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Thursday, 29 January 2015

From Today's Papers - 29 Jan 2015

America’s Iraq misadventure
G Parthasarathy
Its legacy: Terrorism across Europe and violence across the Islamic world
The US-led military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 received widespread international support because it was clearly established that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC were planned and executed by Al Qaida, based in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The same cannot, however, be said of American military intervention in Iraq. Proclaiming that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein regime possessed “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMDs), the US and its allies mounted a land, air and sea invasion of Iraq on March 1, 2003.  Not surprisingly, it was soon found that Iraq indeed did not possess a single WMD. With Iraq’s army disintegrating, the country was soon taken over by the US. On May 1, 2003, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, aboard an aircraft carrying the banner “Mission Accomplished”. Matters did not end there. By the time the US withdrew from Iraq, 4,491 American soldiers and an estimated 1,50,000 Iraqis were killed. The aftershocks of this invasion are still being felt across the Islamic world and in Europe.

With a majority Shia-dominated government taking over in Baghdad following decades of the minority Sunni domination, old sectarian scores were sought to be settled. A bloody sectarian civil war was accompanied by the emergence of Sunni fighters led by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi,  a veteran of the CIA-sponsored Afghan jihad, to challenge Baghdad's Shia-dominated regime. Matters worsened when a US-led alliance, backed by Sunni-dominated countries led by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, sought to violently overthrow the minority Shia dominated regime of Bashr Al Assad, in neighbouring Syria. Zarqawi’s followers and successors in Iraq joined this jihad against the Assad regime. Not surprisingly, Assad receives support from an alliance of Shia states and entities, including Iran, Iraq and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, with Russia providing the military muscle.

These developments led to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is primarily Iraqi, but also a recipient of volunteers from Sunni Islamic countries and young Sunni Muslim immigrants in Europe and the US, for jihad against Shias, the Assad regime and also the Western world. Thousands of innocent civilians have perished in Syria and Iraq, with an estimated nine million Syrians fleeing to refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon and elsewhere. Animosity between Shias and Sunnis has now engulfed virtually the entire Muslim world. Shias in Sunni-dominated countries like Egypt are targeted by street mobs infuriated by vicious anti-Shia propaganda. They now feel increasingly insecure, even as a no-holds-barred media war gets under way.

This vicious media war is now being waged through print, satellite television and even social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Venom is being spewed against Shias and their beliefs and practices. This propaganda is largely financed by Gulf Arab States like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It is reinforced by immigrant-run television networks in cities like London. Some television channels in Egypt have also joined in.  Influential Shia clerics are labelled as “Satan’s assistants,” with Syrian Shias being accused of raping Sunni women. This is being answered in ample measure by television networks operating out of Iraq. The political transformation in Iraq in 2006 led to Sunnis facing the wrath of the politically empowered Shia majority. The then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and his Cabinet accused Saudi Arabia of backing the “genocide” in Iraq. It is difficult to agree on whether it is the ISIL, or Boko Haram in Nigeria, which today constitutes a greater threat to pluralistic societies

European countries with large Muslim immigrant populations from West Asia, North Africa and Pakistan have faced continuing terrorist challenges after the invasion of Iraq. The recent terrorist shootouts in France over the Charlie Hebdo controversy have received huge media attention and raised pertinent queries on whether the freedom of speech should include the right to publicly denigrate and ridicule the religious faiths of others.  In March 2004, just after the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, 191 people were killed and over 1,800 wounded by synchronised bomb blasts in four trains in Spain, for which Al Qaida claimed responsibility. The UK has faced periodic terrorist threats involving members of its immigrant Muslim population, commencing with the bomb blasts in London underground Metro trains and a foiled plot to explode bombs in transatlantic flights. Chechen terrorist groups in Russia are known to have received support in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Pakistan.

