The middle-aged kingdom’s last gambit - The Daily Guardian
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The middle-aged kingdom’s last gambit

India stood up to the Dragon at the Galwan Valley and inflicted a bloody nose. China has realised that it has miscalculated. Its superpower ambitions are at stake, so it started talking about peace.




China is not the middle kingdom It is the middle-aged kingdom Why is China doing what it is doing? Two recent articles highlight the dichotomy of the situation. The article ‘China Talks of US Decoupling and a Divided World’ highlights the views of Zhou Li, a high ranker in CCP. He cautions China to prepare for shrinking external demand, disruption of supply chains, coexistence with coronavirus over the long term, an outbreak of a global food crisis (in China?) and a resurgence of international terrorism (Tibetan and Uighur?). The Chinese economy is painted grim due to reduced exports, stalled production, blocked international logistics, raw materials lacking, and low productivity. Stable growth and job security are under high pressure. The other article talks of China’s Unconventional Levers of Power in World Affairs. The unconventional levers include building and exploitation of economic dependence, unfair practices, influence operations, capture of the elite, coercion through minimal force application but maximum reprisal promise, capture of international communication enterprises and creeping territorial expansion.

Things do not add up. A wannabe superpower with a grim economic outlook does not go around antagonising its neighbors without a reason. We need to look elsewhere.

Historical perspective

Recent Chinese History (1899 onwards) has five clear cycles.  Significant events of each cycle are listed.

The Chaotic Cycle (1899- 1948): Boxer Rebellion against the waning Manchu Qing Dynasty, Beiyang warlordism , Rise of Nationalists, End of imperialism, Proclamation of Republic of China , Rise of Communists, Japanese invasion, Long March by Mao (1934-35), Civil war, and Famine (10 million dead).

Mao’s Great Leap Cycle (1949-76): Annexation of Tibet, Great Leap Forward, Greatest Manmade famine (36-40 million dead), Sino Indian War, 10-years of Cultural Revolution, Nixon’s visit and Economic reforms.

Deng’s Consolidation Cycle (1977- 97): Open-door policy, Four Modernizations, One-child policy, Vietnam War, Tiananmen Square incident, Reversion of Hong Kong reverts, One country  two systems, Third largest economy and Superpower aims by 2050.

The Cycle of Rise (1998- 2013): Second largest economy, Joining WTO, World’s biggest exporter, Space entry, ASAT capability, Beijing Olympics, and Weathering  global financial crisis. Aging demographics surface.

The Overheated Expansion Cycle (2013 till date): Xi’s lifetime presidency, efficiency and anti-corruption drive, cooling economy, BRI and CPEC , Made in China 2025, Military expansion and modernisation, Trade war, South China Sea claims, Wuhan Virus outbreak, Hong Kong crisis, and Sino-Indian crisis.

Standout issues: Chinese sense of superiority is historical. It spurs the national ambition of attaining Superpower status. Deng set that to happen in 2050. The current cycle has seen extraordinary expansion of Chinese economic, military, and political power. The ‘China Dream’ of being a superpower was preponed to be achieved by 2030. Prima facie it seems over ambitious. Till one sees the demographics. Also, the popular thinking that China has a long-term strategic view of things is a myth not borne by its history. The past century has been cycles of selfhumiliation, internal strife, and revisionism where the state has promised prosperity and nationalism for surrender of personal liberties.

China’s large population, is aging fastest due to falling birth rates and rising life expectancy (see graph). Chinese birth rates are the lowest for 70 years despite easing the one-child policy. China has approximately 24 million marriageable males without brides. It explains bride trafficking from Pakistan! Its population is predicted to peak at 1.4 billion. Working hands and taxpayers are decreasing.  Overall dependency is increasing. A smaller working-age population must support a bigger, retired population. Social security net is minimal in China. Every working Chinese must support two parents and four grandparents. Commonly known as the 4-2-1 phenomenon. China’s economic growth was based on labor-intensive manufacturing . The drop in labor force, increases labor costs, makes goods less competitive.

