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China-Pak Up Hybrid War

December 7, 2020 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By Twitter
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Chinese national Luo Sang, alias Charlie Peng

China and Pakistan are making every possible effort to up their collusive hybrid war on India. Media reports of November 24 reveal that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has unearthed a 1,000 crore hawala ring run by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in India. News reports indicate that Chinese agents are getting help from existing entrenched Pakistani spy networks to establish similar networks in India. In September this year, Delhi Police's Special Cell arrested a Chinese national Luo Sang, alias Charlie Peng, on charges of running a spy ring in India and seized a forged Indian passport which he had procured from Manipur. Luo Sang is suspected to be an agent of the Chinese intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security (MSS) In August.

Crackdown on a multi-billion hawala racket operating in Delhi-NCR revealed that Luo Sang had created fake Indian identity of Charlie Peng through forged Aadhaar cards and travel documents. China’s MSS sent Sang first to Nepal where he was trained in money exchange, hawala operations and accounts after which he arrived in India. As per the reports, he was collecting information on whereabouts of key Tibetan refugees and people close to the Dalai Lama in India.

During interrogation, Sang revealed that he had crossed into India in 2013 and first settled in Manipur where he married an Indian women and the duo started living in rented accommodation. After staying for a few years in Manipur he shifted his base to Delhi. Further investigations revealed that Sang had created more than 40 bank accounts linked to multiple shell companies and the hawala operations were linked to transactions worth over 1,000 crore. In June 2020, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) had said it was bolstering up its maritime intelligence network with increased focus on the Arabian Sea region to counter the growing influence of China-Pakistan nexus in the Indian Ocean.

The China-Pakistan nexus or rather the MSS-ISI combine has obviously launched coordinated intelligence operations in India on a very large scale. The question is how seriously have we taken this threat and to what extent have we been able to unearth their tentacles? More importantly, how much have we reached down to arrest recipients of the hawala money, interrogated and prosecuted them? 1,000 crore is not a small amount and this may not be the only spy network launched by MSS-ISS who have ample funds for these type of operations.

The intriguing part is that Luo Sang was “first arrested” by Delhi Police “for espionage” in August 2018, as brought out in media reports. This raises questions whether Sang was let off after perfunctory interrogation in 2018? Was he granted bail or did he pay his way out? Where has he been since his last arrest in August 2018 and if he has been arrested second time, was any inquiry done why was he let off easily after his arrest in 2018 on charges of “espionage”? Have the hawala operators linked to Sang been arrested and confronted with Sang? Should we as a nation not publicise these spies and anti-nationals revealing their identities and parading them on TV channels? Is not doing so part of our lackadaisical character? Don’t our enemies abroad and within, view us a soft nation because of such attitude and encourage them to continue with their nefarious activities?

Of serious concern to us should be the MSS and ISI using Nepal as a hub and easy ingress into India through the open border, and by using fake identities. On November 12, 2020, police arrested Elisa Manoj Pande Khadka, a 26 years old woman from Lumbini in Nepal living in the quarter of an Army Captain in College of Military Engineering, Pune since March. She was charged and arrested under the Officials Secrets Act (OSA) and sections of the Indian Penal Code for living illegally in the defence establishment.

Organisations in Nepal like ‘Tehfuzul Madrasa’ are safe houses that Pakistan’s ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has been using since long; forming sleeper cells that lie low till awakened to regroup, arrange material and funds before planning an infiltration into Indian Territory. The disappearance of Pakistani Lt Col Mohammad Habib Zahir in Nepal on way to Lumbini in March 2017 was possibly to coordinate ISI operations in Terai Region. Pakistani Prime Minister S.K. Abbasi’s visit to Nepal in early March 2018 needs to be seen in context of not only a well-oiled network in Nepal giving protection to ISI-backed terrorists, but becoming a “Control Centre”, as was stated by the Intelligence Bureau in 2018.

The rise of China-backed Maoists in Nepal and the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has facilitated ingress of China’s hard and soft power into Nepal. Nepal’s memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China for drilling oil in Terai and such-like other projects has brought MSS to the region which already is ISI infested. The MSS-ISI has a platform to wage hybrid war on India that includes intelligence operations and establishing spy networks. The issue needs to be officially taken up with the Government of Nepal, which possibly is already being done. Perhaps this was also discussed with Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli by Samant Kumar Goel, Director R&AW during latter’s recent visit to Nepal. Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep has said, “R&AW chief Samant Goel's visit as an emissary of Indian Prime Minister helped reset Nepal-India ties. Many things have moved forward since this visit, and we are already seeing the results". For India, there is an obvious need to also launch coordinated counter-intelligence operations.