Monday, January 24, 2011


Wednesday, January 19, 2011


India is responding to China's disconcerting build-up of roads and railways to the India-Tibet border by stepping up its own ability to project military power. A top Indian Air Force commander has revealed plans for a brand new airbase at Nyoma, in Ladakh, from which IAF fighters could fly missions to the nearby border, where Indian jawans were overwhelmed in 1962 without any fighter support.

This follows New Delhi's decision in 2008 to station frontline Sukhoi-30MKI fighters at four IAF bases in northeast India - Tezpur, Bagdogra, Chhabua and Hashimara - close by the Sino-Indian border. A slew of ongoing equipment purchases - e.g the C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft; the P8I Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft; ultralight howitzers and light tanks for hilly terrain - also beef up India's abilities against China. A new corps, of some 50,000 troops, the Indian Army's first manpower increase in decades, will be stationed on the border. And several disused border airfields have been refurbished to allow operations by the IAF's AN-32 transporters.

But Nyoma will be much more than that. According to Air Marshall N A K Browne, the chief of the IAF's Western Air Command (WAC), "We shall be able to operate each and every aircraft of the IAF from Nyoma. Our modern fighters, particularly the Sukhoi-30MKI, are designed to operate from such high altitude airfields. We have forwarded our plan to the MoD and... if we get the go-ahead today, (building Nyoma air base) would take 3-4 years."

The air marshall confirmed that an ongoing Rs 1,000-crore scheme to transform 30 IAF air bases into world-class fighter facilities - termed the Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) plan - would also be extended to Nyoma.

Such is the importance of Nyoma, that Defence Minister A K Antony was flown there for a personal inspection on June 22. That was after the 2,700 metre Nyoma airfield was prepared in just 90 days by an army engineer regiment, using a special compacting compound.

Defence experts are unanimous that fighter aircraft support can make the difference between victory and defeat in high altitude battlefields, but not everyone believes fighters should be placed so close to the border, vulnerable to enemy attack. Air Commodore Jasjit Singh who heads the Centre for Air Power Studies, the IAF's think tank, says, "While there is no denying the utility of aerial resupply and close air support, fighter aircraft should be based a safe distance away from the border. India has mid-air refuelling aircraft, which can extend the fighters' operating ranges."

While Nyoma was initially activated, in mid-2009, as a transport airfield to which troops and equipment could be quickly airlifted in a border crisis, the August floods in Leh, which submerged the airfield, led the IAF to conclude that an alternative to Leh was essential. Says Air Marshal Browne, "We need more options in that area if Leh is shut down because of landslides and floods… Besides, the (northern Ladakh) airfields of Leh and Thoise often get shut down because of (bad weather caused by) western disturbances. The weather pattern is far easier for us around Nyoma."

Before settling on Nyoma, the IAF has evaluated several other potential air bases in Ladakh. But Daulat Beg Oldi was too high (16,200 feet); Chushul was too close to the border; and Fukche could not have its runway extended because of water bodies at both ends.

Meanwhile, the IAF is watching China's developing capabilities in Tibet, just across the Line of Actual Control from Nyoma. According to Air Marshal Browne, "We are looking at the new threat...and all of that is factored into our planning...whether in terms of new (Chinese) bases, sensors, missiles, radars and new weapons. We evaluate how these could affect us."

Even as Nyoma is built up as Ladakh's second major airbase after Leh, the runway at Leh is being resurfaced after the recent floods. The IAF says only part of the resurfacing can be completed this year, before winter stops work. The rest of the runway will be resurfaced next year.


India, China Maldives
A great game is on between India and China to take Maldives in its sphere of influence for the control of the Indian Ocean region. Presently more than 260 billion USD worth of oil and gas pass through the Indian Ocean and a base in Maldives by either country would directly infulence the oil commerce. Therefore India and China both are keen to woo Maldives for their strategic interests.

Since the year 2000, there has been a series of high-level contact going on between Maldivian government and senior Chinese officials. As many as five senior Chinese officials visited Maldives, prior to the visit of former Chinese Premier Zhu Rongi's in May 2001. The Chinese apparently have been in Maale for boosting bilateral trade and to provide assistance for infrastructure development but that’s not all about it.

The speculation since then has been that some high profile negotiation is going on for setting up a permanent Chinese Naval base in Maldives. However, Maldivian President Abdul Gayoom had scotched off such rumors way back in August 2000 on his visit to India. He categorically stated that Maldives was not entertaining any proposal of Chinese naval base since it enjoys excellent defence cooperation with India.

However, the news refused to die down and again surfaced with a report that between 2003 and 2004, China engaged two American and three European companies to conduct aerial and deep-sea surveys. The agreement with the companies was apparently to monitor the weather and magnetic response of the seabed but hidden agenda behind such surveys could not be ruled out.

The issue again becomes a hot topic of discussion after President Gyaoom's made three-day state visit to China in September 2006. Although the public stress was on economic cooperation, there was an increasing concern about China’s military-strategic ambitions in the Indian Ocean region.

Indian security sources have repeatedly been saying that ever since Maldives has leased its ‘Marao Island’ to China in 1999 for maritime traffic management there are sings that the island is also being used by the Chinese to monitor Indian and U.S. warships in the Indian Ocean, and could be developed into a submarine base in the future.

India's defense analysts are peeved about the growing Chinese- Maldives relationship. They say a base in Maldives will put China in direct confrontation with India, a prospect that daunts New Delhi, scares Southeast Asian countries and alarms the US.

It would be naive to think that India is not aware of the developments in Maldives. In fact since the Indian troops helped thwart an attack by Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries in Maldives in 1988, India -Maldives relationship has been growing from strength to strength. Indian navy vessels patrol the water around the Maldivian archipelago and keep watch over its sea-lanes.

India and Maldives have signed a number of agreements in areas such as information technology, customs, culture, and air service. India is helping Maldives in the implementation of a number of projects under an agreement on economic and technical cooperation. India is also the largest source of manpower recruitment for Maldives.

Alongside there has been many a high profile diplomatic exchanges going on between India and Maldives. This includes Indian ex naval chief Sushil Kumar visit to Male a few years ago. This was followed by the visit of Maldives defence minister Major General Abdul Sattar Ambaree’s (the current High Commissioner to India) to New Delhi. This was reciprocated by India’s then Defense Minister George Fernandes visit to Maldives.

