Even as COVID-19, the most sinister contribution of China to the world, continues to wreak havoc across the globe, fortunately there is now a growing unanimity to hold China responsible for the scourge.
There is no doubt that this is a man-made virus. The only thing that needs investigation is its source of release into the world—whether it was zoonotic or through a deliberate lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Clark Prasad and my book, Mission Shengzhan: India Fights the Dragon, in fact, goes beyond the bio-warfare. It shows how the Deep State, in the US, India and possibly parts of Europe exploited the pandemic to try to manipulate local political narratives. In an age when an information war could potentially cause more damage than a conventional military war, Twitter’s recalcitrant non-adherence to the new intermediary guidelines could possibly have the murky machinations of the Deep State embedded in it.
The visible and invisible enemies ganging up against a strong regime is what makes the subject intriguing. It is a fact that both the Shaheen Bagh and farmer protests’ were largely farcical and had foreign powers supporting them. That one coincided with the pandemic while the other preceded it, only gave the perpetrators extra room for blackmail and subterfuge.
And before I am accused of furthering my political agenda through my book, let me clarify this unequivocally: While my writing need not always be an extension of my political thoughts, on issues of national security, it certainly will. Because, quite honestly on the other side of the political spectrum today are people who are wilfully working against national interest, just to settle political scores. And we have seen this happen on umpteen occasions, the last one being the propaganda to project India as a ‘failed state’ during the pandemic.
The fact that the book depicts an outstanding partnership and camaraderie between Indian PM Shiv Patel and US President Owen MacLeod, who have an active hotline to discuss important geopolitical issues in real time, will remind readers of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former US President Donald Trump. Since the book is fictionalized reality, it does extend into the imagined zone at places. For instance, there is an attempt to assassinate the Indian PM and US President together when India and the US have signed their biggest trade deal. Also fascinating is how the book depicts China’s covert investments in Indian apps and OTTs with a clear intent to manipulate information for the future.
Two renowned defence experts, Lt General (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain and Maroof Raza, who have read the book, have appreciated the fictionalized handling of a real and imminent national security threat.
“Mission Shengzhan is a thoroughly researched and fast-paced thriller. It informs a reader rather accurately … about how China’s deep-state plans to dominate the world, through what experts call ‘Unrestricted Warfare’. It should be the one novel that anyone should read in these post-Covid times because … it could just come true!” wrote Maroof Raza, who read the book in one go, hooked by its unpredictability.
Gen Syed Ata Hasnain who is presently serving as a member of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) calls the book a “rare geo-political espionage thriller, set in a pandemic.”
This book, my 11th and the first one that is co-authored with Clark Prasad, has a story that was waiting to be told. This is a book that attempts to provide a roadmap to safeguard India’s strategic interests against the newer evolving threats. India’s natural alliance with the US will be a crucial catalyst in achieving this shield.
I leave you here with an extract from the book that depicts a secret military combing operation between India and the US forged at the highest level and which needs to be carried out in record time.
163 days before The Incident 5 March, 05:13 p.m. EST White House, Washington, DC United States
Is it done?’ asked the Colonel.
‘Yes, it’s over,’ said Krishnamurthy, ‘We have killed both hostile terrorists and … just a minute.’
There was silence on the Delhi and Washington lines. The operation to intercept the Hizbul terrorists and protect the CIA’s asset seemed to be over. Krishnamurthy was waiting for confirmation from the Establishment 22 veteran.
‘Yes, confirmed. We have contacted your asset. You will be able to talk to her in a few seconds.’
There was another pause during which the only sound that could be heard was the punching of some keys and buttons. ‘You can talk to her now,’ India’s NSA said in a calm tone.
The Colonel got on the line and started speaking to their asset to confirm her identification as well as to make her feel comfortable. Then, he informed her that he was going to put her on speaker as the president was online.
President MacLeod thanked her and said they would be extracting her to a US base near Diego Garcia. She thanked them, sounding exhausted but relieved. The Colonel requested a one-on-one and spoke to her for a few moments in private. As their conversation went on, his face became gloomier. Finally, he thanked her and moved the phone back to the speaker.
On another call, KK waited for further details from his veteran officer about the secure location and the transfer formalities of the asset. Once confirmed, this call was disconnected.
