Article By Ahmed Quraishi
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The Indians working with their allies in the Karzai government have designed a foolproof plan to attack Pakistani nuclear sites using hired terrorists. They think they can pull it off and permanently damage Pakistan’s standing internationally and hasten calls for denuclearizing Pakistan. Any attack on Pakistani nuclear sites in the coming days will be taken as a declaration of war by India and will be dealt with equal force. There should not be confusion on this.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—India has paid terrorist leader Baitullah Mehsud and his well armed and trained terrorist army around U.S. $ 25 million to mount a spectacular attack on a major Pakistani nuclear site. A special force of around 500 recruits has been assembled and trained to mount the operation that is supposed to shock the world. The purpose is to create an event that will create a global media scare and convince the world of the need for military intervention in Pakistan. Another objective is to neutralize voices of reason within the U.S. government that believe Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure.
The bulk of the terrorists in the special 500-strong force put together by Mehsud have been trained inside Afghanistan by trainers suspected of having links to the Indian intelligence. Although most of the recruits are expected to be Pakistanis from Mehsud’s tribe, an unknown number of Afghan and Indian elements with special operations training have been inserted in the Mehsud group in order to ensure the success of this high profile operation.
It is not clear when this plan was conceived and whether the 500-strong force divided into crack teams to carry out the attack(s) is ready. But Pakistani officials are taking no chances. The nation’s security setup is on high alert. As for the nuclear installations, the managers of Pakistan’s strategic arsenal maintain unrestricted universal operability to fulfill the arsenal’s role as a deterrent. For them, no day is a normal day.
But this latest disclosure of a plan to attack the nuclear sites has raised alarm bells, to say the least.
A rough sketch of the plan and how the attack(s) are expected to unfold goes as follows:
1. A team or several teams of terrorists attack one or more Pakistani nuclear sites and attempt to enter the facilities.
2. Within each crack team only a small core is supposed to be equipped with modern communications equipment, special operations gear, and modern weapons; highly trained to exact maximum damage.
3. Where possible, the terrorists plan to break in and hold the fort, a la Mumbai attacks, in order to generate maximum media coverage and embarrassment for the Pakistanis.
4. The international media, and especially the main American and British news outlets, turn this into a global crisis, comparable to the Bay of Pigs in 1962.
5. The event generates enough pressure to justify an ‘international demand’ to neutralize Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and force Pakistanis to accept ‘international’ supervision.
6. Depending on the aftermath, and after a few days or weeks, a small nuclear weapon is used somewhere, maybe against the US military or NATO bases in Afghanistan since it would be difficult to do it anywhere else, in order to confirm that the Afghan Taliban or generally the ‘Islamic extremists’ managed to steal a weapon from the earlier attack(s) on Pakistani sites.
This last point is critical. According to the available information, the mysterious disappearance of a senior Indian nuclear scientist and his subsequent death in May is linked to at least some parts of this plan. The scientist, Mr. Lokanathan Mahalingam, 47, had access to Indian’s sensitive nuclear information and worked at the prestigious Kaiga Atomic Power Station in the southern Indian state Karnataka, close to Project Seabird, a major Indian military base. His disappearance received limited coverage in the Indian media and there was almost a blackout on the circumstances surrounding how his dead body was found in a lake. The media in the U.S. and Britain also ignored the story. It is believed that Mr. Mahalingam was either involved in or had some knowledge about the planning for securing a small nuclear weapon that would leave no fingerprints, to put it this way, in order to execute the idea in paragraph 6 above.
The Indians have been working on this scenario for some time now.
On 16 May, the Israeli security website Debka under a story titled, ‘Singh warns Obama: Pakistan is lost,’ reported the following:
“India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told President Obama that nuclear sites in Pakistan’s restive frontier province are “already partly” in the hands of Islamic extremists.”
The Times of India, reporting the story, complained about “Washington’s misplaced confidence in, and [careless] approach towards, Pakistan’s nuclear assets,” and grumbled that “Pakistan is ramping up its nuclear arsenal even as the rest of the world is scaling it down.”
The Indian interest is obvious. But so is the Israeli interest. It is quite revealing that the story was broken by a news outlet known in international circles for its links to the Israeli government.
Official circles in Washington, including the White House, the State Department, Pentagon and CIA are cognizant of a history of cooperation between India and Israel in security issues. India’s security establishment is largely focused on Pakistan and on controlling Kashmir where the population is fighting the Indian military. At least in one incident, during the limited Pakistan-India war in 1999, the Israelis directly intervened to help the battered Indian army overturn a tactical victory by Pakistani and Kashmiri fighters.
As recently as two days ago, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and an Obama adviser known for his strong anti-Pakistan views, wrote an article published at the Brookings Institute website that demonstrates how far the anti-Pakistan lobby is willing to go to prove that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is not safe.
In Mr. Riedel’s case, he went as far as lying.
He used a recent terrorist attack on a bus carrying employees of KRL, a Pakistani nuclear facility, to say that Pakistani nuclear sites are already under attack. What he conveniently ignored is that the said bus was in fact traveling through a densely populated part of the city and not anywhere near any nuclear site. The bus most probably became a target of opportunity because it carried a plate indicating it was a government vehicle.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement quoted by an Israeli source which was widely reported and never denied by the Indians, the Israelis or the Americans, was not the first to promote the alarmist and the unreal scenario of Pakistani nuclear weapons getting into the wrong hands. Mr. Singh came on record during an interview with CNN in 2005 to say this:
“I am worried about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets should President Pervez Musharraf be replaced, since there is always the danger of Islamic militants seizing power and taking control of the country’s nuclear assets.”
There is little question that influential parts of the Indian government are involved in exporting terrorism into Pakistan from bases inside Afghanistan. Attempts to incite ethnic unrest in Pakistan’s southwest were traced by investigators to Indians in Afghanistan. Pakistani investigators reached the same conclusion with some of the evidence found in northwest Pakistan where terrorists are killing Pakistanis. And now there are reports of an impending attack on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities using Baitullah Mehsud.
The Indians and those who are supporting them should be under no illusions. Any attack on Pakistani nuclear facilities in the coming days will be construed as a declaration of war by India against Pakistan. Knowing of Mehsud’s previous contacts with Indians and with Karzai’s people, any miscalculated attempt by his terrorists will not be seen as anything less than a direct Indian attack. In this case, Pakistan will consider itself in a state of war, and retaliate accordingly. There should not be any confusion on this.