Thursday, March 21, 2019

Pakistan Tries To Flex Muscles; Creates PAF’s 'Aggressor Squadron' Along The Border With India

The 'Squadron 29' is expected to have a total of 8 F-16 fighter planes, which can be used against India in case in any emergency

India’s retaliatory air strike was the first time since 1971 Indo-Pak war. It may be recalled that the during the Kargil war, extreme caution was taken to ensure that the IAF did not cross the LoC and hit the PAF which had crossed into the Indian territory.

After the major hit by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camps min Balakot, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has decided that it will increase the number of fighter planes near the border with India.

Confirming this, highly placed sources said the PAF is now coming up with a new squadron of F-16 fighter aircraft along the border with India, in Mushaf Air Base. The new squadron number 29 has been named ‘Aggressor’. The ‘Squadron 29’ is expected to have a total of 8 F-16 fighter planes, which can be used against India in case in any emergency.

The Mushaf Base is a Pakistan Air Force airbase at Sargodha in the Punjab province of Pakistan and it is the headquarters of the PAF Central Air Command. The base already has Squadron 9, equipped with F-16 fighter machines. By adding another Squadron of F-16s, sources said that Pakistan is sending signals that it is getting ready to take aggressive actions against India.

While Pakistan has just 30 squadrons, IAF as has been reported as having only 34 squadrons and is in the process of phasing out MiG-21 and MiG-27 in 2019-20, which will deplete the numbers down to 33. The IAF needs at least 42 squadrons in case of a two front war with Pakistan and China.

Fighter aircraft of India had carried out a major attack on the terror infrastructure on the Pakistan side which killed at least 300 terrorists undergoing training in those camps.

The strike carried out by the IAF included 12 French Mirage 2000 aircraft, supported by SU-30MKI, MiG-29s from other bases to provide combat air patrol for the MiG-21 interceptors, a mid-air refueller, and two airborne warning and control systems, and their target was the JeM’s training camp on a hilltop in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, about 80 km from the Line of Control (LoC).

The operation which had lasted for around 20 minutes and was carried out in response to the suicide bombing in which 40 troops of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama were killed. The JeM had claimed responsibility for the attack.

India’s retaliatory air strike was the first time since 1971 Indo-Pak war. It may be recalled that the during the Kargil war, extreme caution was taken to ensure that the IAF did not cross the LoC and hit the PAF which had crossed into the Indian territory.


Guess What! Pakistan Daily Tells Imran Khan, China Not To Create Hurdles In Masood Azhar’s Listing At UNSC

The newspaper said Pakistan should hesitate to assist the "world" in "backlisting" Azhar

Pakistan daily gives tongue-lashing to Imran Khan, China over Masood Azhar! Designation of the dreaded Jaish e Mohammed (JeM) terrorist Masood Azhar at United Nations as a global terrorist should not be stopped by the Imran Khan government and Beijing, Karachi-based Dawn has said in its report. In an editorial, Dawn has said that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ terrorist groups. The daily has warned Islamabad that all extremist outfits have either caused or were capable of “wreaking havoc in the country”. This hard-hitting report comes in the wake of China using “technical reasons” to block India’s move to designate Azhar as global terrorist at the United Nations Security Council.

The report clearly pointed out to the “dangers of the path” that Masood Azhar and his terror outfit Jaish adopted to merge pro-Kashmir Jihadi groups with those subscribing to sectarian militancy within Pakistan. Banning of such Jihadi groups won’t deter them from carrying out ghastly attacks, Pakistan administration needs to eliminate them so that they “never come back to life”, the editorial says. The newspaper said Pakistan should hesitate to assist the “world” in “backlisting” Azhar. However, Dawn, which is considered as Pakistan’s prominent daily, said India’s efforts to designate Azhar “are not altogether altruistic.”

A Jaish terrorist carried out a ghastly attack on the CRPF convoy on Jammu-Srinagar Highway in Pulwama. Following that the US, UK and France on February 27 moved a proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UNSC. However, Beijing for the fourth time blocked India’s bid to enlist the Pakistan-based terrorist.

Earlier, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during an interview to CNN and BBC revealed that Azhar was residing in Pakistan and was “unwell”. Meanwhile, Pakistan and China are holding a bilateral dialogue during which Qureshi will meet his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to discuss relationship between Islamabad and Beijing.

The Fate of Close-Quarter-Battle Carbines, To Be Decided Wednesday

South Korean S&T Motiv Close Quarter Battle carbine

The MoD, at one point, was mulling issuing a fresh request for proposal (RfP) for the procurement of 93,895 close-quarter-battle carbines (CQB)

The UAE Company has been accused by other bidders of not conforming to the format of responding to the earlier RfP, and there were certain discrepancies in the response by the company and it did not reflect in the bid format which is used for determination of L1 vendor.

The fate of the long awaited procurement of 93,895 close-quarter-battle carbines (CQBs), a deal worth $ 553.33 million which has been put on Fast Track Procurement (FTP), is expected to be sealed on Wednesday by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC).

The DAC, headed by the defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in a meeting scheduled to take place Wednesday will take a decision related to the procurement. These carbines will be made in India under the Make in India initiative.

Speaking to Financial Express Online on condition of anonymity, a senior officer said, “If the DAC clears it today, there is still a long way to go. And it cannot be finalised overnight. The approval by the DAC is basically ‘approval in principle’.”

The Indian Army which needs close to five lakh CQBs has been waiting for these for a long time to be finalised. The CQB procurement has been stuck due to complaints from some of the vendors who have registered their protests with the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The MoD, at one point, was mulling issuing a fresh request for proposal (RfP) for the procurement of 93,895 close-quarter-battle carbines (CQB).

The Financial Express Online has been closely tracking the CQBs procurement process which has got stuck after as the bidders who were not down selected complained to the MoD against the UAE based company Caracal which was the lowest bidders for the CQBs.

Sources have said that a nine-member committee headed by an Army brigadier has been receiving complaints regarding non compliance of Caracal of UAE from French Company Thales and S&T Motiv of South Korea.

The UAE Company has been accused by other bidders of not conforming to the format of responding to the earlier RfP, and there were certain discrepancies in the response by the company and it did not reflect in the bid format which is used for determination of L1 vendor.

