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses with Riaz Haq (riazhaq.com), Sabahat Ashraf (iFaqeer; ifaqeer.com) and Ali Hasan Cemendtaur Hakimullah Mehsud’s killing in a US drone attack and the reaction in Pakistan, why PTI wants to stop NATO supply; and India’s mission to Mars.
This show was recorded at 1 pm PST on Thursday, November 7, 2013.

New York Times Cartoon 

حکیم اللہ محسود ڈرون حملے میں ہلاک، پاکستان میں مختلف ردعمل، عمران خان کی ناراضگی، پاکستان تحریک انصاف کی دھمکی کہ وہ نیٹو سپلاءی بند کردیں گے؛ ہندوستان کا خلاءی جہاز مریخ کی طرف روانہ، فراز درویش، ریاض حق، صباحت اشرف، آءی فقیر، علی حسن سمندطور، ڈبلیو بی ٹی ٹی وی، ویو پواءنٹ فرام اوورسیز، امریکہ میں پاکستانی، سلیکن ویلی، سان فرانسسکو بے ایریا

पाकिस्तान, कराची, विएव्पोइन्त फ्रॉम ओवरसीज , फ़राज़ दरवेश, रिअज़ हक , सबाहत अशरफ , ई फ़क़ीर, अली हसन समंदतौर, दब्लेव बी टी टीवी, सिलिकॉन वेली, कैलिफोर्निया, फार्रुख शाह खान, फार्रुख खान

পাকিস্তান,  করাচী,  ক্যালিফর্নিয়া, সিলিকোন ভ্যালি, ভিয়েব্পৈন্ট ফরম ওভারসিস

Виещпоинт фром Оверсеас, Цалифорния, Карачи, Пакистан, Фараз Дарвеш, Риац Хак, Сабахат Ашраф, И-фаяеер, Али Хасан Цемендтаур

، رياض  حق ، إي  فقير ، صباحات  أشرف ، علي حسن  سمند طور ، فيوبوينت فروم  أفرسيس ، كاليفورنيا، كراتشي  ، باكستان ،

പാക്കിസ്ഥാൻ  കറാച്ചി  കാലിഫോര്ണിയ  വീവ്പൊഇന്റ് ഫ്രം ഓവർസീസ്‌ ഫരശ് ദര്വേഷ്  രിഅശ് ഹഖ്  അലി ഹസാൻ സമണ്ട്ടൂർ  ഐ ഫഖീർ  സബഹറ്റ് അഷ്‌റഫ്‌

પાકિસ્તાન,  કરાચી,  ફરાઝ દરવેશ,  રીઅઝ હક, સબાહત અશરફ, અલી હસન સમાંન્દ્તૌર, કાલીફોર્નિયા, વિએવ્પોઇન્ત ફ્રોમ ઓવેર્સેઅસ

पाकिस्तान, कराची, विएव्पोइन्त फ्रोम ओवेर्सेअस, कॅलिफोर्निया, फराज दरवेश, रिअश हक़, साबाहत अश्रफ, ई फ़क़ॆर, आली हसन समंद तूर

פקיסטן, קראצ'י, קליפורניה, הטליבאן, האיסלאם.

Audio of the program is here:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Sri Lanka's Victory over LTTE

Taliban or RAW-liban?

Malala Moment: Profiled in Courage...Not!!

Judges' Vendetta Against Musharraf

American Exceptionalism

UN Malala Day

Treason Trial of Musharraf

Does Sharif Have an Anti-Terror Policy?

Blowback of US Drones in Pakistan

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube


Anonymous said...

Terrorism is the product of a simple mind. For a terrorist, the gun is the only remedy for all ills. Terrorists do not need to kill many people as a few can terrorise millions by killing 50 ordinary people and one high profile personality occasionally. The mightiest institutions could be made subservient; at least this is true in case of Pakistan. Look at how obediently all known leaders compete with each other in appeasing terrorists. Terrorism appears to give quick results and terrorists glorify their nefarious success. This must be a very empowering experience for a terrorist. But this is just a farce and they delude themselves by living in it.


Riaz Haq said...

Last week, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman said something extraordinary — something that could signal a sea change in the country’s security policy. Which makes it all the more perplexing that the international media has given scant coverage to what the spokesman had to say.