Since then there has been no letup in the high level contact between the two countries. India recently presented INS Tillanchang, a 260-ton fast attack craft commissioned in 2001 to Maldives. This craft is designed for quick and covert operations against smugglers, gunrunners and terrorists. India has also provided Maldives with armored cars and other military equipments. Besides, it has also trained Maldivian paratroopers in counter insurgency operations.

All theses points that India and Maldives is maintaining a fair amount of close contact with each other and the threat perception about Chinese Naval base in Maldives could be more imaginary than real.

Construction of Deepwater Harbor

The other big news from Maldives is that Gyaoom’s government has recently singed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Kuwaiti company to build and operate a trans-shipment port in the northern most atoll of the country.

The deep-water harbor project has been on the table since 2001when a European consortium was granted the right to build and manage a transshipment port. However, the project got delayed due to lack of proper legislature on foreign investment and land lease. The Maldives government then revoked the MoU claming that the project was not being implemented on schedule. The contract is now been granted to a Kuwaiti company whose identity is yet to be disclosed.

The construction of deep-water harbor by some third party in Maldives has raised concerns in India. Indian security analysts say that a transshipment port in such a close proximity is potential security risk to both India and the region. They argue that the UN has declared Maldives as “potential vulnerable as a point for the illegal shipment of precursor chemicals or large quantities of drugs destined for other countries.” The proposal to build a deep-water port in the north of the country is therefore a matter of grave concern to India.

Indian government has not made any comment on this development in Maldives. Indian media too seems to be occupied with every thing except Maldives. There seems to be a general consensus that India - Maldives shares a model relationship based on geographical proximity and cultural ties that’s steeped in history.

However, the necessities of the geopolitics demand India should give a fresh look to its ties with Maldives. Today, India-Maldives relationship has become crucial than ever before because the long-term economic and strategic interests of both countries are entwined in the Indian Ocean region. A slight deviation to it may have grave consequences. Therefore, all efforts should be made not to allow Maldives become a theater of another Great Game.



coral islands grouped into atolls that comprise Maldives and lies 40 km south of Male, the capital.

Coral islands make fine submarine pens. The Peoples' Liberation Army Navy or PLAN proposes to deploy nuclear submarines fitted with sea-launched Dong Feng-44 missiles and ballistic missiles (SLBMs) in Marao.

Scientists warn that global warming is pushing up ocean and sea levels. They fear that most of Maldives will be submerged by year 2040. Marao may be one of the few large islands that may survive. "And even if it goes under water," said a naval official, "it will be ideal for submarines."

The base deal was finalised after two years of negotiations when Chinese prime minister Zhu Rongji visited Male on 17 May 2001 on his four-nation South Asian tour. It marks a high point in China's ambitious - and audacious - plan to encircle India and choke its emergent blue-water navy in the Indian Ocean itself.

And it indicates schisms with Maldives, a friendly country saved from a coup by Indian special forces in November 1988.

Gayoom & India

Maldives president Gayoom visited India in August 2000 and held consultations with prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on issues of mutual interest including "cross-border terrorism" and regional security. Maldives favours "direct talks" between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue. Maldives is a Sunni Muslim country that gained independence from Britain and has fair relations with Pakistan.

After the talks in New Delhi, Gayoom met reporters and disclosed that Maldives was "not considering any proposal to set up a permanent Indian naval base" in that country. He added that there was no such proposal from the Indian side, and that the issue did not figure in the talks. He concluded with a tantalising half-observation that Maldives had "excellent levels of cooperation in defence" with India.

That statement hid some things. It hid, for example, the fact that both India and China were actively wooing Maldives or, at any rate, spoiling it for each other.

Five months before Gayoom's visit, Indian naval chief Sushil Kumar had been to Male. In November 2000, Maldives' junior minister for defence and national security, Major General Abdul Sattar Anbaree, came to India. From 9-12 January 2001, (then) defence minister George Fernandes toured Maldives and held extensive discussions with Major-General Anbaree.

"Naval chief Sushil Kumar and Fernandes' visits got the Chinese suspicious," said a naval official. The Chinese had themselves taken off five times to Maldives before the Rongji visit "under the pretext of boosting bilateral trade and Chinese assistance for infrastructural development and boosting tourism". But Fernandes' visit was the turning point for them, not least because Fernandes, a Lohia-ite, lead the anti-Chinese lobby in the Indian government and had once labeled China India's "no 1 threat".

In February 2001, a small delegation from Pakistan visited Maldives to boost cultural ties. "The Pakistanis put pressure on Male to facilitate Chinese plans for a naval base," said an official. "China used Pakistan to play the Islamic card with Maldives."

China is close to striking a formal deal with Maldives for Marao. It will use Marao islands for 25 years on lease and pay back Maldives in foreign currency and create jobs for the locals dependent entirely on tourism and fishing.

Superpower ambitions

The Marao base's principal aim would be to contain the Indian navy. "China," said a naval official, "is worried that the Indian Navy is getting more natural islets in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal to establish bases that can impose a sea denial on China in case of a conflict in the South China Sea and harm Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean region."

But the Marao base is not expected to be operational until 2010. In the interim, according to a November 2000 white paper on China's national defence, PLAN and PLA's naval air force could deploy a minimum of two aircraft carrier battle groups and five submarine groups in the Indian Ocean. Oilers, AWACS and refueling aircraft will support these groups.

But once Marao comes up, China's power projection in the Indian Ocean will stabilise. It will also set China on the course followed in the earlier superpower, Cold War rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union. Both states built a series of naval bases throughout the world for emergency counter-offensive measures. China is embarked on doing the same.

More bases signify a bigger navy. This is also on the cards. According to the November 2000 white paper, China is moving away from Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai's "People's War" doctrine biased toward land-based wars and land-based forces to a greater thrust on sea-based forces. The 2001-2002 defence budget gave PLAN a higher share of 35 per cent but cut the army allocation to 29 per cent.

American worry

These developments have worried the US that has proposed to its ASEAN allies and friendly countries to create a joint command to contain China and prevent its expansion in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. The US is keen for India to hasten construction of the Far Eastern Naval Command in the Andaman Islands, and this was repeated by the chairman of the US joint chiefs, General Henry H. Shelton, who visited India recently.