According to sources, the MoD has seen these complaints and has been in touch with the nine member team which had visited the facilities of the companies who had responded to the bid. These companies were invited for extensive trials only after the nine member team was satisfied with the facilities they had visited. These companies went through trials both in India and in their home country and Indian ammunition were used and tested in different terrains and temperature.

The South Korean Company S&T Motiv, producers of small arms for the last four decades confirmed that besides offering to transfer of complete technology to their Indian counterpart Reliance Armaments they were ready to set up a manufacturing base in India for producing the CQBs under Make in India initiative.

The Indian Army, has been pushing for replacing its old ‘INSAS’ rifles, as there are reliability issues and the situation on the borders are changing.

Pak's Build Up of F-16 Near LoC Opens India’s Doors For Advanced Russia Missiles

R-74M2 - Izdeliye 760 - Russian Short-Range Anti-Air Missile

India has been conducting combat air patrol missions along the border with Pakistan involving its mainstream fighters such as Su-30MKI, MiG-29, Mirage-2000 that are equipped with Russian Vympel launcher. With India looking to purchase more air-to-air missiles, experts predict Russia may offer the advanced variant R-74 to India

New Delhi: Amid reports of the Indian Air Force (IAF) seeking immediate purchase of air-to-air missile to counter Pakistan's alleged build up of F-16 fighters, analysts have started predicting bright chances for Vympel, the Russian missile maker, to bag a substantial contract from India.

"The missile's designer Vympel, part of Russia's consolidated JSC Tactical Missiles Corporation (KTRV) finds itself formidably better armed now to push the next generation of its air-to-air missiles to India at a time when India is looking well beyond Russian technology," Shiv Aroor, founder of LiveFist writes.

Vympel is the manufacturer of R-73 air to air missile which was used by the Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan to shoot down an F-16 of the Pakistan Air Force on 27 February when the two countries engaged in the aerial clash.

"After the upgrade, MiG 21 Bison got a significantly good AI radar and two new potent air to air missiles, the R-73 close combat missiles and R-77 RVVAE BVR missiles. That makes it good for aerial engagements," Air Vice Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd) told Sputnik.

Earlier it was reported that the Indian Air Force intended to replace the Su-30MKI's current close combat missile — the Russian-built Vympel R-73 — with the European ASRAAM heat-seeking close combat air-to-air missile in phases.

It is believed that the Russian missile maker is now ready to offer the RVV-MD short-range missile, the RVV-SD medium-range missile and RVV-BD beyond visual range missile to India. The RVV-MD is the export model of the R-74. Russia also has the K-74M2 (Izdeliye 760) missile which is an improved variant with a reduced cross-section for the Sukhoi Su-57 that is intended to match the western missiles such as AIM-9X and ASRAAM.

"These missiles are designed to arm MiG and Sukhoi aircraft and are being offered by Russia to its partners, including India," LiveFist quotes an official with Vympel design bureau.

"Certainly they could come as part of the package in any possible MiG-35, Su-35 or Su-57 deals. These missiles could be adapted to any foreign aerial platform in accordance with the wishes of the customer," the official adds.

India and Pakistan engaged in their first air clash in decades when on 26 February Indian fighter jets violated Pakistani airspace and conducted a "non military, preemptive" air strike in Balakot inside Pakistan to destroy infrastructure allegedly belonging to terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed. It was this Jihadi outfit that had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack on 14 February in which 40 Indian soldiers were killed in India-administered Kashmir.

Defence Ministry Chalks Out Guidelines For Selection of Shipyards For Warship, Submarine Building Projects

The policy guidelines will enable issuing of tenders for projects worth Rs 25,000 crore in the coming year. In the Defence Acquisition Council meeting held today, projects worth Rs 2,355 crores were approved. The projects included multi-mode grenades and fire control systems for the Teg, Talwar and Saryu class of warships

NEW DELHI: The ministry of defence on Wednesday cleared fresh policy guidelines for selection of shipyards for major warship and submarine building projects of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, according to government sources.

The policy guidelines which were cleared by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman-led meeting will enable issuing of tenders for projects worth Rs 25,000 crore in the coming year. 

The ministry has also taken steps to encourage medium and small shipyards by making only them eligible for small value projects.

In the Defence Acquisition Council meeting held today, projects worth Rs 2355 crores were approved including multi-mode grenades and fire control systems for the Teg, Talwar and Saryu class of warships.

Indian Snipers Will Be Using These Two New Rifles To Guard Their Border With Pakistan

The Victrix Minerva Scorpio TGT in .338LM Sniper Rifle

by Ian D'Costa

With the recent crisis on the India-Pakistan border setting off fears of a looming conflict, the Indian Ministry of Defence has decided to expedite buying new rifles for its snipers -- especially those who’ll be setting up at observation posts and hides along the border.

These new rifles are just the latest in a massive re-armament program that will see the Indian military consolidating their extraordinarily diverse small arms arsenals into a select number of common weapons that will be standard issue throughout conventional infantry units.

First on the order list is the bolt-action Model 95 chambered for the .50 BMG round, designed and manufactured by Barrett. Unlike the company’s M82/M107 currently used by the US military, the M95 is a bullpup design, fed by a magazine behind the trigger of the weapon.

This allows the rifle to use a longer barrel (read: better effective range and accuracy) packed into the frame without extending the overall length of the weapon.

Barrett Model 95 Sniper Rifle

In comparison to the M107, for example, the M95 fields a 29 inch barrel with an overall length of 45 inches, whereas the M107 uses a 20 inch barrel with an overall length of 48 inches. M95s, which weigh a whopping 23 pounds, have a factory range of over 1800 meters (1.1 miles).

The second rifle on order comes from Italy’s Victrix Armaments

Taken over by Beretta in 2017, Victrix produces quality bolt action long guns, especially for sport shooters and hunters with sizable wallets.

The Indian Army will get its hands on the company’s Scorpio TGT.

Build and marketed as part of Victrix’s Minerva line, oriented towards military and law enforcement customers, the Scorpio TGT is a futuristic precision gun chambered for the .338 Lapua Magnum round, favoured by military sharpshooters worldwide.

