Pakistan has successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile that can strike targets up to 290 kilometres, the army said.
According to a report by PTI, the launch of the Ghaznavi missile was “culmination of Annual Field Training Exercise of Army Strategic Forces Command,” said a statement issued by the media wing of the Pakistani army – the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
It said that the ballistic missile is capable of delivering nuclear and conventional warheads up to a range of 290 kilometres.
The training launch was witnessed by Commander Army Strategic Forces Command Lt Gen Muhammad Ali, senior officers from Strategic Plans Division, Army Strategic Forces Command, Scientists and Engineers of the strategic organizations.
Commander Army Strategic Forces Command appreciated the operational preparedness and display of excellent standard in handling and operating the weapon system, the army said.
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Heightened tensions between three Asian nuclear powers
Myra MacDonald reports on the growing threat from border clashes on India, Pakistan and China’s high mountain frontiers
Wherever you travel in India and Pakistan, you will often see people playing an impromptu game of cricket on a stray patch of flat land. But I had not expected to see a game in progress on the world’s coldest, highest battlefield.
I was researching the Siachen war, fought between the two South Asian rivals over the glaciated wastelands of the Karakoram that lie at the point where India, Pakistan and China meet.
Our tiny helicopter landed at Gyari, where the Pakistan Army had set up a battalion headquarters on a snow-covered plateau at 13,000ft and barricaded by huge granite walls. At the height of the fighting, Gyari had been heavily shelled by Indian artillery. But shortly before my visit the two countries had declared a ceasefire.
As I remember it, with the light-headed hypoxia that comes with high altitude, the mood was distinctly cheerful. An officer greeted me in the drizzling snow by cutting off the stem of one of the wild sia roses that grow in the region and presenting it to me.
At a briefing inside, an earnest young man talked of the importance of the military deployment here, the Pakistan army as determined as its Indian counterpart to ensure that ‘not one inch of land’ should be ceded to the other side.
Then, as we returned outside, blinking in the strong high-altitude sun, the soldiers began playing a few overs of cricket. The war was forgotten as they focused on the precision of the bowling; the thwack of willow on leather echoed off the mountain walls.
Their youthful enthusiasm reminded me of the boys I had often seen playing cricket in the towns and villages of India and Pakistan. I remembered that scene vividly when, eight years later, a huge avalanche tumbled down from the mountain walls above Gyari. One hundred and forty soldiers and civilian contractors were buried alive. They would have been just like the men I met. They all died.
I made that visit to Gyari in 2004 as part of my research for a book on the Siachen war, which began in 1984 when Indian troops occupied mountain passes to block a Pakistani takeover of the Siachen glacier. It was a particularly cruel war where far more men were killed by the weather and terrain than in fighting.
Troops spent months in isolated posts on narrow mountain ledges with barely space for eight men. Some of these posts were above 18,000ft, a height so unsuited to human life that the body has to feed on itself in order to survive. They suffered from altitude sickness and frostbite, were buried by avalanches or fell into crevasses; soldiers returned from forward posts emaciated and blackened with soot from kerosene stoves.
They were expected to fight at altitudes where even walking is an effort, often under withering artillery fire directed at them from below, using knives and bayonets when their rifles froze in the cold. These human costs were exacerbated by the inherently escalatory nature of mountain warfare – armies invariably sprawl outwards as the other side seeks to find and exploit gaps in the enemy’s defences and a war, once started, can be impossible to stop.
For a new book, White as the Shroud, India, Pakistan and War on the Frontiers of Kashmir, I have been drawing on the lessons of the Siachen war to look more broadly at all the contested frontiers in the region. These include the Line of Control which divides the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the frontline in Siachen, and the disputed frontier between India and China on what is known as the Line of Actual Control. Together, they form a near-unbroken chain around Ladakh, once the largest but least populated part of erstwhile Kashmir and since 2019 incorporated into India as a union territory.
