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India, US, Israel monitor Pak via satellites: Report

By Rediff News Bureau
May 20, 2009 19:31 IST
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Even as the Pakistani Army continues its offensive against the Taliban, a top Pakistani daily has reported on its web site that Indian, American, Israeli and French satellites have been secretly monitoring the region, taking images of suspected nuclear sites of Pakistan (particularly the Khushab reactor site) and exchanging collected intelligence with each other.

The Pakistan Observer reported Tuesday that officials in Islamabad are upset over this high level of international scrutiny, and allege that India and Israel have expanding nuclear and thermo-nuclear projects that are being allowed to grow unchecked.

The report states that a recently launched Indian satellite -- Cartosat 2-A -- has been sending telemetry data of the region to the Indian Space Research Organisation's Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. It adds that another Indian satellite -- IMS-1, which is equipped with a multi-spectral camera -- is in the region and able to send down high quality imagery to ISRC.

Another Indian angle to the story is that the Israeli satellite TecSAR, which was specially designed as a reconnaissance satellite, and which was launched by India in January 2008, has reportedly been taking pictures of Pakistani and Iranian nuclear sites and sharing them. In addition to the India-launched TecSAR, Israel has another satellite monitoring the area.

According to The Pakistan Observer, the United States, Britain, France and Russia are together maintaining more than a dozen military satellites, all designed to monitor and capture images of suspected nuclear and military sites.

Finally, it's not only nation-sates getting involved. Companies with private satellites in orbit have made available for commercial sale images of sensitive buildings and areas, the Observer reports. Some of these private pictures are of premium quality -- and 'cost buyers up to $200 (Rs 9,500) per square kilometer of imagery, plus an extra $3,000 (Rs 1.43 lakh) for quick turnaround work'. Western news media agencies often pay as much as $500 per picture or image, the Observer reports.

Also being shared among the international military community are photos of sensitive areas and establishments, taken by European photo-reconnaissance planes, including France's Mirage IV-P and Britain's Canberra PR-9. Plus, Pakistani officials fear that Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles have been used to capture particularly remote and well-defended sites, the report states. It goes on to assert that a few years back, the Pakistani Air Force had shot down an Israeli UAV that was being operated by the Indian Air Force over Pakistani territory.

Much of this international scrutiny has come about following rumours that Pakistan's nuclear programme has been expanded in recent years. Though the Western media has featured many stories to this effect, including a detailed report recently shown by MSNBC, experts in Pakistan have denied the veracity of such reports.

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