Specific to the Marao base, the US sent navy chief Dennis Blair to Maldives a month after Rongji's visit to take stock of China's military diplomacy. While the US base in Diego Garcia can launch surprise offensives, the US wants to restrict Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean because of its strategic value.

According to one survey, some $260 billion worth of oil and gas will be shipped through the Indian Ocean by year 2004. The oil route stretching from the Strait of Malacca to the Strait of Hormuz will be at the mercy of any power that dominates the sealanes. A Chinese base in Marao islands puts it in a direct position to influence oil commerce. It is a prospect that daunts India, scares Southeast Asia, and alarms the US.

On Wednesday, 25 July 2001, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the US needed to keep a strong military presence in Asia to deter any future threats from China. "I've always felt," he said, "that weakness is provocative, that it kind of invites people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't think about doing." He disclosed that the Pentagon was evolving a new strategy for Asia that would focus on military operations.

Chinese checkers

But China is pressing ahead with its military plans with equal vigour - and stealth. It is most noticeable in the Marao affair. Indian officials say that China engaged two American and three European companies in the past two years to conduct aerial and deep-sea surveys to assess Maldives' suitability for a base. But the agreement with the companies was for monitoring the weather and magnetic response of the seabed in and around Male.

And yet, such environment-protection surveys may be more than a cover for a base. Environmental protection could also carry a political thrust. Maldives told the UN in 1987 that a 6.6 feet rise in sea level could submerge all of the country. Sea level is rising because of global warming. Global warming is a matter of paranoia for Maldives.

Maldives has criticised the decision of US president George Bush to reject the Kyoto pact on global warming. China calls the US decision "irresponsible", though it is one of the largest emitters of the global-warming carbon dioxide gas, and Zhu Rongji said in Male that China would work with Maldives on environmental issues.

"It will," said an official, "take China next to nothing to convert an honourable campaign against global warming into an anti-American campaign in Maldives."



First, China does not like India’s emerging status as a global power. Second, it is paranoid that if India completes its planned military purchases in the next five years, conquering and humiliating it would remain a distant dream. Third, China wants to grab the town of Tawang, birthplace of the current Dalai Lama, on the Indian side of the Tibet border. This is a symbolic Chinese ploy to let the Tibetans know who their real masters are.

China began a massive military exercise in mid-August called “Stride 2009,” deploying 50,000 troops in areas far from their home bases for live-fire drills. According to analysts, the exercise shows China’s readiness to respond quickly to unrest in any part of the country. It also demonstrates the effectiveness of China’s infrastructure, which allows the quick deployment of troops hundreds of miles away. The program culminates on Oct. 1, China’s 60th anniversary.

China maintains 30-40 divisions of reserve forces in its central provinces. But Tibet and the Indian border are outside this area of quick deployment, linked by a single rail line built on permafrost. While the exercise sheds lights on China’s reserve force, it is not India-specific yet. Still India, lately busy on the Pakistan border, may need to alter its defense posture.

China’s former leader Deng Xiaoping put the border dispute with India on the back burner in 1978. But he made an agreement with India that both countries would maintain a standstill in the Himalayas and avoid military build-up.

The promise held until 1998, when China began improving its military infrastructure in the Himalayas and building multiple missile bases. But it did not increase its ground forces, which stood at 200,000 soldiers.

India also kept its bargain and did not add a single soldier to its 30,000 in the east and 20,000 in the west. India even held off building new roads and improving infrastructure in its border areas. In hindsight that was a mistake.

Recently, China’s building of an intercontinental missile base at Delingha, north of Tibet, has set alarm bells ringing. Most of Russia and India are within its missile range, and being far from Taiwan keeps it sheltered from the U.S. gaze.

In the past 30 years India has held 13 high-level talks with China on the demarcation of the border, the last one in July this year. Each proved fruitless. China wants the Tawang tract and will not talk about vacating the Akash Chin plateau in Kashmir.

To make its point it has begun building more roads, missile bases and airfields in addition to its existing military infrastructure. It is also encouraging Nepal to enter into a free trade treaty, giving the Chinese an excuse to add more roads and possibly a rail link to bring them closer to India.

Tibet has become more restive in the past ten years. Last year’s pre-Olympic riots blew the lid off China’s tight security when its 200,000 force had to be split between law and order and border guard duties. While China marginally increased the force during the riots, India augmented its force only slightly. Now its military strength in Tibet is insufficient to conquer India or the Tawang tract, although border skirmishes remain a possibility.

India has its own evaluation of the China threat. A decision to engage China through diplomatic channels between 2001 and 2005 produced no results, so India decided to go for a military build-up. Eight mountain divisions trained to fight in the Himalayas will be augmented by two more, and an additional 60,000 ground troops will be sent to the east closer to Tawang and to the state of Sikkim. Also, some 20,000 additional troops will be added to the current strength in the west in Ladakh.

Three airfields lying derelict in the east and three in the west have been activated. A major airbase only 200 miles from the Tibetan border will be upgraded to serve India’s premier Sukhoi fighter. This airfield is a major threat to China’s rail link. India has also initiated other road-building activities. One will connect Ladakh with the rest of India via Manali-Rohtang. Another will connect Itanagar, capital of Arunachal Pradesh state, with neighboring Assam.

These developments could effectively neutralize China’s current advantage. Besides, Indian troops are much more capable in jungle and mountain warfare than they were in 1962. India’s conflict with Kashmir in Kargil in 1999 has presumably shown China that Indians cannot be beaten on the ground as easily as they were in 1962.

China won the 1962 battle with India by indulging in classic Chinese warfare tactics – confusing the enemy with conciliatory signals. On the ground, India had incompetent generals leading a brave bunch of soldiers. Additionally, Chinese soldiers had an advantage with their Soviet copies of German-designed submachine guns called “burp guns.” The rapid-fire submachine guns overwhelmed the Indians, who were carrying World War II Lee Enfield rifles.

Things have now changed; India’s current assault rifle is comparable to China’s and India’s generals have learned the art of war.

India will receive new military hardware in the next five years. Its newly commissioned nuclear submarine will be fully operational by 2012 or 2013, and the Russian aircraft carrier on order is expected to join the Indian navy. Indian-made light combat aircraft and imported medium combat aircraft will be operational in squadron strength.