“There is no discrimination among different Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan groups or the Haqqani network,” Gen. Asim Bajwa told journalists at military headquarters in a briefing about Pakistan’s military offensive in North Waziristan. “[The] Army will crush them all.”

If this is in fact true, then it is great news.

The Haqqani network, formally designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, is a formidable Taliban-linked entity. It regularly launches high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, including assaults on the U.S. embassy. Some believe the Haqqani network introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan. It also has extensive links to al-Qaeda; a West Point study has concluded that it operates with al-Qaeda “as an interdependent system.”

Pakistan’s security establishment has long refused to act against the Haqqani network. It has regarded the group — as it does other militant organizations that don’t launch attacks in Pakistan — as a strategic asset, in that it helps limit the activities of archenemy India in Afghanistan (Haqqani fighters have frequently targeted Indians in Afghanistan). In 2011, Mike Mullen, the then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — and hence the top U.S. military official — famously stated that the Haqqani network “acts as a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, the ISI.

By declaring war on the Haqqani network, Pakistan could seriously degrade one of the most destabilizing forces in Afghanistan. It could also be a tremendous boost to India-Pakistan relations (New Delhi has long criticized Pakistan for not cracking down on the various Pakistan-based organizations — from Lashkar-e-Taiba to the Haqqani network — that mount attacks on Indians). And, of course, it could also greatly improve U.S.-Pakistan ties (it bears mentioning that just days before Bajwa’s announcement, high-level Pakistani military officials held meetings at the Pentagon).

Still, let’s not get too excited.

First, U.S. officials allege that Haqqani network commanders were tipped off by Pakistan about the North Waziristan offensive, and have fled the area. If true, this suggests the military’s announcement could be mere spin, and that its policy toward the group hasn’t changed. It’s easy to talk tough about targeting your strategic asset if you’ve already ensured it won’t be harmed.

Second, Bajwa’s language was telling. “Whoever challenges the writ of the state will be taken to task,” he said. In fact, the Haqqani network doesn’t do this because it doesn’t target the Pakistani state. This language is reminiscent of Pakistani threats earlier this year to launch operations in North Waziristan against “anti-state groups” — clearly a reference to the likes of the Pakistani Taliban, not the Haqqani network.

Third, from a strategic perspective, it’s a strange time for Pakistan to turn on the Haqqani network. With much uncertainty (and more instability) likely to set in amid the NATO troop drawdown in Afghanistan, wouldn’t Pakistan want to tighten its ties with its old reliables? And particularly those long-time assets used to project influence and promote Pakistani interests in Afghanistan?

Bajwa’s statement was encouraging. Whether it was genuine, however, remains to be seen.


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan ZarbeAzb operation targets all militants including Haqqanis:

Pakistan will go after all militant groups in its unfolding operation in the North Waziristan tribal area, including insurgents who target neighboring Afghanistan, in what would be a major shift in policy, the defense minister said.

The minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, told The Wall Street Journal that the military offensive in North Waziristan would target the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Afghan Taliban that has been based in the tribal area for more than three decades. The Haqqanis are seen by the U.S. and Afghan governments as one of the main threats to stability in Afghanistan.

Pakistan launched its offensive in North Waziristan with airstrikes three weeks ago, moving on to ground operations on June 30. North Waziristan, part of Pakistan's wild tribal areas along the Afghan border, is a sanctuary for Pakistani Taliban, Afghan insurgents and al Qaeda. Washington has pushed Islamabad for years to take control of the region.

"We will eliminate all sorts of terrorists from our area without any exceptions," said Mr. Asif. "If there are exceptions made, then the purpose of this operation will be defeated. It has to be without making any differentiation between our Taliban and their Taliban, or good Taliban and bad Taliban."

Pakistan has long been accused by neighbors and U.S. officials of backing jihadist groups as its proxies in Afghanistan and India.

Some Pakistani officials in the past have described the Afghan Taliban and some other jihadist groups as "good," while the government combats the more extreme "bad" militant organizations that turned on the Pakistani state.

In particular, Washington and Kabul have repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Haqqani network.

But Mr. Asif insisted Pakistan has changed its policy.