KK turned his attention back to the Washington line, ‘There was an issue. The asset informed us that the rescue was watched by a bystander who saw two Hizbul operatives being killed.’
‘You are saying there was a witness to the incident?’ confirmed the Colonel.
‘Yes,’ replied KK.
‘That is worrying. Did you neutralise it?’
‘No, he did not seem like a threat … Just a teenager. Most probably, a senior in college.’
‘We will get local law enforcement to look into this,’ one of the aides to the president spoke up.
‘Isn’t that a risk?’ questioned KK.
‘We will follow up and track him down. We will keep you informed.’
‘Does it mean you will share who the person is?’ asked the Colonel.
There was a moment of silence as KK looked at the PM who shook his head.
‘We will see whether he is a threat or not, and based on that assessment, we will update you.’
‘That is a diplomatic answer KK … not your style,’ the Colonel stated.
‘Well times change, and we will give you the information in due course of time. Right now, you need your asset to be taken to your embassy. It will not look good as she is an Indian.’
‘But she is a US citizen. She was there by mistake and got caught on there.’
‘Now, you are being diplomatic,’ smirked KK.
There was a gentle chuckle across the lines. Both nations had come a long way in so many decades … From the early years when the US was apprehensive of Indian leadership and feared India turning to socialism to now, when they shared information for their mutual benefit.
KK and the Colonel concluded their discussion on how the transfer would be done and stepped back. The PM of India and the US president were now talking.
‘Thank you for all your help, my friend. I owe you a big one,’ said the president with an air of gratitude.
‘We need to work more closely together Owen. We have more in common that unites us than that which differentiates us.’
‘So true Shiv, so true. It’s a nice quote also. Maybe I should use this in the elections.’
Both continued to talk on other topics. They discussed the US economy, which was at an all-time high with the lowest unemployment figures. The president boasted how his approval rating was increasing, especially after the wrong impeachment attack by the Democrats.
‘Accept my congratulations in advance … It looks like the election is in the bag but Owen, I would just like to add that nothing is over till it is over,’ Shiv said.
The president responded affirmatively. However, his thoughts were preoccupied with the spy situation. There was an unease in his guts. The president’s concentration was broken when Prime Minister Patel spoke up, ‘I will hold you to your promise of doing a favour.’
‘What favour do you want?’
‘A visit to India. Will you be our chief guest during our Independence Day celebrations?’
‘It’s on 15 August, right?’
‘Is this an official invitation Shiv?’ asked the president in good humour.
‘Well, it is an invitation from a friend requesting you to visit his home.’
‘I will surely consider it strongly.’
‘It will be our pleasure to host you.’
‘Thank you.’ After a brief pause, he added, ‘So let’s call it a day for now, shall we?’
‘Sure. Just one more thing Owen….’
‘Any views on the reports of the flu situation in China?’ asked the prime minister.
‘It is just the flu, I don’t think we need to overreact for now. But let us discuss scenarios next week if things do not improve,’ Owen said, nonchalantly.
‘Sure, Owen. It does have a long name though, RanaLLOV-13. I call it the RL-13 virus.’
‘I think I will just call it the Chinese flu,’ snickered President MacLeod.
They laughed for a bit and closed the call.
As soon as President MacLeod placed the handset down, he turned towards his team with a straight face. ‘That was good. We got what we wanted?’
‘Yes, the military attaché of our embassy is moving towards Dharamshala right now.’
‘How soon will they be there?’
‘They will connect with our asset within 2 hours, sir.’ ‘That is good. Are marines involved?’
‘No… we are hoping the handover will be incident-free. Our agents will try to interrogate her. But she is trained to handle them.’
‘That’s something expected. Update me on the progress. And check if I can make a quick shortstop on 15 August. Thank you all.’
The team nodded and started making a move out of the nerve centre when the silence was broken by a voice. ‘Don’t you think we should inform them, Mr President?’
Everyone turned towards the voice which belonged to the majority chair head of the US House Committee on Armed Services, Catherine D’Alessandro. She was a battle-tested veteran and a Democrat. She spoke up, ‘We know the virus will destroy India. We should warn them.’