Race against time

The Middle-Aged Kingdom will get old before it gets rich. Beyond 2030, China’s economic growth faces a cap, when the overall dependency ratio starts spiking. If China must be a superpower, it must get rich before it becomes old and decline sets in. It is a race against time to 2030.

The ‘get rich before old scheme’ has four drivers. One, productivity-enhancing reforms to snare the rich and lazy as well as the poor and unable.  Create inalienable dependence through a data driven manufacturing web. Two, the BRI and CPEC; which debt trap poorer countries. A slumlord mentality to garner money and power at the bottom of the heap. Three, the ‘Made in China 2025 Plan’, which envisages transformation of a low end ‘Made in China’ label to the high end ‘Create in China’ symbol. Ten core areas were targeted for technological ascendancy and high value returns. Huawei was part of this drive. Four, build a world class military to protect its interests and sort out rivals. The first driver is the basic one. The others rest on that. Incidentally the only two big economies with better demographics are the US and India. They are China’s chief threats! Logical so far?

 Everything was going great. Purring smoothly on track barring the small blip of a ‘Trade War’. Till the Wuhan Virus hit everyone for a six. 

  Enter the virus:

 China realized the lethality of Wuhan Virus by midJanuary. China was being setback irretrievably. On 25 January they curtailed internal travel. Something was planned when Xi Jinping was out of public view for about ten days. They ensured International travel continued to carry the Virus out; to flatten the field.

 When global supply chains were disrupted, everyone realised that China had surreptitiously created dangerous dependencies. Clamor for decoupling commenced.  As the virus spread, the BRI came to a grinding halt. ‘Made in China 2025’ was endangered by an anti-Huawei campaign. Plan Superpower was being broadsided by the Virus.

By the third week of Apr there were calls for hard decoupling. India and ASEAN were at the forefront to reap the relocation dividend. How to save a falling economy? Plan 1: Gobble up attractive assets affected by the global stock market crash. That was resisted internationally. Plan 2: Undermine decoupling. Enable relocation through Chinese investment and tutelage. Only countries like Bangladesh agreed. India was vying for Global Leadership also. Hence Plan 3: India and ASEAN had to be forced into submission to re-establish global dependency on China.  Isolation would then automatically end. India, a prime competitor, had to be dealt militarily. Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and others needed different levers. The key: derail relocation/ decoupling through coercive control taking advantage of a weakening US and a divided Europe. The BRI and Made in China 2025 would eventually recover. The ‘Superpower 2030’ plan would go through with some delay.

However any conflict with India could escalate and slow down the economy unacceptably. Hence the Chinese aggression had to be low key, calibrated, but belligerent to assert strategic control politically and economically. The hallmark of the current Sino Indian standoffs is that even till date Chinese deployments are not tactical. All they have tried is to demonstrate force, manufacture victory, talk peace, and re-establish economic control so that India cannot rise. Once that was achieved, the rest would follow suit. In this context, China’s Unconventional Levers of Power in World Affairs makes immense sense. If Galwan action had gone their way, China’s aim would have been achieved. However that was not to be. India stood up and inflicted a bloody nose. China has realised that it has miscalculated. Its superpower ambitions are at stake. It started talking about peace.

 The old man’s situation

An isolated China is in a two-front situation with its biggest competitors. PLA is negotiating with the Indian Army after the bruising it received at Galwan. Substantial PLA forces will be tied down till status quo ante is achieved. Three US carrier fleets pivoting around Taiwan in the South China Sea are an overmatch for PLAN. The US is determined to not let China claim the South China Sea as its own. Other nations are aligning to this. Floods in central China, periodic surfacing of the Wuhan Virus, Swine flu and Bubonic plague outbreaks are adding to economic and social problems. Hong Kong’s situation is still volatile. Banning of apps by India and Huawei’s ouster from the UK and USA will have a wider effect on the Chinese information game. Bank runs are surfacing. Bank withdrawals are being limited. Combine it with Zhou Li’s views on economics — jobs, production, exports, logistics, weak consumption. Problems galore. 

