Homeland Security

China-Pak spy web in Northeast
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Issue Vol 25.4 Oct-Dec 2010 | Date : 12 Jun , 2012

What could be worrisome for Indian security agencies is the possible coordination between Chinese and Pakistani espionage missions in Indias Northeast.

It is an established fact that Chinese spies assuming identities of victims of repression, social workers, tourists or research scholars have often been able to easily infiltrate the LAC and move unhindered in Arunachal. . It must be recalled that a Chinese spy suspect was arrested by the police in 1999 from Namsai in Lohit district. A Chinese spy was reportedly apprehended from Tawang during the Dalai Lama’s visit last year. Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a 1,080-km-long border with China, 440km with Myanmar and 160km with Bhutan, is not new to such attempts at espionage. The state government has maintained a severe silence on this issue. Consistent with its oft-repeated statement, the administration in Itanagar said infiltration by Chinese spies on subversive missions is an issue which the Central security agencies have to tackle.

China’s “peaceful rise” ironically involves creating an offensive ring around India. The Gwadar port in Pakistan and Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and its naval assets in Myanmar will soon enable Chinese Navy to effortlessly move up and down the high seas along India’s vast coastline. The importance of Defence Minister Antony’s comments at the commander’s conference must be seen in the context of reports in American media on the Chinese military infrastructure being built in Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’s so-called Northern Areas. For those looking for a surprise element there is actually none because this is consistent with China’s large-scale plan to encircle India with enhanced military capabilities and assets.

ISI_spyPrime Minister Manmohan Singh and Antony flagged a three-fold concern—enormous Chinese military infrastructure being put in place along the 4,057-km LAC, its bid to emerge as the dominant naval force in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and increased Chinese emphasis on the modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army. The Indian Prime Minister told the Indian military commanders that India should counter the Chinese infrastructure build-up on land and sea with “a sense of urgency”. “We cannot lose sight of the fact that China has been improving its military and physical infrastructure,” added the defence minister.

Indian force commanders informed the political leadership that a comprehensive, integrated and long-term national security plan to thwart all external threats must be put in place. Air Chief Marshal PV Naik said that IAF had begun to base the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets in the Northeast as well as upgrade several airstrips and helipads in the region. Navy Chief, Admiral Nirmal Verma said that Navy is evolving strategies to counter the increasing Chinese presence in IOR. He said the plans to test India’s most ambitious ballistic missile, the 5,000-km Agni-V, by early 2011 will bolster Indian deterrence against China. Army Chief General VK Singh said two new specialised infantry mountain divisions (35,000 soldiers) and an artillery brigade for Arunachal Pradesh is in the works.

What could be worrisome for Indian security agencies is the possible coordination between Chinese and Pakistani espionage missions in India’s Northeast. In the first week of September BSF apprehended Nayeem Ahmed Mamoon, 22, at Lankamura border on the outskirts of Agartala in West Tripura as he tried to escape into Bangladesh at night. Mamoon’s arrest was preceded by the arrest of another suspected ISI agent in July.

Both had similar plans of surveying strategic installations in northeast India. At the time of Mamoon’s arrest he was carrying Pakistani currency, Pakistan and Bangladesh banks documents, bank pass-books, fake identity cards, photographs and train tickets. Mamoon is a resident of Gopalganj, a township near Bangladesh capital Dhaka. “During preliminary interrogation, Mamoon told the police that he entered India from Bangladesh two months back via Murshidabad of West Bengal. From West Bengal, he went to various northeastern states and came to Tripura to return to Bangladesh. Mamoon has stayed at Anantnag in Kashmir Valley for sometime, and is suspected to have laiason with banned outfits,” stated Tripural police in its official statement. he said.

Another ISI spy, Manir Khan alias Omar Ashraf, 30, and his six Indian associates were arrested July 3 in Agartala. Manir’s interrogation sparked off a joint probe by Assam and Tripura police. The police in Tripura and Assam allege that Manir and his Indian associates were involved in some terror cases in Assam, though specific details of their involvement hasn’t been disclosed yet. Police in both states also said that Manir disclosed significant information on the ISI plans in the Northeast and other parts of India. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has also joined the probe and has interrogated Manir Khan, who according to the police was trained by ISI in Multan, Pakistan. A team from Punjab police also visited Agartala to interrogate Manir.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar informed the media that the Central Government has passed intelligence inputs to the state government asking for increased surveillance. “To check infiltration from across the border, trans-border movement of militants, anti-India elements, the state government has been asking the centre to strengthen the vigil along the India-Bangladesh border,” he said. Tripura police’s Mobile Task Force (MTF) has been entrusted with the mandate to check infiltration from across the border and push back illegal entrants.

Even as Tripura increased its surveillance activities to check agent saboteurs from entering India from Bangladesh, a court in Tripura sentenced a Bangladeshi arms dealer and an ISI agent Mamun Mian, 49, to ten years rigorous imprisonment. The court found Mamun guilty of forging a voter’s identity card, a ration card, a PAN card, a driving licence and other documents. Mamun was arrested in March 2008 for his involvement in anti-India activities and trafficking of arms and explosives.

China and Pakistan complex espionage missions in India’s Northeast should not be seen in isolation. It should be seen in the context of Beijing-Islamabad jointmanship to keep India in a perpetual state of instability.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

VK Shashikumar

is a Systems Strategist and writes occasionally on Defence and Strategic Affairs. Recipient of 'Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism'

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