The terrorist threats in Western Europe largely come from second-generation Sunni Muslim immigrants, who feel alienated from the mainstream of national life and confused on how to maintain their separate religious identity. These forebodings get reinforced when they face the prospect of prolonged unemployment, measures like a ban on headscarves, ridicule of skull caps, or aversion to the construction of minarets. In these circumstances, Muslim youth enter the electronic age through the internet and social media. Their minds are poisoned by vicious propaganda about Muslims being discriminated against and invaded by the Western forces in Iraq and Libya. The result has been that some 5,000 Muslim immigrants from the EU and a smaller number from the US have joined the ISIL with every possibility of some of them returning to their homes as hardened terrorists. This scenario is a nightmare for people across the Atlantic.

While Shia-Sunni tensions remain a fact of life in Pakistan, especially after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, they are now likely to get exacerbated. The Nawaz Shari government is known to have long-standing links with indigenous anti-Shia groups like Lashkar e Jhangvi and their mentors in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. India will have to strengthen its engagement with Arab Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE and retain the goodwill of Iran and Iraq if is to avoid getting drawn into the vortex of sectarian rivalries and tensions in the Islamic world. We have to address the challenges we face to our energy security and the safety of over six million Indian nationals in our neighbouring Gulf region with imaginative and pro-active diplomacy.
Hailing from Ambala, Major gets Shaurya Chakra
Tribune News Service

Ambala, January 28
Major Mukul Sharma, who foiled infiltration bid in Kupwara district of J&K in August, was awarded the Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peacetime gallantry award, on Republic Day.

Major Sharma, who belongs to Ambala, has been deputed in the Kashmir valley since January 2010. On August 7, 2014, Major Sharma got information of an infiltration bid by terrorists in Gagadari Nar. Around 12.30 pm, he noticed movement of three persons, who opened fire at him. Major Sharma stood his ground and shot down one infiltrator.

He redeployed his team to prevent the other two from escaping. The officer showed tactical acumen and presence of mind to engage the infiltrators throughout the night and prevented them from escaping. The next day, the officer identified the position of the second infiltrator. Sensing danger to his troops, Major Sharma crawled towards the infiltrator and killed him. Major Sharma later eliminated the third infiltrator.
India, US Advance Strategic Relations
NEW DELHI — India and the US will initiate co-production of low-end weapons in India as the two countries renewed their 10-year Defense Framework Agreement during a visit here by US President Barack Obama Sunday through Tuesday.

The agreement, which defines steps to be taken in the next 10 years to bolster their bilateral defense partnership, incorporates for the first time a provision to co-produce weapons in India, along with transfer of technology through the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).

Analysts and serving military officers, however, said it is too early to expect co-development and co-production of advanced weapons systems, and the two countries will need to begin with low-end projects to become familiar with how the DTTI will work as bureaucratic hurdles can impede execution of such projects.

At first, the two countries will co-produce such low-end weapons as the Raven UAV, and reconnaissance modules for the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft bought in 2008, said an Indian Defence Ministry source. More products under DTTI will be identified during next month's visit by Frank Kendall, US undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Obama was the first US president to be the guest at the Jan. 26 Republic Day parade. His visit received substantial attention by the media, with analysts describing it as a watershed event and the beginning of a new era in Indo-US strategic relations under the Narendra Modi government.

Analysts and serving officers, however, are divided about whether stronger Indo-US strategic and defense ties would loosen those bonds between India and Russia.

"Russia is a declining power with little to offer India outside of defense technology," said Ashley Tellis, senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Ties with the US will be comprehensive, ties with Russia will be largely uni-dimensional. India actually comes out ahead in that way," Tellis said.

But Bharat Karnad, professor of national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research, said Indo-Russian defense ties are stable.

"Good relations with the US reflects aspiration, ties with Russia are hard reality. No substantive shift in policy is on the anvil, certainly nothing at the expense of India's relations with Moscow, especially because, unlike the US, Russia has partnered, and continues to partner, India in strategically sensitive technology projects ranging from missiles, ship submersibles, ballistic, nuclear submarines to the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft," Karnad said.

The Indian military for decades has been equipped with Russian-made weaponry and equipment and absorption of US-made systems could take time, said a senior Indian Air Force officer.