All this hardware, plus ultra-light artillery fit for action in the Himalayas, will soon become operational. By 2014 India will have twice its current firepower and ten times that of 1962.

So China is planning a new strategy that includes cruise-missile attacks on the Indian heartland and confrontation on the high seas. The biggest threats to India are missiles launched from Tibet and China’s naval armada in the Indian Ocean.

Chinese cruise missiles with a range of 1,500 miles launched from Tibet and intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched from Delingha are big threats. India’s industrial heartland and military bases lie within their range, and new guidance systems make the missiles highly accurate. There is no known defense against a massed attack by some 200 cruise missiles. India’s only hope is that they would miss their targets after traveling 600 miles over the Himalayas.

China is depending most on its naval armada in the Indian Ocean. It has a surveillance station off the Myanmar coast and a newly built naval port in Gawdar, Pakistan. Both are militarily significant. But India counters this advantage with its naval base at the western mouth of the Gulf of Malacca on Andaman Island.

If an overconfident China decided to test Indian resolve by creating an incident, India could retaliate by capturing China’s surveillance base off the Myanmar coast. This could escalate hostilities, but China would risk losing its oil supplies if it stepped up the conflict.

It is pointless for China to wage war with India. Instead, the two countries should engage in greater trade and business, which can bring more prosperity. An unsuccessful invasion of India would be a terrible loss for the Chinese.


Close to 400 incidents of border intrusion have occurred in the last three years, according to the Yearbook, with over 140 in 2007 and many more in 2008.
It had become customary for China to reiterate its claims on Arunachal Pradesh before every high level visit or event. Even Sikkim was back in controversy with China having surprised India by laying claim to a small tract of land in North Sikkim referred to as the Finger Area. The Indian Defence Yearbook has detailed the importance of the Ladakh-Aksai hin area, the Finger Area of Sikkim, the India-Tibet-Bhutan Tri-junction and the Siliguri Corridor.
Tibet, the Yearbook says, is at the heart of India-China rivalry for dominance in Asia. ‘When Tibet was occupied, it changed the asymmetry between the two sides’, it says. China was able to exercise geo-strategic influence over much of south Asia and challenge India’s dominance in the region. India recognizes that the loss of Tibet as a buffer zone crippled the security of its northern borders forcing it to maintain thousands of soldiers on the frontier.
The Indian Defence Yearbook, now in its fourteenth year of publication, says China’s foreign policy and material assistance provided to Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh is clear proof of its strategy of strategic encirclement of India.
A deep water port being developed at Gwadar with 12 multi-purpose berths and associated facilities, a road and rail link from Gwadar to Pakistan’s north-south Indus highway and Pakistan’s sovereign guarantees for Beijing’s use of port facilities is a pointer to Beijing’s military strategic intent, according to the Yearbook.
In Myanmar, China has helped to upgrade road, rail, air & sea links. Myanmar has also permitted the Chinese to have a permanent Chinese presence in some of its ports. Myanmar has approved a proposal to build a 1200-km long oil pipeline from Sittwe to China’s Yunnan province. The Yunnan-Irrawady road-rail-river corridor is already operational.
Bangladesh has been negotiating with China and South Korea to develop its Chittagong military and civilian facilities. This adds to reports that Bangladesh intends to build a second naval base at Chittagong in addition to its Isa Khan naval base.
The Yearbook says that China has agreed to supply millions of dollars worth of non-lethal military aid to Nepal.
In Sri Lanka, China is to provide financial and technical support to develop Hambantota port located at the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Hambantota is of little value to China for its energy security.
Similarly China has been building bridges with Seychelles and Maldives.


On the website of the Pakistani Military there is a special section devoted to the heroes that were killed fighting in the India-Pakistan Wars, the internal fight against the Taliban or military intervention in Swat or Waziristan. “Shuhada´s (Martyrs) Corner” is that martyr-gallery called and it hails the rough details of hundreds of fallen soldiers sometimes even including their portrait.

A few days ago the list of killed Pakistani soldiers was updated. One of the newly added soldier profiles was No.1726016, a soldier of the engineer rank serving in the ranks of Pakistan´s intelligence agency ISI. Nk Zulfiqar Ahmed died November 16th 2007. Nothing unusual so far, if there weren´t the location of his death and his alleged operation given. Zulfiqar Ahmed died at Ganga Ram Hospital in the Indian capital New Delhi and despite his cause of death apparently was a kidney failure, his actual operation task was a rather unusual one: “Suicide Attack”.

Today India´s Army chief General Singh was asked by reporters about the Pakistani ISI “martyr” that had obviously tried to carry out a suicidal operation. “I have nothing to say on what they have put up on their website”, Singh said about the Pakistani military, “But if they have, then it clearly show what their intentions and ways are and what their next move will be.”

Meanwhile the profile of the ISI suicide attacker has been removed from the Shuhada Corner of No explanation has yet come up from the Pakistani Defence Ministry on what Zulfiqar Ahmed was tasked to do in India and why he died in an Indian hospital. Checking the date reveals that there has been no suicide bombing in India on November 16th so it seems the ISI agent was either captured or just hospitalized as a regular patient at the New Delhi hospital.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Deng Xiaoping used to say that it 'does not matter if a cat is white and black as long it catches mice.' So whether Jiang Xemin or Hu Jintao is in full control of the Communist Party's machinery (including the People's Liberation Army), Beijing's ,attitude towards Delhi ,will remain the same (even if today the cat calls itself a 'peaceful cat').

In early 1950, a few weeks after India ,decided to be the 'first nation' outside the Communist World to recognise Red China, a young Bombay journalist running a magazine called Mother India prophesised the invasion of Tibet . It was several months before Mao's troops walked on the Roof of the World.

He wrote: 'It is quite on the cards that soon she [Tibet] will be added to Mao's territorial possessions. But the story is different with Nepal. Mao will perhaps wish to reach out through Tibet and interfere with Nepal's present status. Nepal has good defence resources, though an out-of-date political structure, and India will be particularly interested in the security of this neighbour of hers, since there are sixteen railroads leading from the Nepalese border into our country and the Gurkha soldiers are an important part of our own army. An extension of Mao's rule to Nepal will lay India open to easy attack by him and consequently cannot under any circumstances be tolerated. It will mean definitely a prelude to a war between China and India.'