The Scorpio uses a skeleton-style frame the company refers to the Fully Modular Rifle Chassis, as well as an adjustable multi-position stock with a built-in cheek rest.

Victrix offers a threaded 26-inch barrel as the standard for the Scorpio, along with a factory three-chamber muzzle brake which can be swapped out for a suppressor.

Victrix spec sheets indicate that the Scorpio is fed from AICS-pattern magazines, and weighs just around 14 pounds empty.

The action rail on the Scorpio boasts a 20 Minute of Angle, and the gun features plenty of Picatinny rail space for optics, as well as M-LOK space for electronics.

An underbarrel rail allows the end user to mount an option collapsible bipod.

Reports earlier stated that India’s Northern Army Command would be the intended recipient for the emergency order, but it’s unclear just who within that command will be fielding the new guns.

The Indian Army plans to buy a combined total of 5719 M95s and Scorpio TGTs for its 382 infantry battalions over the next few years, likely phasing out older Soviet-era rifles procured during the Cold War years.

Ian D’Costa is a correspondent with Gear Scout whose work has been featured with We Are The Mighty, The Aviationist, and Business Insider

Army Set To Fast-Track Light Machine Gun Buy

American FN M240 Light Machine Gun

After ordering 72,400 assault rifles from the US under the fast track procedure (FTP), the army is now looking to take the same route to equip its soldiers with 16,000 new light machine guns (LMGs), two officials familiar with the matter said on the condition of anonymity.

The FTP can be invoked in cases where “undue/unforeseen delay” in buying weapons is seen to be adversely impacting the military’s capacity and preparedness, said one of the officials cited above.

“Indian Army teams will visit weapon manufactures in several countries including the US, Bulgaria and South Korea in the coming weeks to initiate the LMG purchase. Tenders for buying LMGs have been scrapped in recent years as only a lone vendor met the army’s requirements, delaying the projects,” said the second official. A single-vendor situation is a strict no-no under India’s arms purchase policy.

“Previous attempts to buy LMGs have not come to fruition. It’s important to compress the acquisition process as is being done under the FTP route. It’s a critical shortfall in capability that is now being addressed on priority,” said former army vice chief Lieutenant General AS Lamba (Retd).

According to rules, weapons sought to be bought under the FTP should already be in the military’s armoury, have undergone trial evaluation, or be in service in foreign militaries so that the time required for evaluation is minimised. The army has a requirement of more than 40,000 LMGs. The army is looking for 7.62mm x 51mm weapons with an effective range of at least 800 metres.

Never Forgot Pulwama, More Action Will Be Taken Against Pakistan, Says Ajit Doval

NSA Ajit Doval has warned Pakistan of more action in retaliation of the Pulwama terror attack. NSA Ajit Doval has warned Pakistan of more action. Ajit Doval was speaking at the 80th CRPF anniversary event. Ajit Doval assured the CRPF that the country has not forgotten the Pulwama terror attack

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Tuesday issued another warning for Pakistan and said that the country has not forgotten the Pulwama terror attack on a CRPF convoy and more action will be taken against the terrorists and those who support them.

Speaking at the 80th CRPF anniversary day, Ajit Doval addressed personnel of the paramilitary force. He said, "The country has neither forgotten, nor will ever forget the Pulwama terror attack. The leadership will decide on the time and locations to act. Be it against terrorists or those who support and harbour the terrorists."

"Whenever we have meetings and discuss which force to send, how many battalions should be sent and where. We always say send CRPF, it’s a credible force and we can completely trust them. It takes years to achieve such credibility," said Ajit Doval at the CRPF event in Gurugram on Tuesday.

Doval saluted the 40 Jawans who were martyred in the Pulwama terror attack when a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist rammed an explosive-laden SUV into a CRPF convoy on February 14.

"I pay my tributes to the 40 CRPF men who laid their lives in Pulwama," said Doval at the event.

40 occupants of the CRPF vehicle were killed on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

Twelve days after the terror attack, Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets entered the Pakistani airspace and destroyed one of the biggest Jaish terror camps in Balakot.

Pakistan raised an alarm and attacked India in retaliatory action but failed to have an impact.

Now, NDA Ajit Doval has clearly hinted that more action will be taken against Pakistan which has been accused of supporting harbouring terrorists like Masood Azhar, whose Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack.

India reached out to the international community to put Masood Azhar in the United Nations Security Council's (UNSC) list of global terrorists. Several world leaders, including those from France, Australia and other countries stood by India's demand to ban Azhar.

However, China has once again vetoed yet another attempt to put Masood Azhar in the list of global terrorists.

For How Long Can You Subdue The Truth, Pak?

by Major General Harsha Kakar (Retd)

The Pak army, which runs the country with a proxy government in place, has been lying to its public for decades. There is no media in Pak which has the guts to write against them nor nail their lies. Thus, it continues. The first major lie, continuing over decades is selling the concept of good versus bad terrorists. Those who attack neighbouring countries are projected to be performing Jihad and rewarded in heaven, while those who attack the Pak state and its army, including in Baluchistan are enemies of the state. Can there ever be a difference? On the contrary, post the New Zealand attack on the Masjid, Pak leaders stated that terrorism has no religion.

In the past it has hid reasons for its defeat in 1971, loss of Haji Pir Pass in 1965 and casualties to its soldiers in Kargil, bodies of many remained buried on its icy mountain tops, burial done by the Indian army. Musharraf has admitted the losses of Kargil on multiple occasions, which continues being denied by the present army leadership.

It has always hidden details of loss of its soldiers and civilians in firing along the LoC and its casualties to Baluch actions in Baluchistan. In fact, post the air strike and enhanced tensions along the LoC, there were reports of even shortfall in availability of blood in local hospitals in POK, due to increase in casualties. It has never declared that it has no control over Siachen and the few posts it possessed have been lost to the Indian army.

It continues this tradition to date. When India launched its surgical strike across the LoC post Uri, it was concerned about Pak’s retaliation. However, instead of retaliating, Pak assisted India by denying that the incident ever took place. It removed their options to strike back and displayed their incapability and lack of confidence to counter. The Pak army took reporters to another area to indicate that there was no strike.

