CHINA FISHING IN TROUBLED PAK WATERS TO NEEDLE INDIA - The Daily Guardian
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CHINA FISHING IN TROUBLED PAK WATERS TO NEEDLE INDIA

Pakistan and China have hastened the deal to build the Diamer Bhasha dam on Indus river in Gilgit Baltistan. It is being touted as Pakistan’s ‘Three Gorges’ to eternally ensure water security. But this is not a water-scarcity alleviation project but a long-term military plan against India.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Beggars can’t be choosers. However, they do have a choice of place for begging. Yesterday, Pakistan begged at the US, Saudi and Gulf street corners. Today it is the Chinese, Turkish, and Malaysian street corners. Pakistan can beg for everything, but no one can give it water. Pakistan is going to be a ‘DRY’ frontline geostrategic pivot as it plummets into absolute water scarcity. Under this cloak, Pakistan and China have hastened the deal to build the Diamer Bhasha dam on Indus river in Gilgit Baltistan. It is being touted as Pakistan’s ‘Three Gorges’ to eternally ensure water security. There is nothing farther than the truth. The dam represents Sino-Pak collusion with an unmistakable Chinese Military Civil Fusion stamp. This is not a water scarcity alleviation project but a long-term military plan against India which is the result of China being stymied in Eastern Ladakh.  

Pakistan’s Water Problem In the 90s, Pakistan became a water stressed nation. Around 2005, it became water scarce. After 2025, it will enter the absolute water scarcity zone. It will also enter the realm of perpetual failure. The situation is scary. If the economy was dead earlier, the pandemic is burying it. Bailouts/loans/aid do not cater for water. Pakistan’s military spending bloats continually. An impoverished Pakistan is sliding unchecked into absolute water scarcity. This situation will become irrevocable despite the Diamer Bhasha Dam.  Pakistan faces an existential crisis from lack of water. Two World Bank Documents Pakistan Country Water Resources Assistance Strategy, Water Economy: Running Dry of 2005 and Pakistan Getting More from Water of 2019 encapsulate Pakistan’s water problems comprehensively.

  Pakistan is well endowed with water. In fact, only 16 countries have more water.  On the other hand, 32 countries have less water percapita than Pakistan. However, the average per-capita GDP of 26 such countries is 10 times that of Pakistan. Pakistan’s water consumption is dominated by agriculture, which contributes around 1/5th to GDP. The four major crops (wheat, rice, sugarcane, and cotton) consume 80% percent of all water and generate under 5 % of GDP.

Pakistani Water security has two dimensions — poor water resource management and poor water service delivery (irrigation, drainage, domestic water supply and sanitation). Climate change and global warming, population and economic growth will increase water requirements and variability of availability. Accelerated glacial melting increases flash floods risks in the upper Indus Basin. In the lower Indus Basin, sea level rise and reduced flows of the river due to upstream dams exacerbate seawater intrusion into the delta and coastal groundwater.  

 Pakistan’s water problems are multidimensional. Firstly, it is solely dependent on the Indus River — a single source, high risk geographic fate. Secondly, exploding population and depleting water resources. Thirdly, Pakistani water storage capability was barely 30 days in 2005 (much lesser today due to silting). In comparison, the US has 900 days and India has 120-220 days capacity. Fourthly, its two major water reservoirs, Tarbela and Mangla are silted up. Both dip to dead water levels in summer. Fifthly, available water is conveyed at  about 40% efficiency only. Sixthly, groundwater is over exploited and depleting alarmingly. Fresh water bodies are shrinking. 70% of underground and lake water is unfit for drinking and harmful for crops. Bacterial, arsenic and other toxic contamination is high. 1/4th of the population may be at risk from arsenic contamination of drinking water. Seventhly, raised embankments in the lower Indus have restricted river meandering. Sedimentation has increased bed levels. Flooding and drainage problems have resulted from this. Eighthly, climate change is causing variability of water flows. This either causes floods or droughts unpredictably. Ninthly, its water infrastructure is poorly maintained and rarely upgraded.  Governance deficit is high and project implementation is poor. Tenthly, it is broke. No one pays for water. This was effective since ‘freedom at midnight’ circa 14 Aug 1947.   Lastly, by 2025, 50% of Pakistan will be urbanised, where severe water deficiency is the norm.  What does the future hold for Pakistan sans water?

 The Diamer Bhasha Dam

Increasing Pakistan’s overground water storage revolves around building two dams. One at Kalabagh, which has greater potential and benefit. The other at Diamer-Bhasha which is complex and risky. The Pakistanis have suddenly opted for the later after four decades.