"They are all bad Taliban. There are no more good Taliban," he said.

Islamabad is trying to persuade Kabul to attack Pakistani Taliban groups that have taken refuge in eastern Afghanistan before and during the North Waziristan operation. Afghan authorities have indicated they won't act unless they see Pakistan fighting Kabul's enemies, such as the Haqqanis.

"If we have to get rid of these people, we have to get rid of them in totality, because this is something plaguing this area for three decades. Both sides of the Durand line, Pakistan and Afghanistan, we are in dire trouble," said Mr. Asif, referring to the border with Afghanistan.

However, such claims in the past of a tougher approach to militancy have been met with skepticism inside and outside Pakistan.

Saifullah Mahsud, director of the FATA Research Center, an independent think tank in Islamabad, said that according to his information, the Haqqani group had left North Waziristan before the operation.

"Pakistan has the opportunity of establishing its writ in North Waziristan now and stopping militants returning there," said Mr. Mahsud.


Riaz Haq said...

The U.S. military in Afghanistan says it has handed over three Pakistani detainees to Islamabad, including one who Pakistan intelligence officers say is a senior Taliban commander.

The U.S. did not name the prisoners but two Pakistani intelligence officials say Latif Mehsud was among them. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The U.S. said in a statement Sunday that the transfer happened Saturday.

Mehsud’s transfer underlines improving relations between the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistan has long demanded that Afghanistan hand over militants operating in its territory, and the issue was a source of sharp tension between Pakistan and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Mehsud was captured in October of last year.


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan says it has arrested #Afghan intelligence agent in #Balochistan province. #NDS #RAW http://reut.rs/1XhhuE9 via @Reuters

Pakistan on Wednesday arrested a suspected Afghan spy believed to be behind assassinations and bombings in its Baluchistan province, security and government officials told Reuters.

The move comes two weeks after Pakistan detained another man it said was an Indian spy who illegally entered the country and was also captured in the mineral rich province.

"The arrested man is an Afghan national living in a rented house in Boghara area at the outskirts of Chaman town. Paramilitary forces raided the house on intelligence and detained him," Manzoor Ahmed spokesman for the paramilitary force said.

"He was working for Afghan spy agency National Directorate of Security (NDS)," Ahmed said. Initial interrogation pointed to an NDS role in killings and blasts in the Baluchistan cities of Chaman and Quetta.

The accused has not been identified and Afghan authorities did not immediately comment on the arrest.

Quetta, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan on Wednesday arrested a suspected Afghan spy believed to be behind assassinations and bombings in its Baluchistan province, security and government officials told Reuters.

The move comes two weeks after Pakistan detained another man it said was an Indian spy who illegally entered the country and was also captured in the mineral rich province.

"The arrested man is an Afghan national living in a rented house in Boghara area at the outskirts of Chaman town. Paramilitary forces raided the house on intelligence and detained him," Manzoor Ahmed spokesman for the paramilitary force said.

"He was working for Afghan spy agency National Directorate of Security (NDS)," Ahmed said. Initial interrogation pointed to an NDS role in killings and blasts in the Baluchistan cities of Chaman and Quetta.

The accused has not been identified and Afghan authorities did not immediately comment on the arrest.

"He was on the payroll of NDS," said Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, spokesman for the Baluchistan government.

Security forces also said they had seized a large arms and ammunition cache due to information gleaned from the Afghan.

Pakistan has uneasy relations with neighbor Afghanistan. Kabul has long accused Pakistan of sheltering the Afghan Taliban insurgency's leadership, a charge Islamabad denies.

For its part, Pakistan has demanded that Kabul do more to capture leaders of the separate Pakistani Taliban. They are believed to have sought refuge on Afghan soil after being dislodged in a Pakistani military operation from North Waziristan along the border.

Pakistan last month said it had detained a spy from regional arch rival India in Baluchistan who had illegally entered from Iran. It later released a videotaped confession by the man.

India has confirmed that the man was a former Indian navy official but denied he was a spy.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #Mars Orbiter Mission Has a Methane Problem via @seeker


More than two years after its pioneering Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) reached the red planet, the Indian Space Research Organization has yet to release highly anticipated measurements of atmospheric methane, a gas which on Earth is strongly tied to life.