The losses of terrorists in the launch pads implied nothing, as for the army they remain cannon fodder, but for their parents, they are son’s lost. Their remains would never reach home nor would their parents know how and where they died. Serving members of the Pak army deployed along the LoC are aware, as they remained in panic, firing in all directions, but are scared to talk, fearing wrath of the senior leadership.

Post the air strike, Pak denied it ever happened, took international media to another hilltop and indicated no damage. It was expected, as they continued to lack capability in case their retaliation led to an escalation. They were fearful of an escalation hence to indicate desperation for peace and display surrender, they announced the return of the Indian pilot. Their foreign minister initially mentioned negotiations, but sensing the mood, Imran on the advice of the army chief bowed to Indian threats.

Once satellite photographs began to emerge, the Pak army blocked entry into the region and continues to do so. No media personnel are still permitted to the site. If permitted, then Pak would have to agree that the location was a terrorist training camp. It only accepted that an air violation had taken place. There have been multiple reports from the region of bodies being moved and damage to structures. Once again, families of those dead would never know where their members died and were buried.

It has never accepted that its air defence mechanisms failed completely, unable to detect the intrusion of Indian aircraft, leading to their aircraft not even being airborne prior to the Indian operation being completed. This has never been analysed in Pak media as none has the courage to question. The Pak DG ISPR,General Ghafoor, claimed that Pak fighters had been airborne and chased Indian aircraft. The Pak defence minister admitted in a press conference that since it was late at night, their pilots were asleep and could not respond. The loss of an F16 has been documented and photographs of the wreckage being collected exist, alongside videos of multiple pilots ejecting, yet Pak continues to deny the aircraft was even employed and downed with the loss of a pilot. Once again, a brave pilot who fought for his nation has been ignored to hide the failure of the top brass in planning and execution.

The calling of the nuclear bluff created panic within Pak military circles. It sought means to deflect the crises. Amongst the lies it peddled was that Israel was involved with India in the air assault and it was their pilots which flew the aircraft.

The Pak army continuously suffers losses to Baluch fighters and on occasions army personnel have been known to desert their posts and flee, none of which is ever out in public domain. Videos of strikes by the Baluch fighters is available on social media, which cannot be supported by any Pak national or media house for fear of being hounded by the army.

The polity, post the jailing of Nawaz Sharif for questioning the army, is unwilling to question their claims and hence the public remains in the dark. Thus, lies continue being peddled only to keep the invincible status of the army alive in the public eye. While the Pak public remains in the dark, the army continues silently with its actions of dominating policies of the government and enhancing its economic control.

For a nation to devote 32% of its budgetary expenditure for defence when it has large loans to repay is clearly an indicator of shortfalls in capabilities and lack of control over the national economy by the civilian government. The Pak army is busy making money through its Fauji foundation including exploring for gold, rather than ensuring national security and conducting professional operations.

To avoid employing its soldiers in operations it hires poor uneducated youth for as low as Rs 3000 per month and employs them as terrorists.It fills their minds with concept of Jihad and pushes them into India, knowing it is a one-way ticket. Those pushed in would never return, struggle to survive for some months before being eliminated.

An army which is more involved in holding onto power, running business houses, exploiting the national budget, constructing illegal housing colonies amongst other non-military actions can never be a professional force. To hide its shortcomings, it employs poorly paid Jihadis to operate in Kashmir, knowing that if it attempts any action, it would again suffer defeat, as it has on every occasion. For how long can it continue to peddle lies and hide behind failures? The truth will emerge soon and its reputation will be tarnished.

The author is retired Major General Indian Army

Was India And Pakistan On The Brink of Missile Warfare Amid Recent Hostilities?

A Hatf-VI (Shaheen-II) is a Chinese supplied M-18 ballistic missile set with a range of 2,000 km takig off during a test flight at an undisclosed location in Pakistan

by Prathapan Bhaskaran

A reported Indian threat to hit at least six targets with missiles and Pakistani vow to retaliate with "three times" the force set off alarm bells in western capitals triggering their intervention to prevent the catastrophe and de-escalate the tensions in the wake Indian bombing of Balakot to avenge Pulwama terror strike and Pakistani raid across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, media reports say. During the conflict, New Delhi said it shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in a skirmish and lost a MiG-21 plane whose pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was taken alive after ejecting from the burning plane and was later returned to India.

Though Indian officials have denied knowledge of such a missile threat, a Reuters report said a Pakistani minister and a western diplomat separately confirmed the threat and avowed retaliation, a report in The Hindu said. The sources did not specify who delivered the threat or who received it. "We said if you will fire one missile, we will fire three," the Pakistani minister said.

India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had reportedly spoken with Pakistan's ISI chief Asim Munir over a secure line hours after the dogfight over the LoC to tell him India was not going to back down. Doval told Munir that India's fight was with the militant groups that operated from Pakistani soil and it was prepared to escalate, a government source told Reuters.

A Pakistani government minister and a Western diplomat in Islamabad separately confirmed a specific Indian threat to hit six targets inside Pakistan, according to the report. They did not specify who delivered the threat or who received it, but the minister said Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies "were communicating with each other during the fight, and even now they are communicating with each other".

Pakistan said it would counter any Indian missile attacks with many more launches of its own, the minister told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We said if you will fire one missile, we will fire three. Whatever India will do, we will respond three times to that," the Pakistani minister said.
India's medium range ballistic missile Prithvi during republic day parade in New Delhi

Reports of the threat and counter threat set western diplomatic circles buzz and US National Security Advisor John Bolton was forced to intervene despite his preoccupation with President Donald Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam. Washington, Beijing, and London reportedly joined hands to put pressure on the two countries to back down.

With two nuclear-armed nations arraigned across one of the world's most militarised borders and the LoC in Kashmir, there is always a threat of a misunderstanding and escalation, which keep world powers on edge.

Though sources confirm the exchanges did not go beyond threats and that at any point there was the threat of use of weapons other than the conventional ones, they did create tensions in world capitals.