 Diamer Bhasha, a multipurpose mega-dam will be now be built by Chinese on Indus near Chilas. It falls in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan areas.  At a height of 272m, Diamer Bhasha will be the tallest roller compacted concrete dam in the world. The financial outlay was $12-14bn. It will have a power generating capacity of 4.5GW, and water storage capacity of 6.4 million acrefeet of water. The dam only compensates for progressive loss of storage capacity due to silting of older dams at Tarbela and Mangla besides others. Even this will decrease progressively due to sedimentation. Pakistan’s overall storage capacity is likely to remain at 30 days or below only. It was announced on 27 July 2020 that the dam is ready for construction; which is expected to start now and be completed by 2029.  80% of the land for the dam had been acquired earlier.

The Diamer Bhasha Dam is controversial.  It is located in Indian territory. It is in a high seismic zone and its height is of serious concern. The weight of the large water body in the catchment area could trigger sympathetic tremors during any regional seismic activity. It will have an ecological fallout like unseasonal rains, landslides and floods that might affect the adjacent areas in Pakistan as well as in India. The dam faces local resistance, since it will submerge about 50 villages upstream. More than 35000 people will get displaced and sent to areas afar. There is also a dispute between local tribes over compensation. There is a domestic dispute between Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over claims on the royalty from the dam. There is a grouse that Punjab will be the main beneficiary. Residents are also protesting the destruction of historical Buddhist sculptures, inscriptions and petroglyphs in 50 villages, which will be submerged once the dam is operational.

World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other financial institutions consistently refused to finance the dam. They wanted an NOC from India being in disputed territory.  Initially this project was part of CPEC. It was withdrawn from the CPEC  in 2018, due to China’s strict conditions. Thereafter a crowd funding exercise was started at the behest of a Supreme court judge. That failed. Out of the blue, a  joint venture between Power China ( a Chinese state-run firm)  and Pakistan’s Frontier Works Organization (a commercial arm of Pakistan’s military) signed the contract for the Dam construction. The contracted  sum is $2.75 billion whereas the original outlay was $14 billion. 70% share is Chinese and 30% Pakistani. The details of funding as usual are opaque and fishy.

Analysis

It has been claimed that the dam will alleviate Pakistan’s water scarcity.  However,  going by the World Bank recommendations (see graphic below), if an equivalent amount is spent in other areas of water services delivery and water resources management which are more urgent and less complex, Pakistan will benefit far more. Any dam is the least urgent and most complex option to mitigate Pakistan’s water woes. Yet Pakistan has opted for this option. It set aside the more beneficial Kalabagh option and has gone in for the risky and complex dam at Diamer Bhasha. Two issues emerge clearly. One, Pakistan’s slide into absolute water scarcity will continue. Two, the Diamer Bhasha Dam is not about Pakistan’s water problem but beyond that.

The newfound acceptance of the Chinese proposal (earlier rejected) and Pakistani Army shepherding the project as a partner clarifies that this is a longterm joint military project and not about water at all. By the first week of June 20 it was clear that (a) Chinese aggressiveness in Eastern Ladakh was stymied (b) an impoverished Pakistan cannot assist China militarily from the West beyond a point.  If a credible collusive threat must be posed from the West, Chinese presence and resources must bolster Pakistan. In this context the Dam fits into the design. The  haste in starting  the project in Jul 20 in the presence of the Paki COAS puts issues into perspective.

 The dam  is alongside the CPEC main artery. It meets the Pakistani water requirement and enables infrastructure build up simultaneously. Security of investment and personnel justifies Chinese military presence. Diamer Bhasha and Chilas areas give China and Pakistan the ideal base for incremental build-up of force and its application from the West in conjunction with a thrust from Tibet onto Eastern Ladakh. This area enables development of  multiple offensive options through Kargil or Western Ladakh. The ultimate idea would be to connect Tibet and POK directly. The CPEC can then follow the easier  Indus or Shyok axes rather than the torturous Kunjerab Pass. This was long thought of as a fantasy option. It is no more that. It  is a very likely option in the coming decade. 

 The Indian response must be to modernise its Armed Forces to be able to handle this pincer in a parallel time frame. That is obvious. However a wider perspective is needed. Pakistan’s new map to include J&K and Ladakh as part of its territory and its collusion with China to build a dam in our territory at some level repudiates the Simla Agreement and the Indus Water Treaty.  We must therefore commence activities to retake POK as outlined in an earlier article and pursue the water scarcity issue in Pakistan. The tenor  of Th Muivah’s, (Chief of NSCN (IM)) recent reiteration of the demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution and the signals emanating from Myanmar and Nepal are clearly indicative of Chinese insidious  machinations as again outlined earlier. We also need to take the issue across into Tibet and Xinjiang to dissuade the Chinese from undertaking any misadventure. We must make Pakistan and China look inwards and options for that are many – kinetic and non-kinetic. We need to get our act together.

 Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on his blog www.gunnersshot. com.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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Defence

IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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