"There is a challenge in terms of technology-sharing due to US laws and on the part of India technology absorption. This would imply that only a low level of technology-sharing would be practical despite the good intent on both the sides," said Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

With India-US defense ties restricted only to the purchase of off-the-shelf equipment, the two countries have had no experience in joint weapon development and production, unlike India's experience with Russia and Israel, the MoD source said.

"I think the rise of US-Indian defense production will be slow. America's biggest defense market is domestic, not India. India, in contrast, is one of Russia's two largest defense markets. The contrast explains everything," Tellis said.

Chintamani Mahapatra, professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, "There is no doubt that entry of US defense industries into the Indian market will slowly reduce the Russian share of the Indian market. But then the US alone is not going to replace Russia in terms of Indian defense acquisitions. India will continue to diversify its sources of arms purchase."

Since the US sanctions against India were lifted in 2001, India has purchased more than $9 billion in weaponry but it has not included technology transfer, which has been an Indian goal. Unless the two countries are able to effectively execute co-production of high-technology weapon systems, Russia will remain India's main supplier, continue to transfer technology and the hype of the Obama visit will be slowly lost, the Air Force officer said.

"There is considerable concern in Moscow on the warmth shown toward President Obama in New Delhi, but behind the theatrics there has been nothing tangible in the defense and security field that should worry Russia for their primacy in combat systems remains on track," Bhonsle said.

But Tellis is optimistic. "I think there is a clear strategic judgment in India that important though Russia still is for India, Moscow represents the past, Washington represents the future."
Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif holds talks with China's military top brass
Amid Indo-US bonhomie, Pakistan Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif on Sunday met China's military top brass here with the two sides agreeing to enhance long-term bilateral defence collaboration, intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism cooperation.

Gen Sharif's visit comes as US President Barack Obama warms up to India with an unprecedented second visit. Pakistan is under pressure from both India and the US over the issue of terrorism with calls to impose a complete ban on Jamaat-ud- Dawah and its chief, Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed. The Pakistan army chief, who is here on a two-day visit, reviewed a guard of honour along with his Chinese counterpart Gen Qi Jianguo, at the People's Liberation Army Headquarters and then held talks with him.

"COAS held extensive meeting with his counterpart. Full range of regional security, defence related issues discussed," Pakistan military spokesperson Major Gen Asim Bajwa tweeted. "Enhanced long-term defence collaboration, security and counter-terrorism cooperation, intelligence sharing, training exchanges decided," he said. Gen Sharif also called on General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, this morning and briefed him about the crackdown against terrorists in Pakistan.

Gen Fan conveyed China's support to Pakistan in its offensive against the militants. They discussed operations against militants in the border areas. Gen Fan praised Pakistan's military offensive codenamed 'Zarb-i-Azb, terming it as a "decisive, indiscriminate, bold and hard blow for terrorists," Bajwa said. The two countries have stepped up security to prevent infiltration of Uygur militants from China's volatile Xinjiang region.

Pakistan's military has targeted militant bases in the tribal areas which also included militants from East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the group which has carried out a number of violent attacks in China's restive Xinjiang region. The Pakistan army chief arrived here on Saturday to meet China's political and military leadership and discuss issues pertaining to security and defence cooperation. "China will, as always, give firm support to Pakistan's efforts to combat terrorism," Gen Fan was quoted as saying by China's state-run Xinhua news agency.
BEL displays state-of-the-art night vision defence devices
 The Defence Ministry’s Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Machilipatnam unit, is showcasing its state-of-the-art night vision devices including those used in Kargil war. This is the first public exhibition by the BEL in Machilipatnam.

Of the nine units of the BEL across the country, the Machilipatnam unit is engaged in development and production of opto-electronic devices that are meant for Indian defence forces. The devices being displayed for public on the Hindu College grounds here during the ongoing Masula Yuva Mahotsav are Passive Night Goggles, Passive Night Monocular, Passive Night Binocular and others.

“Passive Night Sight for INSAS/LMG guns is a device that can be fixed to the guns to have clear vision of the target location. We are allowing the visitors to operate the devices to understanding the functioning of the six varieties of devices in the exhibition”, BEL, Machilipatnam Assistant Engineer M.D. Khaja told The Hindu. Majority of the Night Vision Devices would function with the help of ‘Image Intensifier Tube that receives power from the ‘Stars’ and amplifies it thousands times more.