Revealing the hectic behind-the-scenes action, the report said that Bolton was on the phone with Doval on the night of Feb 27 itself, and into the early hours of Feb 28, the second day of the Trump-Kim talks, in a bid to defuse the situation, a Western diplomat in New Delhi and an Indian official told Reuters.

Later, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was also in Hanoi, called both sides to seek a way out of the crisis. "Secretary Pompeo led diplomatic engagement directly, and that played an essential role in de-escalating the tensions between the two sides," State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a briefing in Washington on March 5. Pompeo spoke to Doval, the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, respectively, Palladino said.

US Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Phil Davidson told reporters in Singapore last week that he had separately been in touch with the Indian navy chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, throughout the crisis. On the morning of Feb 28, Trump told reporters in Hanoi that he expected the crisis to end soon. "They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop. Hopefully, that is going to be coming to an end."

The Pakistani minister said China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also intervened in the matter. The government of the UAE said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan spoke to both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. His announcement in Pakistan's parliament that the Indian pilot would be released helped thaw the situation further, and Abhinandan was sent back the next day. "I know last night there was a threat there could a missile attack on Pakistan, which got defused," Khan said. "I know, our army stood prepared for retaliation of that attack."

The two countries have gone to war three times since they gained independence in 1947, the last time in 1971. The two armies are trading fire along the line of control that separates them in Kashmir, but the tensions appear contained, reports say.

The militaries of both India and Pakistan regularly flight test missiles of different calibre and have claimed to have inducted ballistic missiles and terrain-hugging cruise missiles of different ranges. These missiles are regular items of display in national day parades in both capitals. Many of the missiles in their arsenals are capable of reaching any part of the other country and wreaking havoc.

India has inducted short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) Prithvi 1, 2 and 3 missiles of ranges 150 km to 350 km, Dhanush, a ship-launched SRBM and vehicle launched Agni-1 of up to 1,200 km range. Its arsenal also has medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) Agni 2 of up to 3,500 km, intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) Agni-3 of up to 5,000 km,  Agni-4  range with a range of 4,000 km and Agni-5 up to a range of 8,000 km. Hypersonic cruise missile BrahMos that can hit targets up to 500 km away are also part of Indian arsenal.

Pakistani missile arsenal is equally impressive with SRBMs Hatf-1 that can hit targets 100 km away, Hatf-2 'Abdali' of up to 200 km range, Hatf-3 'Ghaznavi' that can reach up to 200 km away, and the 700km-range Hatf 4 'Shaheen-1'. MRBMs include Hatf -5 'Ghauri' that can travel up to 1,500 km and Hatf-6 'Shaheen-2' that can hit targets 2,500 km away. Hatf-7 'Babur' is a cruise missile that can seek out targets up to 700 km away while the Pakistani military has also deployed an anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) Exocet that can hit targets up to 180 km away.

Pulwama Attack Fallout: India Called Off Dialogue With Coast Guard of Pakistan

Indian DG Coast Guard, Rajendra Singh was supposed to visit Pakistan for the dialogue but it was scrapped in lieu of the attack, news agency ANI quoted its source as saying

New Delhi: In the wake of Pulwama terror attack, India had cancelled the dialogue between the Coast Guards of India and Pakistan scheduled to be held from March 6 to 9 in Pakistan.

Indian DG Coast Guard, Rajendra Singh was supposed to visit Pakistan for the dialogue but it was scrapped in lieu of the attack, news agency ANI quoted its source as saying.

On February 14, 40 CRPF Jawans lost their lives and several others were injured in a terror attack carried out by a Pakistan-based suicide bomber in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district.

Following the attack, India had withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status accorded to Pakistan. The Indian government also asked Pakistan to take stern action against terrorists and terrorist groups operating on its soil.

Several world leaders also condemned the attack and called out Pakistan for nurturing and harbouring terrorists.

The tension between India and Pakistan also came to the verge of war after India carried out air strikes on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 to avenge the Pulwama terror attack.

Earlier this month, considering the escalated tension with its neighbouring country, India deployed the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and nuclear submarine INS Chakra in the Northern Arabian sea off Pakistan coast.

To stave off any threat to the aircraft carrier, the nuclear attack submarine was deployed as part of the aircraft carrier’s battle group. The battle group also consisted of warships giving a tactical edge to Indian Navy’s assets providing 360-degree protection from air, water and underwater.

Relieved After I Got 4 AM Call On Balakot Op: Nirmala Sitharaman In Book

Cover of Sonia Singh's book Defining India: Through Their Eyes

In a new book, 'Defining India: Through Their Eyes' by Sonia Singh - a series of conversations published by Penguin India - Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has given exclusive insight into the Balakot airstrikes, the New Normal of India's strategy vis-a-vis Pakistan, and more. She decisively rejects reports that she was not part of the decision-making process on the airstrikes and also talks about why she feels that if decisive action had been taken after 26/11 by the then UPA government, Pulwama would not have happened. Here's an excerpt from the book:

"How has India's strategic defence changed after the Balakot airstrikes, marking the first time since the 1971 War that India has gone deep into Pakistani territory," I ask her. "Do you see this as a key defining moment for India?"

Measured in her response as always, Nirmala Sitharaman says, "I don't know if I want to call it a defining moment, but it has definitely reset the way with which India deals with its strategic independence. All these years, our approach was extremely calibrated in handling issues dealing with the strategic independence of India, that is even more pronounced now. In a multi-polar world, with so many countries, positioning themselves strongly, India has been strengthening its bilateral relations with many different countries, but we have ensured we keep our strategic independence at the core of every relationship. Now we have gone one step further to show that we are not going to be waiting forever to respond on terrorism-related matters."

On 14 February 2019, a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle packed with explosives into a convoy of CRPF Jawans, killing 40 paramilitary soldiers in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir. The attack for which the Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based terror group claimed responsibility, was a red flag to India. "Was this the turning point that made the Indian government decide that enough was enough?" I ask.

"Post-Pulwama, we waited for ten days," Nirmala Sitharaman tells me, "and then the call was taken. It was a clear call-we were not attacking anyone; it was not a negative or military step, it was clear targeting of the nerve-centre of terror in Balakot, about which we had credible intelligence before we took this decision.