There are several interesting features in this article, the first one being that the journalist, K D Sethna, was a disciple of the great Rishi Sri Aurobindo and that all his articles were vetted by the master who several times pointed out at the danger of Communist China reaching India's doorsteps and engulfing what Mao named the palm (Tibet) and the five fingers (NEFA, Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Kashmir .

Another remarkable feature of Sethna's piece is that 54 years later, the situation does not appears to have improved and the threat over India remain the same.

In the same article, Sethna stated: 'What the alarmists declare is that if we did not recognise Mao he would precipitate a military clash with us.'

However, today the position is poles apart: nobody is alarmed either in the corridors of South Block or the media. Particularly after Atal Bihari Vajpayee's ,visit last year to Beijing, India is again becoming a friend (if not yet a brother) with China and the new government (like its predecessor) is actively 'engaging' China.

Nevertheless, it remains that the situation today in Nepal, as was 55 years ago, is very worrying and the ascendancy of the Maoists, whether they are supported by Beijing or not, is not a good omen for India. One can only hope that the new foreign secretary, who has been posted in Kathmandu and should have some knowledge of the situation, will do something to 'engage' the king and his government and encourage the creation of conditions to have the populace with them and not against it.

In the meantime Beijing is more and more 'engaged in Nepal. An agency report mentioned: 'Nepal's Crown Prince Paras' first visit to China resulted in the establishment of a series of aid projects for Nepal. China has agreed to provide nearly Nepali Rs 450 million (US $6,250,000) to Nepal this fiscal year to support ongoing projects as well as to initiate new ones.' During his visit, Paras met Chinese President Hu Jintao and invited him to visit Nepal.

Another difference from the early fifties is that today China is a power to reckon with. Remember when Tibet was invaded in 1950 China was nothing. She was recognized only by a few 'fraternal Communist nations.' During his stay in Moscow ,in 1949-1950 for several months, Mao had had to literarily crawl in front of Stalin to get material support for his country. At that time, India pushed hard for the new Beijing regime's recognition, but very few cared for what India believed and Beijing remained isolated.

good return not only because China can now await 2008 with regained confidence. In the Chinese psyche, 'face' is most important and the leadership knows that in four years time, the Middle Kingdom will be able to find its true place at the centre of the world.

In an essay published recently in Foreign Affairs magazine, Peter G Peterson, secretary of commerce in the Nixon administration prophesised that the US are 'riding for a fall.' More and more analysts feel that one of the consequences of the US decline will see China taking the lead in the world during the 21st century. Hu Jintao and his colleagues in Beijing firmly believe this. The 'peaceful rise of China' means that Beijing will do everything to keep the image of a peaceful nation till China rises to the top in 2008. The date of the Olympics ,is not just symbolic. It is a long planned programme and the investment in gold medals is only a tiny aspect.

Till then, it does not mean that Beijing will do nothing and merely watch the world. In recent months her foreign policy has never been so assertive, especially against an India (with its one and only silver) considered very weak. It is not only in Nepal that China is keeping the pressure on India, it is in all her neighbourhood.

I had written earlier about the mysterious lake in Tibet. Beijing has managed to keep the state of Himachal Pradesh ,on tenterhooks for several weeks, causing tens of crores of rupees expenses to the exchequer, just because, the leadership in Beijing refused to allow an Indian team to access the danger. Road construction to the Indian border was probably the reason for the landslides and China was obviously not keen to inform Delhi about it.

In Manipur, where the agitation is linked to the murder and rape of Thangjam Manorama, a militant, by the Assam Rifles, a deeper angle has recently come to light. The web site reported: 'Raids on Manipur university professors and at least seven students unearthed details of telephone calls made to Hong Kong and visits to meet Chinese MID or military-intelligence department agents.'

'During questioning, one of the professors broke down and confessed to visiting Hong Kong nine times in the past six months. A proposal was recovered in the raid for Chinese mediation of the Manipur issue. A further trail led to five Manipuri insurgent leaders who had regular meetings with MID agents based in Myanmar, who were presumably road mapping the agitation.'

In 2004, though Red China is dead and gone, under the banner of 'the peaceful rise of China,' the Forth Generation's leadership has transformed the Middle Kingdom into an Eden of wild capitalism. China today is on top of the world or to put it more correctly, on the top of Olympus. In August, when Dora Bakoyannis, the mayor of Athens, handed over the Olympic flame to Wang Qishan, her Beijing counterpart, China was indeed triumphant. New China was perhaps not able to get the better of the United States (they just had won 32 golds, three less than the US), but as an Indian newspaper puts it: 'Western sports officials and journalists no longer talk of China taking over the US supremacy of world sport -- unchallenged for a century -- as a possibility. Rather, it is an inevitability. When Chinese officials boast of 'winning 50 gold medals in Beijing,' nobody sniggers.'

This has not come by wishful thinking or prayers, China has work hard and invested much for this: their sports budget is astronomical. The PLA Daily reported that Beijing spent $720 million a year of their Olympic sports programme alone.

At Athens, China took part in 26 of 28 disciplines. Many, at least in China, feel the investment was worthwhile: $20 million for one gold medal. It is a

We know about Myanmar and Beijing's support to the military junta (and its aversion to Aung San Suu Kyi [ Images ], the Nobel Laureate who, let us not forget, studied at the Institute of Advance Studies in Simla for years and is considered close to India).

Beijing provides important economic assistance to Rangoon and since the coup in 1988, China has built important infrastructures (roads, bridges, power plants, harbour facilities), which in turn serve Beijing own strategic interests.

Official Chinese figures tell us that 1 million Chinese people live in Burma, but the real figure is probably around 3 million. Isn't this one more subtle pressure on India's borders?

Another worrying incident is the rising harassment and persecution of Buddhist tribals by militants of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM) and NSCN (K) in remote parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The militant outfits have demanded annexation of land from the Buddhist and issued a decree for their conversion to Christianity. The villagers were given two options only -- embrace Christianity or face capital punishment.

The objectives of the NSCN (IM) is to establish a 'Greater Nagaland' based on Mao Tse Tung's ideology. Its manifesto is based on the principle of socialism for economic development with a religion addition 'Nagaland for Christ.' A powerful cocktail!