Kargil War

Hand Held Thermal Imager (HHTI) of the Machilipatnam BEL was used by the Indian Army during the Kargil war. “The HHTI device supplied to Indian Army has helped a lot in finding precise location and accurate distance of targets during the Kargil war. It can locate accurately an aircraft within 10 km of distance while heavy vehicles can be tracked within four km of distance”, said Mr. Khaja.

The Indian Army installs the HHTI on the watch towers at the strategic locations. Public can see and learn the use of the devices during the Masula Yuva Mahotsav, which will conclude on Thursday evening.
Neglecting defence
During his recent rally at Burdwan, BJP president Amit Shah accused the West Bengal Government of neglecting national security in the interest of ‘vote bank politics’. The Narendra Modi government obviously has no such interests and it is expected to give topmost priority to national security. All the more so because the security environment around India is turning more and more hostile, with Pakistan rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal and China in no mood to relent either over its claim on Arunachal Pradesh or on the South China Sea. These are potential conflict zones and will remain so in the foreseeable future.

In such circumstances what is the State of India’s defence preparedness? In its latest report submitted late last month, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence has pointed out that the fighter strength of the Indian Air Force has come down from the sanctioned 45 squadrons to mere 25. And if immediate induction of new planes are not made then by 2024, the number will fall to an alarming low of just 14 squadrons. But as things stand now, there is no immediate possibility of the fleet strength going up. The much talked about purchase of 126 Rafale Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) from France is still hanging fire following France’s dilly-dallying over delivery of warships to Russia as per contract under pressure from the US. The Ministry of Defence considers France to be an unreliable supplier.

Add to this the fact that the Union Finance Ministry has slashed the allocation for army modernization by Rs 5000 crore to reduce the fiscal deficit, adding to the worries of the defence forces because this means that the Defence Ministry will be left with that much less money for spending on defence purchases. As is well known, the modernization of the army is a continuous process based on a 15-year Long-Term Integrated Perspective Plan. This takes into account the security scenario fifteen years from now and makes preparations accordingly. Reduction of allocation in this critical sector will have far-reaching consequences.      

It is a paradox that over the years, as our security environment has turned more and more hostile, defence spending has been steadily reduced. In 1997-98, defence expenditure was 2.24 per cent of the GDP. In 2014-15 it has come down to a mere 1.79 per cent of the GDP. This hardly shows an awareness on the part of the country’s central leadership of the nature and dimensions of the external threat. It is time now to stop neglecting defence and reverse the trend.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

From Today's Papers - 28 Jan 2015

ITBP officer does Haryana proud, gets Shaurya Chakra
New Delhi, January 27
ITBP Inspector Manjeet Singh, who led his commandos in repulsing an audacious terrorist attack on the Indian Consulate in Afghanistan's Herat province last year, has been decorated with the Shaurya Chakra this Republic Day in recognition of his meticulous leadership.

Singh, who joined the paramilitary force in 2000, hails from Haryana's Sonepat and was inducted for heading the ITBP unit at Herat in April 2013. The 36-year-old Indo-Tibetan Border Police officer has become the lone recipient of this military medal among all paramilitary forces this January 26. There have been very few instances of paramilitary soldiers accorded this honour.

Surprisingly, the information of Singh being awarded with the third highest peacetime gallantry medal was not communicated to the border guarding force on the eve of Republic Day as per set norms and official message in this regard reached the force headquarters only today.

Singh was the contingent commander of the ITBP team which, in the wee hours of May 23, 2014 at the Indian Consulate in Herat, came under heavy gunfire and rocket propelled grenade shell attacks from terrorists. The officer, his citation said, displayed great valour and meticulous planning "steadfastness, dedication to duty and rare quality of leadership in the face of imminent danger.” — PTI
R-Day bonhomie: Armies meet at LAC
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 27
A ceremonial Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) _of Indian and Chinese delegations was held on Republic Day in the Chushul sector of eastern Ladakh.