"Our decision came after an accumulation of efforts largely post the Mumbai attacks of 26/11, to get Pakistan to act against terror originating from their soil. There were dossiers of evidence completed even by the previous governments and submitted to Pakistan. Our diplomats repeatedly raised the issue at the United Nations, asking why some agencies in Pakistan were not being listed under terror networks. And the institutional memory we had, that despite all these efforts by India, since 2008 and Mumbai, a Pulwama still happened.

"It was clearly a significant point in the anti-terrorism narrative that India needed, to show the blatant abuse from the territory of Pakistan. So, despite all the years of accumulated efforts, bilaterally with Pakistan and at the UN and at other international forums, Pakistan did not show any credible intent to take action. We had often reached out to them, saying we want peace in the neighbourhood; if it's possible with everyone else, why don't you want to do it? There had been no positive response, and then Pulwama happened. So, this narrative was festering with Indian policy makers and people in the government. The responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack was also claimed by a group that was located in Pakistan, about which the previous government, as well as this one, had given evidence to Pakistan, yet no action was taken and now they've killed forty young men fighting for this country.

"More importantly," she continues, "there was palpable anger amongst the people, saying is this what we are going to live with, why are we not making Pakistan take necessary action?

"And now," Nirmala Sitharaman says, "I have an argument I would like to pose. After giving credible evidence and presenting dossiers, we needed to tell them [Pakistan], there we would wait up to a point. We were not going to sit back and watch them do nothing against terror. With the benefit of hindsight, I want to ask-would there have been such a major terror attack again had we taken a deterrent or punitive step after 26/11? Is it also a corollary for us to think that we didn't take substantive effort back then and therefore, terror attacks kept happening? These are only questions; I can't answer them. No one can answer them because we are trying to predict the mind of someone in Pakistan, whether it is the establishment, the military, or the ISI. Although, my mind tells me if we had taken substantive action after 26/11, terrorism probably would not have been so blatant today." 

The fact, however, remains that after every terror attack, there has been the larger question of nuclear escalation which is at the core of determining the response from India and the global community response. "How far can things escalate between two nuclear nations? What happens now if another terror attack takes place?" I ask.

The Defence Minister responds immediately. "On 26 February, what India did post-Pulwama was neither for war nor military action. It was a clearly targeted attack on terrorism. Both the previous and current government has repeatedly told Pakistan that they are hosting terror centres, training terrorists on their soil. It's not a surprise to Pakistan, or the globe, that they are hosting terrorists. Even the ceasefire violations that happen across the Indo-Pak border and the LoC through non-State actors, happen with active support of their military. The terror attacks happen with the active support of the military there and we have evidence of this, tell-tale signs of who supplies the terror groups with material. This has been happening for the last twenty to thirty years. India can provide evidence for each cease-fire violation, for each terror attack on how the establishment in Pakistan is absolutely hand in glove with the terrorists. So, 26 February was more a surgical attack on a terrorist training centre, for which we had credible intelligence inputs that more suicide bombers were being trained to carry out more Pulwama-like attacks in India.

"Our fighter jets went precisely to the location of the terror centre, finished it and came back. The extent of damage is a different story. In fact, this was followed by Pakistan's military action, they came and bombed our front posts, our military centres. We had not even touched their military networks or their civilian centres. We had clearly focused on one of their terrorist camps. How can both actions be equated?

"When people ask us if we should not be de-escalating the matter, I tell them that I have not escalated things in the first place. War is what happens when we attack them and they do the same as per certain established institutional frameworks. But, in this case, they're constantly attacking us like guerrilla warfare with non-State actors."

"Has Pulwama and its aftermath been the most difficult time for you in your two and half years as defence minister?' I ask.

"Pulwama is an incident which shook the conscience of every Indian, not just me," she replies somberly. "I don't know how to describe the moment when I received the bodies of forty martyrs at the Delhi airport and waited for the Prime Minister and leaders from all the political parties to come and pay their respects. It cannot be described in words, Sonia, it just makes you feel hollow inside. Revulsion sets in when you think about the minds and hearts of the perpetrators behind these attacks..."

Nirmala Sitharaman also dismisses all reports that as Defence Minister, she was a token presence and not a core member of the inner team led by the Prime Minister, which was aware of India's air strike response.

"These are very odd statements that come from the media every time. Were the ministers kept informed? I can only say that I have been in the complete picture from the very beginning. I was completely in the know of things and participated with everyone concerned."

It wasn't just the Prime Minister who had a sleepless night during the operations, as he'd mentioned at an election rally. The IAF planes took off from India on the early morning of the February 26, hit the target at 3:30 am and were all back safely in the Indian airspace soon after.

The Defence Minister smiles as she says, "When I received the call at 4 am on the 26th morning, informing me that everyone was safe and all the pilots have come back, I heaved a sigh of relief. It was the other extreme of the emotion I felt after the Pulwama attack. When Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured a day later, I had monitored it very closely with the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, who was in Delhi for consultations, the foreign secretary, the defence secretary, and the three forces. The Cabinet Committee on Security was meeting, subsequently the national security council, so we were monitoring the situation non-stop and trying every measure we could to get him back safely. On the day of his return, there was intense coordination, there were certain ups and downs in the inputs that were coming in. But when he finally walked across the Wagah border, there was a great sense of relief. And when I met him the next day, it was very positive and motivating. I was very inspired by the Wing Commander, especially to see him keeping his spirits so high, he is an exemplary officer."

Excerpted with permission of Penguin India from 'Defining India: Through Their Eyes' by Sonia Singh. Pre-order your copy here.

The Quad: Whistling By Its Grave

Donald Trump, Sinzo Abe, Scott Morrison and Narendra Modi

by Mark J Valencia

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) is an informal strategic dialogue between the US, Japan, Australia and India. It was initiated in 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his first term. Since 2014, these discussions have been bolstered by the annual trilateral Malabar (US-Japan-India) and other trilateral exercises and at least one quadrilateral naval exercise. It was widely perceived as part of a China containment strategy. After China issued formal diplomatic protests to its members asking their intention, Australia withdrew from the Quad and the meetings ceased.