Seeker has learned that the data will never come, due to a flaw in the sensor design.

"They did not design this properly for the detection of methane on Mars," Michael Mumma, senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told Seeker.

In 2003, Mumma led a team that made the first definitive measurements of methane on Mars using an infrared telescope in Hawaii. The methane, which appeared in plumes over specific regions of Mars, reached a maximum density of about 60 parts per billion.

"The (MOM) instrument is beautifully engineered, but not for the methane task. It has other value, but unfortunately they will not be able to provide measurements of methane at the levels needed to sample even the plumes we saw," Mumma said.

The problem has to do with how the instrument collects and processes detections of methane in the atmosphere, a technique known as spectroscopy.

"Imagine that you hold your hand in front of you and extend your four fingers … Suppose that each (finger) represents a methane line. What they have is a spectrometer that can be shifted to … sample each one of the four fingers and then they have a second one that samples the region between the fingers.

"The trouble is they don't actually send back the spectra. What they send back is the two numbers — the sum of the fingers measured by the first channel and the sum of gaps measured by the second channel — and then they take a difference of those two numbers and they think that that's going to be the methane signal," Mumma said.

"The problem, of course, is that when you have other spectral lines … like carbon dioxide lines which vary widely with temperature in terms of their intensity, then those two numbers … don't represent methane alone. The net effect is that there is no way that one can back out those two signals in order to retrieve a methane signal," he said.

"It's really unfortunate because they succeeded so spectacularly well in placing the spacecraft into orbit at all, which was the major achievement for the first try," he added. "But the reality is we won't seeing any detections of methane from the Mars methane sensor on MOM."

Mumma and colleague Geronimo Villanueva, also at Goddard, analyzed the MOM methane instrument design as part of NASA's widening partnership with ISRO.

Their findings were presented to the Indian space agency ISRO in February.

"I believe the resolution is that the Indians now agree that their methane sensor is better used for other purposes, so they are now calling this an albedo mapper and measuring reflected sunlight. It does that, and it does that well," Mumma said.

"The engineers know how to build a good instrument. That's not the issue. The problem is they didn't have the scientific guidance needed to tell them exactly what they needed to do," he said.

Seetha Somasundaram, with ISRO's Satellite Center which designed the instrument, declined to comment and referred Seeker to ISRO spokesman Deviprasad Karnik. Karnik did not responded to requests for comment.

Mumma and other scientists are now pinning their hopes on getting Mars methane measurements from Europe's newly arrived Trace Gas Orbiter.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's launch of 103 #Satellites in single mission no big deal: Ex #ISRO Chief Madhavan Nair.


Eminent space scientist G Madhavan Nair indicated that India planning to launch 103 satellites in a single mission next month is no big deal as the country has already proved such capability, and advocated the need for Isro to focus on reviving human spaceflight venture and other technology development.

"Multiple launches we have proven (our capability) years back. So, there is nothing new in that. Within the 1500 kg capacity, you can carry as many satellites as possible," the former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation told PTI, when asked about the coming PSLV mission.

"Today, many of the student projects have come to micro and nano satellites weighing even a fraction of a kilogram. So, it (next month's PSLV mission with 103 satellites on board) cannot be talked about as a big milestone," he said.

During Nair's six-year tenure as Chairman, Isro and Secretary in the Department of Space, 25 successful missions were accomplished, according to information on Isro website.

"But at the same time, in last five years, what are the new programmes that Isro has launched? it's zero," Nair said.

Pointing out that India today is reaping the benefits of what it had invested in the space field in the past, he said, "It's like a big flywheel, it's running down. If you don't give occasional kick, the so-called technology advantage and leadership Isro has enjoyed, will slowly come down. It will also become like any other routine department."

On what Isro needs to do, he said the human spaceflight project should be revived and given a kickstart.

"It's not only just mission and hype but a host of new technologies will get developed for that, like life support system in space, and perfecting recovery and reusable technology capabilities," he said.

According to him, Isro had initiated societal programme based on space technologies long back, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also stressed the need for using them to penetrate and reach out to the poor in his first Independence Day speech.