All three of these frontlines are becoming more volatile. An India-Pakistan ceasefire on the Line of Control has all but broken down. On the Line of Actual Control, tensions are at their highest since China defeated India in a 1962 border war. Twenty Indian soldiers and an unconfirmed number of Chinese troops died in a clash last June in the Galwan Valley, which lies at nearly 14,000ft in the bleak desert fringes of eastern Ladakh.
The three disputed frontiers are managed differently and there is no neat correspondence between the India-Pakistan and the Sino-Indian relationship. They nonetheless share some characteristics. The most striking is the human cost of posting soldiers on the high-altitude periphery. Since the clash in Galwan, thousands of Indian troops have been sent to reinforce the Line of Actual Control, digging in through the winter.
Though their posts are not quite as high as those in Siachen, they face the same challenges of high altitude, sub-zero temperatures and biting winds, along with the lack of shelter and the supply difficulties that come with deployment in remote terrain too harsh for human habitation.
Beyond that human toll are the strategic risks. The region is too vast for fixed linear frontiers. Instead armies seek key defensive positions in isolated posts, whether in the snow-covered heights of Siachen or in the rocky desert expanses of the Tibetan plateau. But there is always another position in the distance or higher up that looks like it might be essential to protect posts already held, or to watch over the surrounding terrain, creating constant pressure on armies to expand their deployment.
These frontier tensions, moreover, are playing out against a background of multiple overlapping sources of conflict – between Pakistan and India, between India and China, and between central governments and the people living on the periphery, whether that be in Kashmir, or in Xinjiang and Tibet, which both border Ladakh.
These overlapping conflicts are in turn exacerbated by the chains that bind Pakistan, India, and China into an awkward three-way competition. Pakistan distrusts a much larger India, while India fears a more powerful China. An alliance between China and Pakistan, linking them across a land bridge that runs through the Pakistani part of Kashmir, leaves India – and Ladakh in particular – hemmed in on two sides.
These overlapping conflicts then meld into the ever-present risk of tactical miscalculations when soldiers are posted in undemarcated, difficult terrain. Fighting on the frontiers also happens either despite the fact that all three countries involved have nuclear weapons, or because the supposed unthinkability of all-out war means they are more likely to channel their energies into
localized conflicts. Given the stakes involved, and against a background of rising international tensions between China and the US, these obscure frontier conflicts are likely to become a serious source of concern in the months and years ahead.
Lines on a map
Historically, the frontiers of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir were never demarcated. Instead the mountains and high cold deserts acted as natural barriers, even as the region was connected to Tibet and what is now Xinjiang through a network of trade, cultural and religious ties.
British colonial rulers, concerned about the southward expansion of Tsarist Russia in the 19th century ‘Great Game’, drew lines on maps, but never attempted to defend every inch of land. Instead, they sought a cushion rather than a hard border, securing the defence of India by roping in buffer states and leaving gaps in ungoverned spaces. These lines on maps, more-over, were never internationally agreed and tended to come in a number of versions based on where different British officials believed the frontiers should lie.
The great upheavals of the mid-20th century set off a chain reaction on the frontiers that continues to this day. Kashmir was divided in the war between India and Pakistan that followed Partition in 1947. The 1949 triumph of the communists in the civil war in China led to a reassertion of central power over its periphery. China’s takeover of Tibet in the 1950s and the building of a road linking Tibet with Xinjiang through territory claimed by India and China set the conditions for the 1962 war.
It was partly due to the scars of that defeat in 1962 that India, fearing encroachment by both Pakistan and China, first sent troops to Siachen.
The Siachen war is a case study in unintended consequences. The first troops sent by India in 1978 were military mountaineers who were merely meant to explore the Siachen glacier, but soon both Pakistan and India were sending military patrols to check what the other was doing.
In 1984, Indian troops occupied mountain passes overlooking the glacier in what was meant to be a show of force limited to the summer months – no one had ever spent the winter in Siachen. But once confronted by Pakistani troops, Indian troops were forced to dig in. Then, following the inexorable logic of mountain warfare, the Siachen frontline sprawled outwards towards the Line of Control.