In 2018, the administration of US President Donald J. Trump re-raised the concept as part of its “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy. But some members are balking. In 2018, India — in deference to China — objected to Australia’s inclusion in Malabar even though the exercise took place in US waters. Admiral Phil Davidson, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command has suggested that the Quad be shelved for now. Davidson said Indian navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba “made it quite clear that there wasn’t an immediate potential for a quad.” As Davidson says, “there is limited appetite for operationalising the Quad”, presumably meaning the militarisation of the arrangement. Indeed, the concept — at least as a military alliance — is more likely to go the way of the dodo than rise from its ashes like a phoenix. 

Yet the US military and some die-hard analysts refuse to accept this reality. A Pentagon spokesperson explained that Davidson “was referring to a formal, regular meeting of military leaders from the four countries” and not other regular diplomatic consultations”. The spokesperson said such diplomatic meetings have been held three times since November 2017 and will continue. But the failure of Quad meetings to produce a joint statement indicates a deep diversity of views on critical issues, including the need for and the form of security cooperation. Given the context, this “clarification” seemed to be damage control as well as an attempt to breathe life into a dying concept.

Another example is Washington-based leading analyst Patrick Cronin’s article “US Asia Strategy: Beyond the Quad”. Although Cronin maintains “all is well”, the article seems to be an attempt to whistle by the graveyard of a comatose concept. He claims that there is no “hidden meaning” in Davidson’s statement such as “signs of US retrenchment, growing discord with Delhi, or a pre-emptive move before a possible new Australian Labor government moves once again to put the quadrilateral community on ice (as it did in 2008)”. He adds that it would be advisable “to take Davidson at face-value that there is limited appetite for operationalising the Quad”. 

US retrenchment or anticipation of a change in government in Australia are straw men and not serious reasons for abandoning the concept — at least not yet. But there is certainly discord with Delhi — as well as with some Southeast Asian countries on this particular issue.

Cronin and other would-be Quad supporters fail to appreciate the depth of the dilemma for prospective Quad members. As then Prime Minister Tony Abbott famously quipped “Australia’s China policy is driven by fear and greed”. These deep emotions and their manifestations in domestic politics and the media complicate the decision for each prospective Asian member of the Quad. 

China’s economic dynamism, influence and largesse are obvious phenomena of our age. China is the most important trading partner for both Australia and India — particularly as an export market for their raw materials. Australia is also the second most recipient of Chinese direct investment. Japan’s exports to China now exceed those to the US and account for nearly 20 percent of its total exports. These economic links clearly influence perspectives of prospective Asian Quad members.

To quote Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Quad concept is like “sea foam in the Pacific or the Indian Ocean: [it] may get some attention, but soon will dissipate”. He appears to be right.

But fear of China also plays a major role. Indeed, in Australia, the national debate pits realists who foresee or accept the inevitability of China’s dominance and influence in Asia and on its society and values against idealists who are “willing to risk the economic benefits to preserve Western values and existing international order”.

Japan is in a different place Geo-Politically. In Japan, fear dominates avarice when it comes to China. Its worst nightmare is subjugation by a vindictive China exacting revenge for its military’s behaviour in China prior to and during World War II. It fears that if the boot is on China’s foot, it will act the same way it did.

Non-aligned India faces a somewhat different and more nuanced trade-off. Greed plays a role. But China can also apply pressure on India to demur and delay joining military exercises by withdrawing desperately needed assistance in infrastructure development, making military mischief along their disputed border, beefing up its presence in the Indian Ocean and providing increased military aid to India’s arch enemy Pakistan. As a sign of the sensitivity of such a decision for India, when senior representatives of the Quad countries met on the sidelines of the 2017 ASEAN-hosted meetings, the Indian government downplayed the meeting and did not join the other three in acknowledging the need for “coordination on maritime security”. Moreover, the impending trade war between India and the US will not help boost India’s interest in the Quad.

But Cronin is unimpressed with this reality. He asserts that because the Quad itself was never seen as a short-term operational instrument of policy, “concern about the Quad’s possible re-retirement, should be minimal.” He rationalises that the Quad’s strength resides not in the four countries acting together but in the bilateral and trilateral building blocks on which it rests. He considers it “a natural trend” that the four deepen bilateral and trilateral military operations. But this is more a hope than a realistic appraisal of the situation and it does not amount to the Quad — at least in its initial conception.

He then asserts that “the Quad makes a better reserve force than an actual capability, at least for the time being”. He says “alliances are latent military communities, and for now, the Quad can be most useful as a latent maritime security community.” Of course it is so, but it is an implicit acknowledgement that the Quad is moribund — at least as an alliance. It is just or even more likely to be “dead and buried”, given that China’s economic and political persuasion will continue to prevent it from coming to fruition.

As Australian analyst Hugh White aptly puts it: “Does anyone imagine that India is really willing to sacrifice its relationship with China to support Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, or that Japan would endanger its interests with the Chinese to support India in its interminable border disputes with China? Or that Australia would jeopardise trade with China for either of them, or even to support America?”

To quote Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Quad concept is like “sea foam in the Pacific or the Indian Ocean: [it] may get some attention, but soon will dissipate”. He appears to be right.

OPINION | No Security Secret Revealed

by Bidanda Chengappa

The Supreme Court of India has locked horns with the Government of India on whether or not disclosures in The Hindu newspaper on the Rafale fighter aircraft purchase compromises national security. The newspaper has only published notes on files from the Ministry of Defence which cannot in any manner jeopardise national security. It pertains to commercial aspects of the India-French transaction, especially the price. It does not focus on the combat capabilities of the aircraft. As much as there is a distinction between commercial intelligence and military intelligence, sometimes the two do tend to overlap into the realm of strategic intelligence. Unlike commercial intelligence, military Intelligence pertains to the war waging capability of a nation. But in this case, the demarcation appears to be clear.

The French aeronautics major Dassault Aviation earlier sold the Rafale aircraft to Egypt and Qatar and its price in each case is clearly mentioned in the company’s annual report. Therefore, keeping the price secret in the Indian context does not make sense. Such information would certainly not interest either of India’s hostile neighbours, which would be focused on operational information about Indian military capabilities.