"Nothing is visible, we are just talking. Spacecraft technologies also we have to go a long way. We are still five years behind others (leading space-faring nations) in terms of technical skills and capability," Nair added.

Riaz Haq said...

The mission’s main payload was the Indian Space Research Organization’s Cartosat 2D, a car-sized satellite designed for environmental mapping. Another 88 Dove nanosatellites, each about the size of a toaster oven, will become part of Planet’s Earth-observing constellation.

Eight more nanosatellites were launched for Spire Global, which is filling out a constellation to monitor weather as well as aviation and maritime traffic. This is the second Spire PSLV mission facilitated by Spaceflight Industries, which handles launch logistics.

Spaceflight also arranged to get Israel Aerospace Industries’ BGUSat nanosatellite on the flight. BGUSat is a research spacecraft built by students at Ben Gurion University to perform cloud imaging and measure atmospheric background radiation.

Six more research satellites rounded out the flock, which represented the highest number of satellites launched on a single rocket. ISRO said all 104 satellites were successfully deployed into pole-to-pole orbits within a half-hour after launch.


Riaz Haq said...

#China media: #India launch of 104 satellites "limited success", "not about number of #satellites at one go" #ISRO


A Chinese state-run newspaper in an editorial Thursday said India's record of sending 104 satellites into space was "a limited achievement", with India's space programme still lagging behind China's successes in its manned space programme.
India on Wednesday launched a record 104 satellites on a single rocket, which followed the Mars orbiter mission, which also garnered attention in China. The Chinese government described the Mars orbiter mission as "the pride of Asia" and said it would be keen to work more closely with India on space projects.
The state media, however, struck a different note on Thursday. "The Indians have reason to be proud," said a Thursday editorial in the Party-run Global Times, a widely read tabloid. "However, the space technology race is not mainly about the number of satellites at one go," it added. "It's fair to say the significance of this achievement is limited. In this regard, Indian scientists know more than the Indian public, who are encouraged by media reports."
The editorial pooh-poohed where India's space programme stood in comparison to America's and China's. "India's space technology development tends to project national image. It's reported that India also plans to reach Venus, another programme that is suitable for media hype but lacks follow-up research," the editorial said.
"On the whole, India's space technology still lags behind the US and China's. It has not yet formed a complete system. For instance, the engine of its rockets is not powerful enough to support large-scale space exploration."
The editorial pointed out, "There is no Indian astronaut in space and the country's plan to establish a space station has not started," referring to China's manned space missions, with two astronauts last year spending 30 days in the Tiangong-2 space module, which will be developed into a full-fledged space station.
The paper did add that it was "a hard-won achievement for India to reach current space technology level with a relatively small investment", saying it offered "food for thought for other countries", pointing out that the US space budget in 2013 was $39.3 billion, China $6.1 billion, Russia $5.3 billion, Japan $3.6 billion and India $1.2 billion.
The editorial concluded that India's example was "worth pondering". "The first is its ambition to make India a great power. Therefore, it's focused not only on immediate interests but long-term ones. Second, the country believes it should remain present in space technology development, given its close links with military. And third, India is under pressure to compete with China and refuses to lag behind."
"India's Achilles' Heel is its relatively small economic scale and a weak foundation for national development. As a hierarchical society, it has both world-class elite and a largest number of poor people. Many lessons can be drawn from India. As a rising power, it has done a good job. It is ambitious but pragmatic, preferring to compare with others as an incentive to progress. India's political and social philosophy is worth pondering."

Riaz Haq said...

Jubilation and scepticism greet #India’s world #space record. #ISRO https://www.ft.com/content/f6df149e-fcaf-11e6-96f8-3700c5664d30 … via @FT

the fanfare masks a more modest reality — India has made a small inroad into the lucrative commercial space industry but headline-grabbing advances such as last month’s rocket launch have been far outstripped by China’s investments into a manned space station and robotic missions to the moon.

“The Chinese space programme operates on a very different scale than the Indian,” says Asif Siddiqi, professor of history at Fordham university. “It is much bigger, both in terms of annual launches and annual investments, it does a lot more in terms of actual capabilities and it also has a much more explicit military dimension.”