We could continue the list with the supply of arms to Bangladesh; or the Beijing orchestrated saga of Dr A Q Khan in Pakistan, the enhanced Han presence in Central Asia, particularly in Kyrgyzstan where President Akaev has leased 125,000 hectares of the most valuable Kyrgyz land to China 'with glaciers full of fresh water and with a uniquely designed border outpost.' Though Kyrgyzstan has not direct borders with India, the encirclement is getting tighter by the day.

The rise of China, whether peaceful or not, should be of great concern to India. A leadership change in Beijing will not change this basic fact because, today as yesterday, Delhi is Beijing's only economic and geostrategic rival in Asia.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


China should be stopped from going ahead with its move to transfer new atomic reactors to Pakistan, which is 'not a responsible nuclear power', a top American Congressman has said.

"Pakistan greatly damaged global security by allowing this rogue (nuclear scientist A Q Khan) free reign in that country. China's plan to build another two nuclear reactors in Pakistan violates Nuclear Suppliers' Group rules. It should be stopped," Congressman Ed Royce said at a Congressional hearing.

He recalled that years ago he had raised the issue of the "ring magnets" that China was transferring to Pakistan "to develop a nuclear weapon, that was obviously what was intended on the part of Pakistan."

The 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, of which China is a member, bans atomic trade with most countries that have not joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Beijing, though, has contended that constructing the new reactors at Pakistan's Chashma site would not violate its NSG commitments because it had built two reactors at the location before joining the organization.

India received the right in 2008 to import nuclear materials and technology from NSG member states even though New Delhi had not signed the nonproliferation treaty (see GSN, Sept. 8, 2008). Although Pakistan has only a minimal chance of winning a similar exemption, Indian government sources were concerned that NSG members could endorse Beijing's right to build additional reactors at the Chashma location, according to the Times of India.

“As far as we know, the pre-2004 pact accounted only for the Chashma 2 reactor and maybe some other research reactors. For several years, there was no mention of any further nuclear reactor to Pakistan by the Chinese. It’s only now, after India secured a clean waiver for nuclear commerce, that this entirely new deal has come up,” one official said.

India's lack of proliferation history distinguishes it from Pakistan, the source added (see GSN, May 28).

“We have to wait and see what happens. In case [a Pakistani nuclear trade] exemption is sought, an economic powerhouse like China can influence many nations into backing it. However, there can’t be an easy way out of this by allowing Beijing to grandfather the deal,” the official said (Sachin Parashar, Times of India, June 20).

"India is ... in touch with partners at the Nuclear Suppliers Group and [officials] have explained its position on the issue during the interactions at various levels and have expressed its reservation to Beijing at [the] diplomatic level," Asian News International quoted a government source as saying.

Pakistan's nuclear work should adhere to NSG and International Atomic Energy Agency rules, Indian officials added (Asian News International/, June 20). Islamabad indicated Thursday that its nuclear trade with Beijing is strictly peaceful in nature and under IAEA monitoring, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported (Associated Press of Pakistan, June 17).

Top diplomats from involved countries could address the matter in a meeting on Thursday, officials suggested (Asian News International).

BEIJING: China has agreed to build two new civilian nuclear reactors in Pakistan, a report said on Thursday, amid persistent concerns about the safety of nuclear materials in the restive south Asian state.

Chinese companies will build at least two new 650-megawatt reactors at Chashma in Punjab province, the Financial Times said.

China began building a reactor at Chashma in 1991 and broke ground on a second one in 2005, which is expected to be completed next year, it said.

A statement posted on the website of the China National Nuclear Corporation on March 1 said financing for two new reactors at Chashma was agreed by the two sides in February.

A spokeswoman for the corporation, which oversees China's civilian and military nuclear programmes, said she was unaware of the deal when contacted by AFP on Thursday.

"Our Chinese brothers have once again lived up to our expectations," the Financial Times quoted an unidentified Pakistani official as saying of the deal, which would help Pakistan cope with a crippling energy crisis.

"They have agreed to continue cooperating with us in the nuclear energy field."

US President Barack Obama convened a summit in Washington earlier in April that pledged renewed world efforts to secure and safeguard fissile materials from falling into the hands of militant groups.

At the summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao said Beijing "firmly" opposed atomic weapons proliferation, while backing civilian uses.

Reports have said Washington is concerned over the security of nuclear materials in troubled Pakistan, where the Taliban movement is waging a bloody offensive.

In 2004 Abdul Qadeer Khan -- revered by many Pakistanis as the father of the country's atomic bomb -- confessed to sending nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, although he later retracted his remarks.

Washington is currently seeking Chinese support for new sanctions on Iran over the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear programme.

The Financial Times quoted an expert as saying China likely felt emboldened to go ahead with the deal after the United States signed a civilian nuclear agreement with Pakistan's arch-rival India in 2008.

The agreement facilitated nuclear cooperation between the world's two biggest democracies despite India's refusal to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


The threat of domestic terrorism is never easy to grapple with, but it's especially hard in India, where Gandhian values of tolerance and nonviolence have led political leaders to define the fight as a police matter. Last week's massacre of 76 policemen in the northern state of Chhattisgarh exposed how ineffective and dangerous that approach really is.

For over four decades, the Maoists' goal has been consistent and clearly articulated: to mount a "people's war" aimed at extinguishing the very existence of the Indian state and installing a socialist republic. That's the definition of an existential threat, perhaps not on a par with the threat posed to India by nuclear Pakistan or China, but certainly one to be taken seriously.

Yet India's national leaders never really took responsibility for coordinating a response to the Maoists, known locally as Naxalites, preferring to fob off the problem to local politicians. Many economically poor states such as Jharkhand simply didn't have the resources or wherewithal to equip their police forces to fight guerilla warfare. The policemen killed in Chhattisgarh Tuesday had no jungle training and were easily overcome by a force of over 500 rebels.

Associated Press

The wreckage of paramilitary vehicle after an attack by Maoist rebels in the state of Chhatisgarh, India.

Citizens of these states had little way to fight back or escape to safer areas. The Maoists generally occupy areas without infrastructure or economic development. Local farmers can't sell the land they till because property rights are weak. The Maoists have also launched successful propaganda campaigns against "capitalism," which wasn't exactly refuted by the successive socialist regimes in Delhi.