Back to the virus. It is still raging. As the virus continues some decoupling is automatically happening. People’s habits are changing. In addition, big players like Apple and Microsoft are gravitating towards India. Others will follow. It may appear that other countries are highly infected by the virus and China is better off. However other countries and communities have started coexisting with the virus better. The bulk of the Chinese population is still not affected. Chinese strict lockdowns just kick the can down the road. The problem is still ahead. 

In May, Xi Jinping exhorted China to be prepared for the worst-scenarios and PLA to prepare for war. The ‘Chinese Century’ and superpower status by 2030 is receding. This was what he had in mind. Decline of an aging China will be accelerated by lack of international trust. Xi Jinping knows this. That is why he has now written to Global CEOs to say that fundamentals of China’s long term growth will not change. Xi Jinping has not given up on his dream. His last gambit?

Postulates for India

If China declines India must rise. So it is in India’s interests that an aging China declines. Prepare and act accordingly. The odd finger at Pangong Tso is irrelevant. Think beyond that. 

India rises despite setbacks and chaos. This is its history. Virus, China, Pakistan, Floods, Earthquakes et al, affect India but cannot stop it. India underestimates its greatest strengths — diversity, vitality, soft power, democracy, assimilation, and trust. India has the skill set to rise. We the people along with the government must capitalise on this.

The Indian Armed Force is strong enough to hold China at bay to let India grow. If they are strengthened, India will grow faster. Respond accordingly. 

 Dealing with Dragon

While Chinese comprehensive national power is much greater than India’s, it is not overwhelming. On the contrary, India has the power to derail the MiddleAged Kingdom. The following needs to be strategically conveyed and executed. 

Altering the status of LAC unilaterally by China is sine qua non. We should not step back. China cannot afford war and is not prepared for it. 

1. Do not give any trade concessions to China to appease it. Do not be in a hurry. Do not buckle. 

2. Dry out Chinese seepage into our society. Deny data and information to China.

3. Ensure Aatmanirbharta and relocation through wise policy and implementation.

4. Develop international democratic alliances to counter authoritarianism and expansionism.

5. Support democratic movements in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

 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.

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Emergence of Indian Armed Forces since 1947



The Indian armed forces, with strength of over 1.3 million, are the fourth largest army in the world today. Since independence, the forces have undergone a gradual transformation in their strength, operational ability, and role. As an associated force to the British armed forces in different military operations as well as to maintain internal security, the most dedicated, decisive, and strong combat power of the modern world with the aim of safeguarding the interests of the country against any internal or external threat.

The transformation of the armed forces started with the beginning of the Second World War. The strength of the military had significantly increased from 6 lakh to 2.5 million during the war. However, the impending independence of India led to British apathy towards armed forces, resulting in a drastic reduction of manpower, depleted logistics, and weaponry. The 1947 Indian Independence Act was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom on July 5, 1947 to partition British India into two new independent dominions, India and Pakistan. The act received Royal Assent on July 18, 1947. As a prelude to the Indian Independence Act, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced on February 20, 1947, a grant of self-government to India not before June 30, 1948. The Mountbatten plan was announced on June 3, 1947, having specified an outline of the proposed transfer of power and partition of India.

The partition of armed forces and distribution of military assets were formulated as per the provisions of Sections 11, 12, and 13 of the India Independence Act. A Partition Committee was formed on June 7, 1947, with two representatives from each side and the viceroy in the chair, to decide about the division thereof. As soon as the process of partition was to start, it was to be replaced by a Partition Council with a similar structure. As per the provisions of the act and the consent of the Partition Committee, the division of the British Army took place on June 30, 1947. Out of 11800 officers and 5 lakh other serving personnel, they were divided into a ratio of 64% for India and 36% for Pakistan. Similarly, assets, including ordnance factories and training establishments, were also re-distributed. However, the process of distribution was very complex as various military units had mixed religious structures. Hence, the inter-unit transfer of troops also took place. In the same way, all sixteen ordnance factories were located in India. Hence, it was retained by India and a lump sum payment was made to Pakistan to develop its infrastructure. The defence training institute remained in Quetta, and India had established another training institute at Wellington.

