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India secretly increasing its nuclear power: Foreign journal

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New Delhi: India could “deeply unsettle” its neighbours Pakistan and China as it is building a secret facility in its southern Karnataka state to augment its nuclear power for civilian use and up gradation of its weapons, a foreign policy journal has reported.

According to an exhaustive report published on December 16 in the international US magazine Foreign Policy, the work on the project in southern Karnataka began early in 2012.

The 14-page report said tribal pastureland was blocked off with a barbed-wire fence at Challakere for “a project that experts say will be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities when it’s completed, probably sometime in 2017”.

The project’s primary aim was to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for India’s nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of new submarines, says the Foreign Policy journal.

“But another, more controversial ambition, according to retired Indian government officials and independent experts in London and Washington, is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, substantially increasing the explosive force of those in its existing nuclear arsenal,” the report reads.

New Delhi has never made public details of its nuclear arsenal, which it first developed in 1974, the magazine said.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an independent agency, estimates that India already possesses between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons, as compared to neighbour Pakistan’s estimated stockpile of up to 120. China, which borders India to the north, has approximately 260 warheads.

The report says that China and Pakistan would see the secret project as a provocation. “Experts say they might respond by ratcheting up their own nuclear firepower. Pakistan, in particular, considers itself a military rival, having engaged in four major conflicts with India, as well as frequent border skirmishes.”

“I believe that India intends to build thermonuclear weapons as part of its strategic deterrent against China,” Gary Samore, who served from 2009 to 2013 as the White House coordinator for arms control, was quoted by ‘Foreign Policy’ as saying.

Other than the Challakere project, Western monitoring agencies were keeping an eye on a similar nuclear facility near Mysuru, also in Karnataka.

“However, Western knowledge about how India’s weapons are stored, transported, and protected, and how the radiological and fissile material that fuels them is guarded and warehoused — the chain of custody — remains rudimentary,” the report added.

According to the magazine, a retired official who served inside the nuclear cell at the Indian prime minister’s office, the apex organisation that supervises the military nuclear programme, conceded that other uses besides submarines had been anticipated “for many years”.

He pointed to a “thermonuclear bomb programme” as “a beneficiary” and suggested India had had no choice but to “develop a new generation of more powerful megaton weapons” if it was to maintain “credible minimum deterrence”.(IANS)

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India to Set Up “Border Haats” with Myanmar

The Minister said, The success of the "Border Haats" running along the Bangladesh border in Meghalaya and Tripura has prompted us to go for similar 'haats'

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India, Border Haats, Myanmar
To carry out border trade with Myanmar, the location for the construction of 'Border Haat' has been identified in four places -- Hnahlan, Zote, Vaphai (Saikhumphai) and Sangau (Pangkhua) in southeastern Mizoram. Pixabay

The success of the “Border Haats” with Bangladesh has prompted other northeastern states of India to go for similar arrangements with Myanmar. At the instance of the Mizoram government, the Centre is likely to set up four “Border Haats” (market) along the border with Myanmar to boost local trade and livelihood of the people living there.

“To carry out border trade with Myanmar, the location for the construction of ‘Border Haat’ has been identified in four places — Hnahlan, Zote, Vaphai (Saikhumphai) and Sangau (Pangkhua) in southeastern Mizoram,” Mizoram Commerce and Industries Minister R. Lalthangliana told IANS.

The Minister said, “The success of the “Border Haats” running along the Bangladesh border in Meghalaya and Tripura has prompted us to go for similar ‘haats’ with Mynmar in Mizoram.”

Mizoram Commerce and Industries Department Director J. Hmingthanmawia said that the state government has sent the detailed proposals in this regard to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for its approval.

India, Border Haats, Myanmar
The success of the “Border Haats” with Bangladesh has prompted other northeastern states of India to go for similar arrangements with Myanmar. Pixabay

“Once we get the green signal from the MEA, we would seek funds from the Union Industries and Commerce Ministry,” Hmingthanmawia told IANS. He said that officials of the Mizoram government and Myanmar have recently conducted a joint survey and identified the locations to set up the “Border Haats”.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga in his Independence Day speech had said that the proposed “Border Haats” would become important trade points between India and Myanmar.

“Land Custom Station (LCS) at Zokhawthar, the lone trade route for Mizoram with South East Asian countries, is being proposed for upgradation. Construction of Trade Facilitation Centre at Tlabung has already been completed.”

“The Indian government has also proposed construction of an Integrated Check Post (ICP) at four places at the border in Mizoram — Marpara, Tuipuibari, Silsuri and Nunsury. The construction of ICP at Kawrpuichhuah is also expected to commence shortly,” the Chief Minister added.

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Mizoram has an unfenced international border of 404 km with Myanmar and 318 km with Bangladesh. The Border Security Force (BSF) has been guarding the Bangladesh border and Assam Rifles personnel are posted on the border with Myanmar.

Experts and various studies suggest that if the “Border Haats” are set up, smuggling of drugs and other commodities would be checked to a large extent. Security expert Manas Paul said that large-scale smuggling of drugs from Myanmar via Mizoram and other neighbouring states has increased in the last few years.

“What is really worrisome is the fact that these synthetic drugs have got a domestic market inside the state, especially among the younger generation. Cross border legal activities including setting up of “Border Haats” could curb the smuggling of drugs and other contraband,” Paul, who has authored books on security and terrorism in the northeast, told IANS.

The CUTS International, a Jaipur based international NGO, with support from the World Bank, had conducted a study in 2016 to understand and examine the effect of “Border Haats” on poverty alleviation and other multiplier effects such as informal trade.

India, Border Haats, Myanmar
At the instance of the Mizoram government, the Centre is likely to set up four “Border Haats” (market) along the border with Myanmar to boost local trade and livelihood of the people living there. Pixabay

CUTS International Executive Director Bipul Chatterjee said that trade will increase income, curb smuggling, and cross-border crimes will also go down.

“‘Border Haats’ have contributed to the border area development, roads have improved, trafficking of women has stopped, unemployment issues have been addressed,” said Chatterjee.

Currently four “Border Haats” are operational in Meghalaya and Tripura. The first “Border Haat” was started on July 23, 2011 at Kalaichar (India)-Kurigram (Bangladesh) in the West Garo Hills of Meghalaya. Three other “haats” followed in Meghalaya and Tripura.

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The Union Industries and Commerce Ministry has been spending on an average Rs 3.5 crore to develop the infrastructure and necessary facilities for each “Border Haat” along the Bangladesh border. The Bangladesh government is not providing any funds for the purpose.  (IANS)