Wednesday December 12, 2018
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Pakistan successfully tests ‘indigenous’ armed drones – should India be worried?

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By Harshmeet Singh

Pakistan military’s announcement regarding the successful tests of their indigenous armed aerial drone is discomforting news for many, including India. Named ‘Burraq’, the all weather laser guided and armed drone missile is capable of hitting targets with ‘pin point accuracy’.

Though the Pakistan army called it an indigenous weapon, reports of China putting forward a helping hand with the drone technology have also surfaced in some media reports. Some of the reasons behind such reports include the strong resemblance of the designs and technology of Pakistan’s drones to China’s CH-3 drones. Notably, India is yet to officially announce its ability to mount weapons on drones.

Reactions to India or Taliban?

Soon after the successful tests, Pakistan was quick to announce that it will deploy these indigenous armed drones to keep a vigil on the growing terrorist activities at the Pakistan Afghanistan border. This announcement was aimed that assuring the world that after the US forces back out of Afghanistan, Pakistan would have the capability of keeping an eye on the notorious elements at the Pakistan Afghanistan border. Ironically enough, Pakistan has been protesting USA’s frequent drone strikes, aimed at taking out the militants from Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Soon after the merciless school attack at Peshwar, the Pakistan military went into an offensive mood, carrying out continuous airstrikes in the country’s tribal areas. Hours before the test’s success was announced, an army statement said that 48 militants were killed in the last 24 hours in the recent airstrikes over the tribal areas.

This was Pakistan’s second major military announcement within a week. Earlier in the week, the military conducted successful tests of Shaheen III medium range ballistic missile which also boasts of a nuclear weapon carrying capacity. With a maximum range of 1,700 miles, this missile is capable of striking nuclear weapons to any part of India. This range also equips Pakistan to hit most parts of Middle East, including Israel and Iran. There are also speculations that Pakistan military could be aggravating the range of Shaheen III in front of the media in order to create panic among its neighbouring and far off enemies.

Over the past couple of years at least, Pakistan has been trying to buy offensive drones from the US, a request which the US has continuously declined out rightly. Pakistan military was successful in testing indigenous surveillance drones in 2013 but couldn’t mount it with offensive weapons due to technical shortcomings.

Arms race with India

A number of experts believe that Pakistan’s recent spree of military weapon tests are a response to India’s growing military budget and might. India’s plans of a missile defence system, up gradation of submarine fleet and successful tests of Agni V (India’s first intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of over 3,100 miles) had certainly given some sleepless nights to Pakistan.

While India has a clearly stated ‘no first use policy’, Pakistan has never adopted any such policy with its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan leaders have always maintained that nuclear weapons would protect them should India decide to invade Pakistan. With Indian army easily outnumbering Pakistan’s in terms of the number of soldiers and sophistication of weapons, Pakistan sees nuclear weapons as its saviour on the doom’s day. Recently released data from the ‘Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ suggest that Pakistan currently leads India in the number of nuclear weapons. Pakistan currently possesses 120 atomic weapons as compared to India’s 110.

Multiple reports suggest that Pakistan’s scientists are busy working on a missile system which could evade India’s ‘under construction’ missile shield.

Odd timings?

The successful tests of Shaheen III and Burraq come just a couple of weeks after Indian foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s visit to Pakistan where he described his talks with his Pakistani counterpart as “determination to forge a cooperative relationship”.

During the visit, Nawaz Sharif told Jaishankar “Both the countries need to start a new chapter in their relationship by working towards resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue… we must think together, act together and move forward with the spirit of bringing the two nations closer to each other,”. But with Pakistan clearly running on a dual centre of power, Pakistan’s Government would need to do some work to bring their military onboard and speak a common language towards India.

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Pakistan In U.S. Blacklist For Religious Freedom Violations

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses

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Pakistan, Religious Freedom
Members and supporters of the Muslim Student Organization (MSO) chant slogans during a protest after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam, in Islamabad, Pakistan. VOA

The United States said Tuesday it has added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over its treatment of minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the U.S. government is obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.

Pompeo a year earlier had placed Pakistan on a special watch list – a step short of the designation – in what had been seen as a U.S. tactic to press Islamabad into reforms.

Human rights advocates have long voiced worry about the treatment of minorities in Pakistan, including Shiites, Ahmadis and Christians.

Sikh, Religious Freedom
A Sikh pilgrim visits the shrine of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak Dev in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

But the timing of the full designation may be jarring as it comes after Pakistan moved to resolve its most high-profile case, with the Supreme Court in October releasing Asia Bibi – a Christian woman on death row for eight years for blasphemy.

The government recently charged a hardline cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with terrorism and sedition after he led violent protests against Bibi’s acquittal.

“In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression,” he said.

Nine countries remained for another year on the list of Countries of Particular Concern – China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

pakistan,Sikh, Religious Freedom
Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, center, arrives along with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, second left, brother Atal Yousafzai, left, and the principal of all-boys Swat Cadet College Guli Bagh, during her hometown visit, March 31, 2018. VOA

The United States removed one country from the list – Uzbekistan– but kept it on the watch list.

Pompeo also put on the watch list Russia, adding another item of contention to the relationship between the two powers.

Also Read: The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

Russia has increasingly drawn concern in the United States over its treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the heterodox Christian group known for proselytization.

Also on the watch list was the Comoros, the Indian Ocean archipelago that is almost exclusively Sunni Muslim. (VOA)