It was in part to cut off the Indian supply lines to Siachen that Pakistan sent troops across the Line of Control in 1999, leading to the Kargil war in western Ladakh.
Pakistan eventually pulled its troops back to its side of the Line of Control after coming under intense international pressure – the conflict, erupting barely a year after India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, had rung alarm bells worldwide. India, however, was forced to step up its year-round deployment on the Line of Control to prevent any fresh ingress by Pakistan, exposing more troops to the perils of winter at high altitude.
A similar drift towards ever-increasing military deployment has been seen on the Line of Actual Control, where India and China have become embroiled in an infrastructure ‘arms race’.
First China and then India built roads and other infrastructure to help them move troops quickly to the frontier. But rather like the scramble for the heights in Siachen, the infrastructure-building had its own unintended consequences.
Last year’s spike in tensions between India and China in eastern Ladakh followed the completion in 2019 of a 160-mile Indian road running up to a one-time caravan traders’ campsite known as Daulat Beg Oldi. India has also set up an airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldi, which lies on a bleak 16,700ft plateau just below the Karakoram Pass. The road, along with India’s move in 2019 to cancel Kashmir’s autonomous status and split it from Ladakh – appears to have alarmed China. India has blamed China for causing last year’s tensions by pushing troops forward on the frontier. This trend towards increasing deployment on the disputed frontiers is happening in an environment that lends itself to misunderstandings and miscalculations.
Soldiers posted high in the mountains are often far too focused on survival to have any grasp of the broader picture and are a long way from senior commanders. With very limited media access other than the kind of military-organized trips I made with the Indian and Pakistani armies to both sides of the Siachen war zone, it is almost impossible to establish the facts about exactly what happens there. And since these frontiers were created through war, often they do not follow any obvious topography determined by natural features like rivers and ridgelines.
No easy answers, only trade-offs
Looking ahead there are no easy answers to the increasing volatility of the frontiers on the periphery of India, Pakistan and China. Indian media reports suggest India is looking to reorient some of its military forces focused on Pakistan towards its frontier with China. On the surface, that appears reasonable – the presence of nuclear weapons has made a full-scale war between India and Pakistan far less likely. Such a rebalancing however would introduce a new element of unpredictability to the unpredictable India-Pakistan relationship.
It is possible, even likely, that technology will sweep away the patterns of warfare established over recent decades. Military assumptions about the value of fixed and fortified positions are becoming outdated by modern warfare, with its combination of rapid mobility, airpower, drones, satellite surveillance and precision-guided munitions. That, however, provides little comfort to India. In China it faces a strategic rival far more technologically advanced and with an economy nearly five times the size of its own. Moreover, any investment by India in defending its positions on the high-altitude periphery is an opportunity cost in terms in investments not made elsewhere. As a result, it faces difficult trade-offs, while juggling its military and diplomatic approaches to both Pakistan and China.
Ultimately, however, this is not a problem that can be solved militarily, nor by fighting over every inch of land. History suggests that every attempt to bolster frontiers has had unintended consequences that made the problem worse.
And the most obvious solutions – rushing troops and equipment to the frontline to confront an enemy – are not necessarily the wisest ones. When I was researching the Siachen war, two retired Pakistani generals told me in separate meetings that it might have been better if Pakistan had not reacted at all when Indian troops occupied the mountain passes overlooking the Siachen glacier.
If it had simply ignored the Indian ‘assault’ on the empty passes, the Indian troops would have eventually gone home before winter conditions made deployment there all-but-unbearable. But there was too much national pride and prestige involved. ‘We do a lot of illogical things against each other,’ one of them said. Hundreds of Pakistani troops, among them the men buried by the avalanche at Gyari, died because of that choice.