When Delhi did intervene, it was to call for a "holistic" approach and for talks. The Maoists, like the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, used these lulls to regroup and rearm. After four decades of fighting, they are now present in 20 of 28 states. They have a "dominating presence" in 10 of those states and control some 40,000 square kilometers of territory, according to former Major General Ashok K. Mehta, a security analyst.

Congress has been slowly hardening its tone as deaths have mounted; last year, around 1,125 people were killed. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly dubbed the Maoist menace the "single biggest threat" to India's security. Last year, the government launched a massive operation called Green Hunt to help the states fight the Maoists.

There are good precedents for this kind of tough approach. The Andhra Pradesh, state minister set up a special counterinsurgency group called the Greyhounds specifically trained to take on the Maoists. They have largely neutralized the threat—in a state that was once seen as one of the epicenters of the violence. Other states, such as Orissa, have set up similar groups.

But for the effort to really succeed, the central government has to take more control. Current Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram has been moving in that direction since assuming his office after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He is in the process of setting up a unified command structure to coordinate strikes and share intelligence. Just as importantly, he is also changing the government's rhetoric. Last week he said engaging in talks with the Maoists would "mock the supreme sacrifice" the slain soldiers had made for their country.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has thrown its support behind Mr. Chidambaram, rejecting calls last week for his resignation. Such political unity is rare in India. It's good to see that partisanship ends at the jungle's edge.


- Today, China endeavors to keep India out as an economic competitor. They encourage and command the CPI-M to oppose reform in India, and the CPI-M complies. Yechuri recently went to China (from Xinhua) and came back basically saying FDI was not the way (I'll find a link to this - it was in multiple papers) - ironic given China's own FDI-heavy approach. They oppose the same Multinationals in India that China welcomes with open arms. The CPI(M) is not *like* the CPC (Communist Party of China). The CPI(M) is largely a subservient organ of the CPC.

Why did China make the war, but surprisingly withdrew its forces from some Aurunachal region

1. At the time of china war, in the pereption of the world, India was a much stronger country, which just gained its independence; became a democracy; assumed the natural leadership of other third world countries with the formation of NAM etc.

China on the other hand was a communist, weak state wracked by economic calamities.

Mao had been determined to cut India to size and undermine what it represented --- a pluralistic, democratic model for the developing world that seemingly threatened China's totalitarian political system. His premier, Zhou Enlai, readily admitted that the war was intended "to teach India a lesson".

2. After the disaster of cultural revolution, Mao has to gain back his political stature in china. So he wanted to divert attention from the internal issues to the external threats.

3. The world was in midst of the cuban crisis and the war coinsided with it... a reason why US or USSR did not interfere in this issue.

Perhaps the milatary genius of Mao.

4. One main reason for the heavy casualities in the Indian side was the surprise factor. India was not prepared for the war. More soldiers died of cold than of chinese bullets. Chinese on the otherhand were prepared and well equipped.

5. Its true that Indian side did have some losses, but this was mainly coz the chines cought Indians by surprise.

The patriotic spirit in India was still fresh. Had the war continued for more time, India would have managed to mobolize its forses, give a good fight to the chinese. India did not also put its Air force into use, the reasons of which are still unknown. But had the war continued, India had a good edge over chinese in the air.

6. The chinese did no special gesture in backing out in Aurunachal. They came deep inside the Indian territory, and had not supply lines to support their forces. The chinese had built strong roads in the aksai chin area. So they had enough potential to retain their positions. But in Aurunachal, they had no supply lines. At that time, tibet itself was not under full chinese control in terms of defense setup. India on the other hand was in a much better position on this sector as the border aurunachal was inside India, and comparitively well connected with the rest of India. India also had the air power advantage. So there was no way the chinese could hold to their positions. Actually chinese did not even hope to go that deep. Thanks to Nehru and Menon who were very sure that china is not going to attack India that India was not prepared. So chinese could simply walk into India.

Before the India had the opputunity to get over the shock and strengthen its positions on the aurunachal sector, it cleverly moved back, and it only, not India announced cease fire. China archieved its goal.

China war was a utter disaster for India, but the failure is of the policy and attitude of India, and not the potential strength of India.

This was a good article in rediff some time back

Some unanswered Questions about the 62 war:
In India the 62 war is usually seen as a national shame(for right reasons), and the tendency has been trying to forget and ignore it. But I am not sure any lessons are learnt from it. There are many intresting points, questions about 62 war which still remain unanswered.

1. The 62 conflict almost coinsided with the cuban crisis. So was moa aware of cuban situation before, and timed it so, so that the international community cannot give much attention on it? (and it did happen so)

2. At that time Russia closer to India, than China. But the Russia was almost quiet, and gave more signals in favour of china

3. The govt finding report in 62 war has till date not been released.

4. why India did not use its airforce, when the chinse did not have air superiority in the tibet region, as it was news annexed.

5. The chinese in many places kep the occupied land. But in some places, they simply withdrew, just like they came. why?

6. the geo-political consequences of it. If we see at that time, India had more international respect. It was a new country, a democracy, promising leadership. Particularly the other third world countries with the NAM, and the attaching Gandhian peace to India, commanded more respect. On the contrary, china was a new communist nation, its govt not fully accepted in international community, full of internal famines etc.

So was this a Chinese attempt to "put India in its place". It is true that from that war, the clout of china has increased in comparison with India.

7. Internally also resentment of Mao's was growing. Over 30 million people died in a man-made famine between 1958 and 1962, as a result of Mao's "great leap forward".

The chinese have a strange idea of center-periphery relationship. They can tolerate any leader as long as he gives them a strong center, and a weak periphery. So was this more a political stunt of Mao to hold his power?


In the coming times the relationship of India with China will be very crucial not just for India but also for the whole world. China can become either India's best friend or the worst enemy. At the present time, I perceive China more as a threat than a friend. The 1962 war forever changed way these two countries view eachother. Thus it important to understand different aspects related to this war to understand the attitude of China towards India and also the nature of possible threats India may face in the future.

