India Gets Ready for a Taliban-Ruled Nuclear Neighbor
“Pakistan has already imploded. You are ten minutes behind history,” was the ominous message Indian prime minister Manmoham Singh gave US President Barack Obama in a long telephone conversation earlier this month, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's exclusive sources in New Delhi.
He went on to say: “You don't see it now because of the dust clouds thrown up by the collapse, but when they disperse, you'll see the full scale of the calamity.”
And that was not all. “The nuclear weapons and the missiles are already partly in the hands of the Muslim extremists,” said the Indian prime minister in that conversation. “There is no longer any way to prevent them from taking control.”
In a surprising apparent non sequitur, Singh added: “We see the situation (of Pakistan's nuclear weapons) with the same clarity as Israel does.”
The Indian prime minister referred to two locations as keys to Pakistan's nuclear and missile arsenals – both in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP): Kohat and the Wah Cantonment Pakistani Ordnance Complex in the city of Kamra.
See attached map
Singh's reference to these top-secret places when he talked with Obama is explained by their strategic locations, DEBKA-Net-Weekly adds.
Dominated by mountains and hills, Kohat is the capital of the district of that name, made important by a Pakistani air base, airport, and the military road opened in 1901 linking it through the Kohat Pass to Peshawar, 60 kilometers to the north.
Kohat also has good highways to the capital Islamabad, Bannu, Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Baluchistan, Karachi and Sindh. It is about 50 kilometers from the Afghan border.
Taliban is encroaching on both nuclear sites
Kamra is roughly 180 kilometers northeast of Kohat air base. It is home to the Pakistani Wah Cantonment Ordnance Complex, which consists of three armament facilities in Wah (Pakistan Ordnance Factories – POF), Kamra (Air Weapon Complex – AWC), and Taxilia (Heavy Industries Taxila -HIT).
This complex is associated with the storage and assembly of nuclear weapons and components, especially those at the “screwdriver level,” and the modification of aircraft and missiles for nuclear attacks.
The Air Weapon Complex at Kamra houses air-to-surface missiles and is probably the site of the development and storage of nuclear warheads.
Pakistan's two nuclear sites are situated in the same rugged, mountainous northwest as the suspected hideouts of al Qaeda's top leaders including Osama bin Laden, whence they are running their global operations. Both al Qaeda and Taliban maintain heavy concentrations of fighters in this forbidding region.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources, Kohat and the Kamra region are in much more dangerous straits than the Swat Valley and Buner Province on which US and Western attention has been focused.
If Kohat falls, Islamabad is cut off from its nuclear arsenal
Taliban controls key sections of Kohat town and the roads connecting it to Kamra. The Pakistani air base is under intermittent siege, depending on ad hoc agreements between the base commanders and local Taliban chiefs. The siege tightened earlier this month after a Pakistani military helicopter exploded “in suspicious circumstances” during takeoff from the air base, killing all the officers trained in special anti-Taliban combat aboard.
Our military sources stress that if Kohat falls completely to the Taliban, Islamabad and the Pakistani high command will be cut off from Kamra and its nuclear arsenal.
According to Indian intelligence reports cited by prime minister Singh to President Obama, some Pakistani officers of the units guarding the Wah complex are in daily communication with Taliban chiefs in an effort to keep them at bay. But those ties may be ambivalent. Indian agents find it hard to determine where their loyalties lie. More and more Pakistani officers on duty in both nuclear locations, Kohat and Kamra, are to be seen openly hobnobbing with Taliban adherents.
Indian intelligence analysts cannot therefore say for certain who they will obey if ordered by Islamabad to transport the nuclear arsenal out of the endangered towns – headquarters in Islamabad or their local Taliban friends. In any case, they calculate that evacuation of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and missiles to safety from the semi-besieged towns is no longer possible. The Americans, they say, have missed the boat, thereby contradicting the assurance of its safety given by the US Central Command chief, Gen. David Petraeus just a week ago.
India prepares for a hostile neighbor
The predicament outlined by the Indian prime minister in northwest Pakistan is doubly troubling for Washington. Most of all, the danger of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Taliban and by extension, al Qaeda, looms ominously close. But the US is also loath to see India going its own way and working on the assumption that the Pakistan government has already fallen and Taliban is in control of the Pakistani state and military.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources see India preparing to deal with a fellow-nuclear neighbor ruled by a hostile entity. On May 5, the Indian Army’s Strike Corps conducted a three-day exercise, called “Hind Shakti” in the plains of Punjab, using tanks and other heavy equipment, to counter enemy incursions as well as a possible “nuclear-biological-chemical warfare environment.”
Watched by the Indian Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor and GOC-in-C Western Command Lt. Gen. T.K. Sapru, the Kharga Corps exercise included a mechanized and reorganized Plains Infantry Division, which drilled a blitzkrieg-type armored incursion focusing on the rapid penetration of enemy territory.
Aircraft and artillery support were also part of the exercise.
India is clearly going through its military paces ready for operating inside a Pakistan ruled by the Taliban.