The Northern Command of the British Indian Army was allotted to Pakistan, whereas the Southern and Eastern Commands became part of the Indian Army. The Central Command was raised during the war and was disbanded in September 1946. Later on, Delhi and East Punjab Command were raised on September 15, 1947. During the process of transformation and division, 144 army units were disbanded. 61 units of the Indian Princely forces were returned to the states. The Brigade of Gorkhas, recruited in Nepal, was split between India and Britain. Of the Indian divisions which took part in World War II, the 6th, 8th, 10th, 14th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 26th, and 39th were disbanded, those remaining being the 4th, 5th, and 7th Infantry Divisions, the 1st Armoured Division, and the 2nd Airborne Division. Hence, the Indian Army was left with 88 infantry battalions, 12 armoured regiments, and 19 artillery regiments at the time of independence.

At the time of partition, the nations inherited a split air force that was weak in quantitative and qualitative terms. The assets of the Royal Indian Air Force were divided on a one-third basis, under which India and Pakistan got six and two fighter squadrons, respectively. The Indian Air Force, at that time, was composed of around 900 officers, 10,000 non-commissioned officers, and over 820 civilian technicians and administrative staff.

Reallocation of naval resources reduced the operational capability of the Indian Navy to maintain vigilance and patrol the eastern and western coasts of India as well as the islands of Andaman and Nicobar.

After Second World War in 1945, the Indian Armed Forces had only one Indian General officer, Major General Hiraji Cursetji of the Indian Medical Service officer. In addition to him, one brigadier from medical, three Indian brigadiers from combatant arms, and 220 other Indian officers in the temporary or acting ranks of colonel and lieutenant-colonel were part of the Indian armed forces. Till May 1947, the Indian Armed Forces had only 14 Indian officers at the rank of brigadier serving in combatant arms, with no Indian flag, general, or air officer in the combat arms of the armed services.

Sir Claude Auchinleck was the last Commander in Chief of British India. He was reappointed on August 15, 1947, as Supreme Commander of India and Pakistan till November 11, 1948, when this post was abolished. He played a crucial role in monitoring and executing the division of armed forces between India and Pakistan. It is an irony that the first Indo-Pak War and the intrusion of the Pakistan army took place in Kashmir while he was the supreme commander of both countries. As well, both commanders in chief of the Indian and Pakistan armies were officers of the Royal British Army and were reporting directly to him.

General Sir Rob McGregor MacDonald Lockhart, a senior British Army officer, was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from 15 August 1947 to 31 December 1947. He was succeeded by General Sir Francis Robert Roy Bucher on January 1, 1948, and he handed over the command to the first Indian officer, General KM Cariappa, on January 15, 1949.

Similarly, Air Marshal Sir Thomas Walker Elmhirst was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force since 15 August 1947 to 22 February 1950. Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee became the first Indian Air officer to took over Chief of Air Staff on April 1, 1954. He continued till November 8, 1960.

Rear Admiral J.T.S. Hall happened to be the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy from August 15, 1947, to August 14, 1948. Vice Admiral Ram Dass Katari was the first Indian to become Chief of the Indian Navy on 22 April 1958 till 4 Jun 1962. Hence, the transformation of the Indian Armed Forces was completed in 1958.

The Indian armed forces faced the biggest challenge at the time of partition. This process of transfer of power, assets, and demographic migration on a religious basis has witnessed the transfer of more than 14 million populations across the border, clubbed with massive violence and clashes. During this entire process of independence, responsibility for maintaining law and order was handed over to India’s own Armed Forces. Despite the heavy loss of manpower, logistics, and firepower, the armed forces acted in a very professional manner. Over and above, during this crisis of migration, the sudden attack of the Pakistan army and militia on Jammu and Kashmir was the real litmus test for our defence forces. Undoubtedly, joint operations by the Indian Air Force and Army halted the intrusion and saved Kashmir. Armed forces successfully completed the accession of Junagarh and Hyderabad and later on the annexation of Goa into India in 1961 into India.