‘White as the Shroud, India, Pakistan and War on the Frontiers of Kashmir’, is published by Hurst
Friday, 05 February 2021 9:24 AM [ Last Update: Friday, 05 February 2021 9:31 PM ]
A top US military commander has warned about the possibility of a nuclear war with Russia or China.
The head of US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Admiral Charles Richard, accused Moscow and Beijing of having “aggressively challenge international norms” and becoming a threat to his country and the region.
He wrote in the US Naval Institute’s monthly magazine, Proceedings, that Washington needs to seek new ways to face what he called imminent threats from both military powers.
“There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons,” he wrote.
Commander of US Strategic Command, Charles Richard (File Photo)
Richard accused both Moscow and Beijing of conducting cyber-attacks and posing “threats in space,” as well as heavily investing in advanced nuclear weapons.
He warned that the United States’ “probability of nuclear use is low, but not ‘impossible,’ particularly in a crisis.”
Richard pointed out that the Pentagon “must re-frame how it prioritizes the procurement of future capabilities” as Russia and China — whom he called “our nuclear-armed adversaries” — continue to “build capability and exert themselves globally.”
“Our record in this regard is not stellar,” he said. “We must ensure that all of our capabilities map to an overarching strategy.”
China’s growing power, Russia’s nukes main threats to US security: Pentagon official
China and Russia are the two greatest threats against America’s national security, says a top pentagon official.
The commander also accused Russia and China of destabilizing behaviors, which “if left unchecked, increase the risk of great power crisis or conflict.”
‘Russia’s nuclear modernization almost complete’
Richard specifically warned about Russia’s nuclear capabilities, including the development of “bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarines.”
“More than a decade ago, Russia began aggressively modernizing its nuclear forces, including its non-treaty-accountable medium- and short-range systems,” he wrote.
He said that Russia’s “modernization is about 70 percent complete and on track to be fully realized in a few years.”
“In addition, Russia is building new and novel systems, such as hyper-sonic glide vehicles, nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered torpedoes and cruise missiles, and other capabilities,” the commander added.
Russia has already warned about the risk of another nuclear arms race in the wake of Washington’s “grave mistake” in abandoning a landmark nuclear arms treaty that had banned all land-based missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometres.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed toward the end of the Cold War in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Former US president Donald Trump, however, annulled the INF in August 2019, citing Moscow’s failure to comply with the treaty for its pullout.
US INF withdrawal increases risk of renewed nuclear arms race: Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin says US pullout from a nuclear treaty last year was a grave mistake which exposed the world to a renewal of a nuclear arms race.
Following the US announcement, Moscow also declared the formal end of the arms control treaty.
The sole arms control treaty that limits the nuclear arsenals of US and Russia, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, was set to expire this week.
But new US President Joe Biden has extended the treaty, known as New START, with Russia for five more years, US officials said Wednesday.
The treaty’s extension was not guaranteed under the Trump administration, as he was pushing for China to join the treaty, but Beijing declined.
Trump had threatened to leave the New START, as well.
Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said Wednesday that Washington will work to pursue arms control “to reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal.”
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Fox News reported that the head of US Strategic Command Charles Richard is calling on the US military and federal leaders to reimagine methods of deterring aggressive action from rivals such as China and Russia. He wrote in the February issue of Proceedings, the US Naval Institute’s monthly magazine, that, “There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons.”
It’s not uncommon to hear the noise preaching so-called threats of China and Russia. Yet it’s still shocking to see a US senior military official publicly urging leaders of his country to consider a nuclear war. His narratives have drawn wide attention.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday that Richard’s rhetoric may be out of the following intention. First, he may hope to increase the strategic value of the Strategic Command in the US military. Second, Richard wants the US Congress to allocate more funds to create a new US nuclear weapons system, in a bid to reinforce a new triad of strategic nuclear forces. Third, he seeks to pursue the Strategic Command’s larger control over US nuclear weapons.
For whatever reason, a top military official from the US, the most powerful country and whose new administration has pledged to restore its global leadership, is irresponsible to express such a crazy idea, as it poses huge challenges to world peace and security. It should be condemned by the international community.