Countries conduct air shows to showcase military fighter and transport aircraft, avionics and allied systems to potential client nations. It is a public event where pilots display their flying skills and aircraft capabilities through aerobatic displays. These demonstrations of precise manoeuvres are meant to advertise the operational capabilities and potential of these aerial platforms. Therefore, the characteristics of fighter aircraft are not secret information. Moreover, the Military-Industrial Complex-driven economies of the West are export-oriented and therefore have to market their armament systems and cannot afford to withhold information about their products.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) itself publicises several instances of techno-military developments from time to time. For instance, it has publicised the integration of the BrahMos and Astra missiles with the Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft. Also, the in-flight refuelling capabilities of the Sukhoi-30 were showcased to the media. Similarly, the MoD has shared the successful firing of Beyond Visual Range missiles fitted on the TEJAS Light Combat Aircraft with the press. Do these mean that the government has compromised national security? 

This tussle between the Supreme Court, government and The Hindu newspaper over interpretation of national security is reminiscent of the Pentagon Papers in the US. On June 13, 1971, The New York Times began publishing a series of articles based on a study which had been classified as “top secret” by the federal government. After the third daily instalment appeared in the Times, the US Department of Justice obtained in a US District Court a temporary restraining order against further publication of the classified material, contending that further public dissemination of the material would cause “immediate and irreparable harm” to US national defence interests.

The Times along with The Washington Post, which also was in possession of the documents, fought the order through the courts for the next 15 days, during which time publication of the series was suspended. On June 30, 1971, in what is regarded as one of the most significant prior-restraint cases in history, the US Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision freed the newspapers to resume publishing the material. The court held that the government had failed to justify restraint of publication.

The notes on files leaked to The Hindu do not have to have emanated exclusively from the MoD itself, but could have come from any of the ministries/departments connected to the members of the Cabinet Committee on Security. This includes the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of External Affairs. As for the Official Secrets Act, 1923, it aims to protect the officials rather than secrets. 

Due to military illiteracy that prevails in the country the political leadership was able to accord “holy cow” status to acquisitions of armaments — such as artillery guns, fighter aircraft, battle tanks, warships or submarines — earlier from the former Soviet Union and now from the Western industrial democracies. The absence of compulsory military service in the country is among the reasons for such military illiteracy.

Student enrolment in the National Cadet Corps (NCC) in colleges post-1962 partially bridged this gap between people and the military establishment. Moreover, the media in the first four decades of nationhood never really reported on the military establishment, except for the Bofors scandal in the late 1980s. Gradually, with the advent of television in the 1990s and the Kargil hostilities in 1999, the “holy cow” status accorded to military matters withered away.

The Government of India chooses to classify sensitive information in whatever manner it likes, with nomenclature that ranges from “Top Secret”, “Secret” and “Confidential” to “Restricted”. It suits the government of the day to do so to arbitrarily to withhold inconvenient information from the public domain. This trend appears to be a commonality between democracies and other forms of authoritarian governance. Apparently, this need to chain information has to do with that ambiguous expression “national interest”, which in reality is synonymous with the political party’s interest. 

According to a former Central Information Commissioner, M Sridhar Acharyulu, “Papers containing vital information which cannot be disclosed for reasons of national security are classified as ‘top secret’, and these must not be disclosed to anyone for whom they are not essential. Such papers include references to current or future military operations, intending movements or disposition of armed forces, shaping of secret methods of war, matters of high international and internal political policy, ciphers and reports derived from secret sources of intelligence”.

The writer is a Professor of International Relations and Strategic Studies at Christ Deemed to be University, Bangalore

'Ensure Christian Michel's Safety': Court Tells Prison Authorities

Christian Michel was arrested by the ED on December 22 last year

The court also noted that not a single complaint against the conduct of Michel has been received during his stay in the jail

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Tuesday directed Tihar jail authorities to take immediate remedial measures regarding the solitary confinement of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman arrested in the AgustaWestland chopper scam.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar also directed the jail authorities to ensure the security and safety of the accused.

The court also noted that not a single complaint against the conduct of Michel has been received during his stay in the jail.

The court was hearing an application by Michel, alleging that he was facing mental torture in the jail.

"It is undisputed fact that solitary confinement can cause an array of mental disorder as well as provoke an already existing mental disorder in prison causing more trauma and symptoms and it may also lead to hypertension, headache and profuse sweating, dizziness, hurt or palpitation," the court said.

"No doubt solitary confinement is permitted under certain circumstances, but needless to say that there has not been a single complaint against accused regarding his conduct and further the jail authorities cannot put a person under solitary confinement in the name security concern," it said.

It said the Michel's security was of paramount consideration and should be taken at the highest pedestal, but an accused cannot be kept in isolation or solitary confinement in the name of security.

"Keeping in view the overall facts and circumstances, the DG, Prison is directed to take immediate remedial measures regarding solitary confinement of accused.

"At the same time the security and safety of the accused shall also be ensured," the court said.

It also directed that Michel be provided all the facilities such as library, books, magazines, canteen and sports as per the jail manual and being provided to other under-trial prisoners.

Special Public Prosecutors DP Singh and N K Matta, appearing for the CBI and the ED respectively, had told the court that the accused was a foreigner and was brought through extradition.

"There is a responsibility of the country to ensure his security as per the treaty," the counsel said.

The court on March 11 allowed ED to quiz Michel inside Tihar jail after the probe agency's lawyer Samvedna Verma said new facts have emerged in the case which need his questioning.

On March 12, Michel told the court that former CBI special director Rakesh Asthana met him in Dubai and threatened to "make his life hell inside jail" here if he did not toe the line of the agency.

"Sometime back Rakesh Asthana met me in Dubai and threatened that my life would be made hell in the jail and that''s what is going on. My next door inmate is (gangster) Chhota Rajan... I don't understand what crime I have committed to be put along with the terrorists and those who have killed several people," he said.

The jail authorities said Michel was shifted to high-risk prison considering threat to his life.

Michel was arrested by the ED on December 22 last year after his extradition from Dubai.

Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the Rs. 3,600 crore chopper deal by ED and Central Bureau of Investigation. The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.