The new Indian record, which tripled Russia’s previous record of 37 satellites from a single rocket, was only possible because most of the spacecraft were extremely small, he added. India’s space agency received about $1.1bn of funding last year compared with an estimated $7-8bn in China, says Dinshaw Mistry, professor of political science and Asian studies at the University of Cincinnati.

In Beijing, India’s enthusiasm for its world record has been dismissed as overblown.

“China’s opponents in aerospace is not India but the United States. However, India always makes China its opponent, and every achievement is made into a victory against China and cheered,” ran an editorial in the Global Times, a state-sanctioned tabloid.

“The requirements for Indian rockets are all low cost, so they have a large emphasis on commercial launches, and they are mostly servicing foreign satellites. That is all they are doing,” says Lan Tianyi, chief executive of the Beijing-based aerospace consultancy Yuxun Technology. Most of the technology needed to pack 104 satellites onto one rocket came from foreign companies while “India only provided the rocket and the launch opportunity”, Mr Lan added.

While China has sought to emulate American space achievements and poured resources into high-profile missions like sending a rover to the moon, India has set more conservative targets.

According to Mr Lele, less than 5 per cent of India’s space budget is spent on long-term exploration or international competition. Instead, most is focussed on domestic missions such as environmental and metereological forecasting, or navigation.

India has a 0.6 per cent share of the commercial space industry — compared to China’s 3 per cent — a big growth area for companies that want to send satellites to space for research of commercial purposes, such as mapping or television transmission. The US is the biggest client for the $5.4bn industry, according to data from the Satellite Industry Association, a trade body.

Riaz Haq said...

Manned #spaceflight is a waste of resources. it makes no sense when robots and virtual reality devices can do the job better, cheaper and safer. #NASA #India #space #Modi #IndiaIndependenceDay https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/outside-the-boardroom/article/Manned-spaceflight-is-a-waste-or-resources-10620435.php?utm_campaign=twitter-premium&utm_source=CMS%20Sharing%20Button&utm_medium=social

Voyaging to Mars has captured the imagination of many Americans and inspired billionaires to talk of interplanetary colonization, but unfortunately, it makes little economic or scientific sense.

My colleague Andrea Rumbaugh reports from SpaceCom that "NASA wants to get people to Mars in the 2030s." While that's a romantic marketing tool to convince the public to pressure Congress to boost NASA's budget, it makes no sense when robots and virtual reality devices can do the job better, cheaper and safer.

Admittedly, this is a raging debate in scientific circles, but one the public needs to join in. There are even some serious questions about the value of the experiments underway on the International Space Station, not to mention the logistical challenge of sending humans on a three-year trip to Mars and back.

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Folks who want to go to space believe that only humans can truly explore, and that machines are a poor substitute. Yet robots are growing so sophisticated, and so capable, that many believe they will exceed human capabilities, just as no human can beat a computer anymore at playing chess, or the much more complex game called Go.

U.S. Air Force pilots on the ground in Nevada fly spy planes all over the world, 24 hours a day. The technology is so good that last year Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter "almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly."

Virtual reality goggles are also getting very good at giving people the sense of being outside their bodies. The right equipment mounted on a robot on another planet could allow every human on earth with Internet access a chance at feeling like they are on another planet.

So why go the expensive, manned spaceflight route? What often goes unstated is the role of business in lobbying for the most expensive space program possible.

In an era of low defense spending, companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are looking for new government contracts to boost their bottom line. The Apollo program cost the United States $275 billion in today's dollars, and a single flight of the space shuttle cost $450 million, the main reason the program was discontinued. Boeing and Lockheed made fortunes on the programs.

The Mars Curiosity Rover cost $2.5 billion and is doing great work using fairly dated robotics and sensors. The same mission today could accomplish much more and cost less. In comparison, a manned mission to Mars is conservatively estimated to cost $100 billion. NASA could send 40 robots to many planets for the price of one manned trip to Mars.

NASA supporters like to talk about the technological benefits of spin-off technology. And that's perhaps the most compelling argument for sending robots and using virtual reality instead of sending humans. Both technologies have broad application in earth's economy, ranging from virtual trips to the Amazon to self-driving cars.

Riaz Haq said...