Independence and the division of armed forces resulted in a heavy loss to the armed forces and took decades to recover. Since then, the Indian military establishment has gone into phases of transformation, namely post Indo-Sino war in 1962, the recommendation of Gen K.V. Krishna Rao in 1975, followed by the post Kargil war since 2000 onwards. The Indian armed forces have now entered into the era of the biggest reforms since independence, comprising of the creation of integrated theatre command, battle groups, cyber, space, nuclear, and strategic forces, and the implementation of CDS and the Department of Military Affairs. The modern Indian armed forces are in the process of convergence as a global superpower with complete dominance on land, sea, air, and space. Indeed, it is a great transformation of the armed forces since independence.

The author is, SM, VSM Former Additional DG (AFMS) & Expert in Defence, International Strategies & Current affairs.

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o commemorate the 23 years of victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War of 1999, the Indian Army on Monday organised a motorcycle expedition from New Delhi to the Kargil War Memorial at Dras (Ladakh).

The 30-member rally was flagged off by Lt Gen B S Raju, the Vice Chief of Army Staff from the National War Memorial, New Delhi on Monday.

Over the next six days, the team of 30 serving personnel who have embarked on this expedition will endeavour to replicate the indomitable spirit of the Kargil brave-hearts by rekindling the spirit of fortitude, courage and adventure synonymous with the Indian Army, said the Ministry of Defence.

The bike rally would pass through Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh before culminating the expedition at the Kargil War Memorial, Dras on 26 July 2022.

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Two Army officers were killed in an accidental grenade blast along the Line of Control in the Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch, the Defence Public Relations Office said on Monday. During the treatment, one army officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to their injuries.

JCO Sub Bhagwan Singh

Captain Anand

“Last night, an accidental grenade blast occurred in Mendhar Sector, Dist Poonch, when troops were performing their duties along the Line of Control. The blast resulted in injuries to soldiers.

During the treatment, one officer and one JCO succumbed to their injuries, “said PRO Defence Jammu.

According to the Defence PRO, the blast occurred along the Line of Control (LOC) on Sunday night, when the army troops were performing their duties, thus injuring them. All the injured soldiers were immediately evacuated to Udhampur via helicopter.

As per the reports, one officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to the injuries.

The Indian Army expressed grief over the death of two officers.

The Indian Army tweeted, “General officer commanding (GOC) @Whiteknight_IA and all Ranks salute brave hearts Capt Anand and Nb Sub Bhagwan Singh who made the supreme sacrifice while performing their duties on the LoC in Mendhar Sector. We offer deepest condolences to their family members.”

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Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari on Sunday said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to induct Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and Light Combat Aircraft MK-1A and MK-2 along with the 114 multirole fighters. This will be done to bolster India’s combat capabilities through indigenisation under “Make-in-India” in the future.

The IAF chief said that the move will not only “strengthen the Air Force” but also bring a “huge boost” to the Indian aviation industry as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative of the Narendra Modi government. “On the aircraft front, we are looking ahead for the AMCA and the LCA MK-1A and also the LCA MK-2 a few years from now. The case for 114 MRFA is also progressing well. With this, it will not only strengthen the Air Force but also bring a huge boost to the Indian aviation industry,” ANI quoted the Air Chief Marshal as saying.

“We have already committed for seven squadrons of AMCA. The numbers for the LCA MK-2, we will take a call as and when the first production model comes out and we start inducting the aircraft into the air force and we can always increase the quantity based on its performance and rate of induction,” he added while speaking about the number of units of the aircraft that the IAF is planning to induct.

When asked about the timeline of the induction of the S-400 air defence system from Russia into the forces, he said that it will be done as per the schedule adding that all deliveries should be completed by the end of next year. “The induction program of S-400 is going as per the schedule. The first firing unit has been inducted and deployed. The second unit is also in the process of getting inducted. Delivery schedules are on time, hopeful that by the end of next year all deliveries will be completed,” Chaudhari said.