Synopsis of events...
- China occupies Tibet

- Tibet appeals to the West and India
- Nehru is pro-communist - denies Tibet's plea
- Nehru forbids use of Indian territory by West to rescue Tibet
- Tibet's fate is sealed
- India meekly closes Lhasa mission and recognizes Chinese suzeranity
- India, pursuing peace, converts WW2 weapons factories to consumer goods facilities
- Tibetans revolt and cut-off the route into Tibet thru Amdo province
- China begins using alternative route thru Indian territory (Aksai Chin)
- India, secure in Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai dreams, doesn't even bother patrolling Aksai
- Indians don't even have decent maps of Aksai or Lzingi Than
- China constructs a road thru Aksai and sends local Indian commanders invites to inaugaration
- Indians attend ceremony, unaware that the road is in Indian land
- A rare Indian patrol sent after many years is arrested for trespassing
- India's entire border with Tibet is unsecured - India panics
- Nehru tries to convince Lok Sabha that Aksai is "useless" to India

- Lok Sabha erupts in anger against Nehru, including most Congressites
- India attempts to reinforce its borders with Tibet
- China declares this to be a provocation
- China launches massive attack on India
- India asks USSR for help, having alienated US and UK by supporting China in the past
- USSR declines ("India is our friend, but Red China is our brother")
- India turns to US for help
- US Air Force help to India, USAF sets up bases in Northern India and airlifts Indian troops
- India "retreats" (most sectors had thin forces anyway)

- Ladakh, NE Himachal, North UP, Arunachal (then NEFA) and Assam are left undefended
- China advances deep into Ladakh, occupies all of Arunachal and some of Assam
- China extensively mines occupied territory and withdraws to where supply lines are tenable
- India traumatized, begins to build army up from its pathetic state
- China completely consolidates hold over Aksai and Tibet
- China partitions Tibet into Xizang and Qinghai, part into Sichuan
- China launches mass Han migration

Additional points to be aware of....
a) Neville Maxwell is a known Chinese Communist sympathizer.

b) The Communists in India openly supported China during the war.

c) The US applied massive pressure on Pakistan to not take advantage of the situation and attack India.

d) China wanted Aksai to secure permanent access to Tibet that did not go through Khampa territory (Khampas are the "Pashtuns of Tibet") who conducted a massive uprising against the Chinese (an Amazon book).

e) China *always* takes a long-term view. There are official maps published today that show Eastern Siberia (Primoria province) as Chinese. They don't have a hope in hell of getting that today, but it lays the groundwork for them to dispute it 50, 100, 150 years from now.

f) India may have triggered an invasion when Nehru ordered action on Aksai even though the army was in shambles.

g) Tibetans to this day demonstrate in India and say quite clearly "India does not have a border with China. India's border is with Tibet." India's usual approach is to lathicharge them.

h) Tibet is a nation geographically the size of India. Their script is Indic and they have always considered themselves linked more to India than China. In my opinion, India backstabbed Tibet.

i) Prosperity in China appears to be helping both totally dominate Tibet, and coopt most upwardly mobile Tibetans into the Chinese economy.

j) In the spirit of acknowledging all those who were friends in need, the British RAF and the Australian Air Force also helped extensively, alongside the USAF in 1962. These were the same nations that Nehru had antagonized and insulted while he pampered China (turned down UNSC permanent seat in China's favor, brokered Red China's intro to the world in Bandung).

The communist stand - why?
- Communist solidarity under Mao ("Chin-er chairman, amader chairman" - "China's chairman is our chairman," as Charu Mazumdar chanted).

- This continues to this day - China vs India: Who's Yechuri batting for? Indian Express article archived on another site. Or look at this - JNUSU Left okays Arunachal 'with China', where they fought with a Congress-based students union over Arunachal. China, as you know, denies visas to anyone from Arunachal, claiming they are Chinese citizens.

- This is not a new trend. The CPI was agitating against British rule as long as the Soviet Union opposed the UK. When the WW2 alliance happened, the Soviets asked the CPI to start supporting British rule. The CPI turned overnight and provided names and addresses of revolutionaries to the British. People were hanged. The CPI opposed the Quit India movement because the Soviets asked them to - A selective memory, archived from the Hindustan Times.


Peter Goon, a vehement critic of the F-35 joint strike fighter that Australia has committed to buying from the United States, says the Chinese J-20 is far superior to the American fighter and we must immediately adapt to the new status quo.

The Chinese tested the J-20 for the first time last week, on the day that the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, arrived in Beijing for defence-related talks. Although the Chinese said the timing was coincidental, Mr Gates expressed concerns about the military's motives.

A Lowy Institute analyst, Rory Medcalf, a recent visitor to Beijing, said it was possible that the military did not signal the testing as a way of expressing displeasure at Mr Gates's visit.

Mr Goon, co-founder of the Air Power Australia think-tank, said the US and its allies had been ''caught flat-footed'' by the J-20's maiden appearance.

The J-20 has been described by some analysts overseas as ''unimpressive'' and a ''mish-mash of Soviet and American design features''. But Mr Goon said it was clear from the images of the plane and other material that it is far superior to the JSF, and even to America's top-of-the-range F-22 ''Raptor'' jet.

''It is basically a lot more stealthy than the JSF, will fly faster and higher, be more agile and because it's a much bigger aircraft it can carry more weapons,'' he said.

''This thing has been designed to compete with and defeat the F-22. They haven't even bothered with the JSF, and why would you?''

Mr Goon said the J-20 had been designed to advance China's ''second island chain'' strategy, which promotes the protection of Chinese trade routes within an area bordered in the east by Pacific islands such as the Marianas, Guam and the Caroline Islands, all the way to the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. In other words, most of south-east Asia.

One of the priorities in the federal government's 2009 Defence white paper was the need for Australia to achieve and maintain air combat superiority in the region.

''If Defence does not rethink in a timely, objective and coherent way their current plans we should take them out, put them in the stocks and pillory them,'' Mr Goon said.

''If they don't now redress the situation that's obvious to everyone else as a result of the J-20 and the T-50, then they're being delinquent in their responsibilities.''

Air Power Australia has been a loud critic of the government's decision to order 100 of the joint strike fighters for up to $16 billion, on the basis of cost and capability. The JSF project has been bedevilled by cost blowouts, technical problems and schedule overruns.

Following a recent Pentagon review of the troubled project, Mr Gates threatened to cancel the US Marines version of the fighter within two years unless the lead contractor, Lockheed Martin, ironed out problems with its structure and propulsion systems and lack of reliability.

The US Debt Commission has also recommended the Marines' F-35 be axed. Production on the F-22 jet was stopped by Mr Gates last year because it was too expensive.