Why #India does not deserve to be Permanent Member of #UNSC. #Delhi can’t see that the 12 state ‘United for Consensus’ group, headed by Italy and includes Pakistan, which opposes any reconfiguring of the UNSC, is not primarily to blame
https://bharatkarnad.com/2018/11/23/why-india-does-not-deserve-to-be-permanent-member-of-the-un-security-council/ via @BharatKarnad

The principal hurdle specifically to India’s entry, however, are the two countries the Indian government in the new Century, helmed by both the BJP and the Congress party, has bent over backwards to appease — the United States and China. The Trump Administration has made it plain it supports only a “modest” increase in permanent seats. This by way of saying that Washington would happily countenance its treaty allies, Japan and Germany, in the UNSC but not India or Brazil — though to the Indian PM’s face US functionaries have assured support. China, on its part, has declared it is against “arbitrarily launching text-based negotiations” in IGN as demanded by India; the larger reason, of course, is to deny both its Asian rivals a leg up. Again, Beijing does not say it’s not for India at the high table but hints at its unwillingness to see Japan in the Council, knowing fully well that no move will ever be made to just ease India’s entry into UNSC.

India’s yearning for a permanent seat in the Security Council raises the pertinent question whether India deserves it. Because the five current permanent members (P-5) — US, Russia, China, UK and France are great powers and have traits in common (including the last two which are long into the imperial dusk). They all have hefty nuclear forces, modern militaries to reckon with, are security providers with extra-territorial military presence, with France even in the Indian Ocean (on Reunion Island in the French Indian Ocean Territories and the Heron base in Djibouti), generate advanced technologies in all fields and are frontline technology innovators, have a whole bunch of Third and Fourth World states the world as arms dependencies, courtesy vigorous arms sales schemes, are large foreign aid donors with extensive and tested development and infrastructure assistance programmes, high volumes of global trade and extremely strong and active economies, and relatively high standards of living. So, does India, other than possession of simple, low yield, nuclear weapons (that in quality, perhaps, lags behind a lowly Pakistani arsenal), meet any of these metrics?

Our case rests on the following arguments: that India (1) boasts of a large fraction of the world population, (2) is a “responsible state”, (3) is a longstanding democracy and an exemplar of liberal values (4) contributes disproportionately to UN peacekeeping missions, (5) shaped the post-WWII international system by championing anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism and anti-racism, (6) is a steadying influence in a disordered world, (7) has always taken taken the lead role in furthering universal good — disarmament, climate accord, solar alliance, etc., (8) has never been expansionist or coveted foreign territories, but has no neighbour at peace with it, and (9) is a trillion dollar economy, except 40% of its population is below the poverty line.


But India, alas, has no Dengxiaoping, no leader to challenge the world and motivate the Indian people to work for the nation’s cause, only gasbags furthering their advantage in domestic politics while using India’s democracy as an excuse for the country remaining a perennial also-ran.

Surely then such a country cannot credibly ask in good faith for a permanent seat in UNSC to preside over a world it had no role in making, and has even less of a role in running. The P-5 have to feel sorry enough for a “flailing” India to accommodate it, which won’t ever happen. So India is fated to remain on the outside, like a beggar with face pressed to the windows of a posh eatery.

Riaz Haq said...

How #India secretly armed #Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance. #Indian Ambassador to #Tajikistan Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar coordinated it through NA chief spy Amrullah Saleh who later headed #Afghan intelligence NDS and has good relations with #RAW. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/how-india-secretly-armed-ahmad-shah-massouds-northern-alliance/article29310513.ece

India must not commit the error of placing Indian troops on Afghan soil, says the diplomat who coordinated New Delhi’s secret military assistance to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the military commander of the Northern Alliance, who fought the Taliban and U.S. forces till his assassination in 2001.

For four years, between 1996 and 2000, till he left the Tajik capital Dushanbe to take up his new posting, Ambassador Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar coordinated military and medical assistance that India was secretly giving to Massoud and his forces.

It all began, says Mr. Muthu Kumar, exactly a week after September 26, 1996, when the Taliban, backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), took over Kabul, shot former President Najibullah dead, castrated him, and hung his body from a lamp post. Just hours before, Indian Embassy staff had scrambled into the last plane out of a country that had begun its descent into hell.