“The threat of multiple fronts always exists. The capabilities of the air force in handling two fronts at a time will necessarily have to keep getting bolstered by the induction of various platforms. On the ground, we will need more radars, and additional SAGW systems and all of these are going to come from indigenous sources, for which the action is already at hand,” he added.

The IAF chief further said that the forces are fully in sync with the Centre’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat push which has resulted in the “quick induction” of platforms such as the light-combat helicopter and aircraft and radar systems.

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Ajay Jandyal



The Indian Army on Sunday inducted radars to trace survivors under the debris which was laid after a cloudburst struck the area near the holy shrine of Amarnath on Friday.“Xaver 4000 radar has been inducted and has been operational at Amarnath since late noon for finding any survivors under the debris,” said Indian Army officials. Earlier, Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha on Sunday visited a base camp in Pahalgam and met pilgrims.“The security personnel and administration have carried out an efficient rescue operation. We pay condolences to those who lost their lives. Efforts are underway to resume the Yatra along with repairing the path. Pilgrims should come, we will provide them with all facilities,” Sinha assured.

Rescue operations underway at cloudburst-affected areas of Amarnath, on Sunday. ANI

The Amarnath yatra was temporarily suspended on Friday, till further notice. 

However, the pilgrims have been waiting at the Baltal Base camp for it to recommence.As many as 35 pilgrims were discharged following treatment, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) Officials informed on Saturday.“35 pilgrims have been discharged following treatment. 17 people are getting the treatment and are likely to get discharged tonight. All safe and healthy,” said SASB Officials.The critically injured patients were airlifted to Srinagar.“Critically injured people were airlifted to Srinagar. 2 people who were buried but were alive were rescued. We’re taking all precautionary steps. 41 missing as per Jammu and Kashmir police out of which some were rescued. Yatra may resume within a day or two,” said Kuldiep Singh, DG, CRPF.As per the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) data on Saturday, at least 16 people have died in the cloud burst incident near the holy shrine of Amarnath.Meanwhile, four Mi-17V5 and four Cheetal helicopters of the Indian Air Force were deployed for rescue and relief efforts at the Amarnath shrine on Saturday.The Cheetal helicopters flew 45 sorties, carrying five NDRF and Army personnel and 3.5 tonnes of relief material while evacuating 45 survivors from the holy cave.Earlier the officials on Saturday informed that the LG chaired a high-level meeting to review the ongoing rescue and relief operations at Amarnath cave.Meanwhile, the Indian Army informed that they have pulled up “critical rescue equipment” to speed up the rescue operations in the affected areas.“Indian Army pulls up critical rescue equipment to speed up the process of rescue operations and route maintenance in view of recent cloudburst of Amarnath in which 16 people lost their lives while several are assumed missing,” said the Indian Army.

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Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina on Monday said the most wanted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Talib Hussain who was apprehended from Reasi district is neither an “active member of the BJP nor a primary member”.

 Speaking to ANI, Raina said, “Hussain is neither an active member of the BJP nor a primary member. There was a letter circular, on the basis of which it is believed that Sheikh Bashir, who is the President of BJP Minority Front of Jammu and Kashmir had appointed Hussain on 9 May.” He termed the reports fake which claimed that one of the two most-wanted LeT terrorists, who were overpowered by locals and handed over to the police, was in charge of the party’s IT cell.

 The BJP leader further said after that Hussain had circulated a letter himself and resigned from the membership of the party on 18 May. “A couple of years ago, Hussain along with with his three colleagues used to come to the BJP office as a media person. He had also interviewed me many times, he used to call himself a reporter for a YouTube channel named ‘New Sehar India’,” Raina said.

 “As a journalist, Hussain clicked photos with us many times in the BJP office. Pakistan terror outfit wanted to target the head office of the BJP of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been done through the targeted medium and carried out such incidents,” he said. “It is too soon to say more on this matter as the investigation is going on. Not only the BJP, but all the offices of other political parties need to be more alert now,” Raina added.

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