Most nuclear-weapon countries including China, tend to keep their nuclear force for the purpose of safeguarding their national security. Only when their safety, sovereignty or territory is threatened, will they consider resorting to using nuclear weapons. But the principle of the US totally differs.
The US military might be the strongest, possessing the largest and most advanced nuclear arsenal. In spite of vowing to pursue disarmament, Washington actually spent trillions of dollars in upgrading its nuclear arsenal. Apart from terrorists, no country is capable of posing any threat to the US homeland.
Just as Song said, spending trillions of dollars to upgrade its nuclear arsenal is mainly to maintain its global hegemony. This is the fundamental difference between the US and other nuclear-weapon countries in terms of keeping nuclear forces.
Washington covers a wide range when it comes to defending its hegemony. It includes safeguarding its national security as well as its core interests on a global scale. Just as former US president Barack Obama said at the US Military Academy at West Point in 2014, “America must always lead on the world stage… If we [the US] don’t, no one else will.” If any country gravely threatens US hegemony, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the US may use nuclear weapons to remarkably impair its rivals’ military capability. This is the huge threat of US radical nuclear policy posed to the world. It is a big challenge for all countries, including China and Russia, and to global peace and safety. The US is the biggest trouble-maker in the world, which has the potential to overturn global peace.
The announcement was made by Hakim al Zamili in a statement issued to Iraqi media outlets, and reported on by Fides news agency.
End property infringements
In his statement, Zamili said a large portion of the returned property had been illegally expropriated from Iraqi Christians and Mandeans by local militias, armed groups, and influential families.
According to the statement, the campaign’s goal is to reestablish justice and put an end to infringements on the property rights of “our brother Christians”, even if the perpetrators were members of the Sadrist Movement.
Christians who have fled abroad are also welcome to put forward their cases.
The theft of Christian-owned property began after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, as militia groups sprung up in the power vacuum.
Fides news agency says the “legalized theft” of property is closely connected to the mass exodus of Iraqi Christians.
Corrupt officials often teamed up with individuals and criminal groups to carry out the operations.
The Sadrist Movement, which holds 34 seats in Iraq’s parliament, set up an ad hoc committee at the start of 2021 to collect and evaluate petitions from those whose property had been stolen.
At the time, Chaldean Patriarch, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, thanked Muqtada al-Sadr for the initiative that seeks to put an end to injustices suffered by Christians.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei says the enemies of the country are incapable of adopting anti-Iranian measures.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Leader of the Islamic Revolution Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei says the enemies of the country are incapable of adopting anti-Iranian measures.
“Be aware that enemies cannot do a damn thing against the Islamic Republic and that Islam’s and the Islamic Republic’s power and authority is growing,” the Leader said on Wednesday in a meeting with eulogists.
Of course, there have been ups and downs, some individuals serve the country and some others lose this opportunity but all in all the movement is towards development, he added.
Imam Khamenei congratulated the birthday anniversary of Hazrat Fatimah Zahra [PBUH] while also pointing to some of her distinctive characteristics.
Elsewhere, the Leader referred to the fundamental difference of Islam and the West towards women. Islam’s and the Islamic Republic’s view towards women is based on respect while the West’s views woman as a commodity and instrument, he added.
Islam knows no difference between men and women with regards to divine and human values, he said, adding that men and women each have special duties in addition to their common duties and that is why God Almighty has created their physical structure in accordance with these special duties.
His Eminence said, “We are proud of the view of Islam and we protest the Western view of women and lifestyle.”
Referring to the Western propaganda that claims Islam and the Islamic hijab hinder the growth of women, Imam Khamenei said “This is a clear lie and the obvious proof is the situation of women in the Islamic Republic.”
Iran has not seen in its history this great portion of educated women and women that are active in different social, cultural, artistic, scientific, political, and economic fields and this is a result of the Islamic Republic, the Leader highlighted.