Amrullah Saleh, who looked after Kabul’s interests in the Tajik capital, called Mr. Muthu Kumar to inform him that the “Commander” would like to meet him.

“Commander” was a reference to Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir, who made his name guerrilla-fighting the Soviets when they occupied Afghanistan for 10 years. The Indian ambassador sought instructions from New Delhi on what was to be done. The response: “Listen carefully, report back faithfully, and play it by ear.”

Over chai and dry fruits
Massoud maintained a house on Karamova Ulitse in Dushanbe. He had his own staff and Mohammed Saleh Registani looked after the affairs of his house. It was here that the Indian ambassador regularly began meeting Ahmed Shah Massoud, discussing, over endless chai and dry fruits, the bewilderingly shifting fortunes of the battles in Afghanistan where money was enough to swing fighters. The Commander did not speak English and Amrullah, who would later go on to become Intelligence Chief, interpreted for him. The Indian ambassador subsequently had his number two in the mission, Dr S.A. Qureshi on hand for interpretation.

At the first meeting, the Commander had dramatically thrown his trademark cap down on the table, and declared, that was all the space he required — the circumference of his headgear — to stand and fight for his country. He put it simply: “I need India’s support.” He then set out a list of items he needed.

What is in it for us? Delhi queried. Mr. Muthu Kumar explained, “He is battling someone we should be battling. When Massoud fights the Taliban, he fights Pakistan.”

Expanding list
The Commander’s wish list kept growing, and when once, New Delhi agreed to send only a fraction of the requirement, Mr. Muthu Kumar sent a message explaining Massoud’s predicament with an Ajit joke: “We have thrown him in liquid oxygen: the liquid won’t let him live and the oxygen won’t allow him to die.”

Jaswant Singh, a former soldier, and then BJP leader, who had become External Affairs Minister, read the cables the first thing. He directly called Mr. Muthu Kumar and gave him a message to deliver to the Commander: “Please assure him that he will have his requirements.”

Short of sending heavy equipment, India provided extensive assistance to the Northern Alliance — uniforms, ordnance, mortars, small armaments, refurbished Kalashnikovs seized in Kashmir, combat and winter clothes, packaged food, medicines, and funds through his brother in London, Wali Massoud. Assistance would be delivered circuitously with the help of other countries who helped this outreach.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #Pakistan Phobia. Rocket Scientist Nambi Narayanan: The fake spy scandal that blew up his career. He acquired #Russia'a cryogenic tech, the backbone of #Indian successes in #space. Narayan was accused of #espionage and transferring #rocket #technology to #Pakistan. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-49836270

One winter afternoon a quarter of a century ago three policemen arrived at a house in a narrow lane in the southern Indian city of Trivandrum, the capital of the state of Kerala.

The officers were polite and respectful, Nambi Narayanan remembers.

They told the space scientist that their boss, a deputy inspector general of police, wanted to talk to him.

"Am I under arrest?" Mr Narayanan asked.

"No sir," the officer said.

It was 30 November 1994. The 53-year-old scientist led the Indian space agency's cryogenic rocket engine project, and was responsible for acquiring the technology from Russia.

Mr Narayanan walked out to the waiting police vehicle. He asked whether he should sit in the front or the back - suspects were usually dumped in the back seat.

The policemen asked him to sit in the front, and the Jeep rolled out of the lane.

When they arrived at the police station, the boss wasn't there, so Mr Narayanan was asked to wait on a bench. Policemen gaped at him as they passed by.

"They had that look as if they were looking at someone who had done some crime," Mr Narayanan says.

He waited and waited. The boss didn't turn up.

As night fell, he dozed off on the bench. When he woke up next morning, he was told he was under arrest.

A scrum of journalists had arrived, and within hours newspapers were describing him as a traitor - a man who had sold rocket technology to Pakistan, after falling into a honey trap set by two women from the Maldives.

His life was never the same again.


Key dates
1994 - Narayanan arrested and remanded in custody, then bailed in January 1995

1996 - Exonerated by the Central Bureau of Investigation

1998 - Supreme Court finally dismisses Kerala government's appeal

2001 - Kerala government ordered to pay compensation

2018 - Supreme Court orders investigation into fabrication of case