NEW DELHI: As the war of words between India and Pakistan reaches a crescendo, New Delhi has cause for fresh alarm, due to some of the activities being carried out across the border. Intelligence agencies in India have brought to the notice of the government that Pakistan has been frantically building up tunnels in areas not far from the border with India.
According to these inputs, the tunnels have been dug up in the Sargodha district of Pakistani Punjab and can even be noticed by, as a top intelligence officer put it, a discerning eye on Google satellite imagery. "An attempt is being made to establish the purpose of digging up such tunnels which are really big in size. These clearly can't be meant for transport as is obvious from the images available; unlike ordinary tunnels they don't lead on to roads," said the official who is involved in analysing the information.
Pakistan is well within its rights to carry out any construction work on its territory and Islamabad is known to have constructed storage sheds for missiles and weapons in Sargodha, a known nuclear installation, in the past. However, the sheer size of the tunnels and the fact that these don't seem to be leading on to roads have raised suspicion that these could be used to store nuclear weapons or missiles which are battle ready.
The official said Pakistan has been known to store some of its deadliest, but unassembled, missiles like the Chinese M-11 in a sub-depot near the central ammunition depot in Sargodha. It is also the place where Pakistan's nuclear capable F-16 aircraft are said to be stationed. Located on the west of Lahore, Sargodha has always been the hub of Pakistan air force and, in fact, is home to its central air command.
If what Pakistan is doing is just a precautionary measure, considering Sargodha is a sensitive nuclear facility under threat from the Taliban and other terrorists, this has not been communicated to India either by Islamabad or the US which is fast taking it upon itself to safeguard all nuclear facilities in the country. In fact, the first attack on a nuclear installation by terrorists in Pakistan took place in Sargodha in November 2007.
According to Indian officials, Pakistan in the past has used Sargodha to store M-11 missiles which had been delivered unassembled to it by China. However, the pace at which these tunnels are coming up suggests that, as the official put it, Pakistan is up to something. Sargodha is also the place which the Chinese are said to regularly visit to train the Pakistanis in handling weapons and missiles.