The Indian delegation was led by Brigadier JKS Virk and the Chinese delegation was led by Senior Colonel Fanjun, said a Defence spokesperson.

The ceremonial meeting commenced with both delegations saluting the Tricolour. This was followed by the ceremonial address by both delegation leaders which consisted of greetings, best wishes and reflected the mutual desire for enhancing border defence cooperation, he said.

Then, a cultural programme showcasing the vibrant Indian culture and traditional grandeur was organised. Both the delegations interacted in a free, congenial and cordial environment.

The delegations parted amid a feeling of friendship and commitment towards enhancing the existing cordial relations and maintaining peace along the LAC, said the spokesperson.

Both sides also sought to build on the mutual feeling to uphold agreements and protocol signed between the governments of the two sides to maintain peace along the LAC, he added.
China refutes Obama’s remarks on S China Sea
Beijing, January 27
Refuting US President Barack Obama’s remarks on upholding freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea, China today asserted that there has never been a problem of navigation in the area and relevant issue should be resolved through talks by parties directly concerned.

“We believe relevant issue should be resolved through dialogue and consultation by parties directly concerned,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here today.

She was replying to question over Obama’s remarks in New Delhi today that US welcomes a greater role for India in the Asia Pacific, where the freedom of navigation must be upheld and disputes must be resolved peacefully.

“At present situation in South China Sea is generally stable and there is consensus between China and ASEAN countries that is we will jointly safeguard peace and stability of South China Sea and the situation in freedom of navigation and over-flights have not seen any problems and there will be none in the future,” she said.

Earlier in New Delhi, Obama said freedom of navigation must be upheld in the Asia Pacific and welcomed a greater role for India in the region. — PTI

US Prez wants to ‘split India’s ties’ with China

Beijing: Cautioning India about US President Barack Obama’s strategy to “split” India’s relations with both China and Russia, China’s official media and experts today warned that New Delhi’s close ties with Washington may pose problems for Sino-India relations. “Obama’s strategy is quite clear. He wants to split the relations between China and India, as well as India and Russia, in an effort to fulfill his strategy of a ‘re-balance’ in Asia,” state-run Global Times said. PTI

Beijing’s reaction
"We believe relevant issue should be resolved through consultation by parties directly concerned. At present the situation in South China Sea is stable. The situation in freedom of navigation and over-flights have not seen any problems and there will be none in the future"  A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson
Indo-US N-deal to impact stability in South Asia: Pak
Islamabad, January 27
Peeved at the breakthrough in the operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal, Pakistan today said the move for "political and economic expediencies" would have a "detrimental" impact on deterrence stability in South Asia.

Hours after US President Barack Obama concluded his unprecedented second visit to India, Pakistan Prime Minister's Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz opposed India's bid for membership to the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

"The operationalisation of Indo-US nuclear deal for political and economic expediencies would have a detrimental impact on deterrence stability in South Asia. Pakistan reserves the right to safeguard its national security interests," he said.

During his three-day visit, Obama held wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as both countries broke a seven-year logjam to operationalise a landmark civil nuclear deal, besides enhancing defence and trade ties.

Apart from clearing the obstacles for the implementation of the civil nuclear deal, President Obama reaffirmed the US' position that India is ready for NSG membership. — PTI
As nation honours Ashoka Chakra awardees, their widows show true grit
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27
Two women, both widows — one from Bangalore and the other from Bulandshahr in western Uttar Pradesh — stood out at the Republic Day Parade yesterday.

Solemn, sombre and stoic but separated by education levels and economic backgrounds, both exhibited pride and grace as they received the Ashoka Chakra — the highest peace-time gallantry award — which their husbands had been awarded for gallantry in Jammu and Kashmir. Their lives shattered, the two women Indu Mukund Vardarajan and Parmeshwari Devi have almost an identical narrative of their lives and now have the same priority – the future of their children. In their own separate ways, they bank on a time-tested support system of close-knit Army regiments.

The two literally ‘soldier’ on, carrying the memories of their husbands — Major Mukund Vardarajan of 44 Rashtriya Rifles (on deputation from 22 Rajput Regiment)_and Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh of 57 Rashtriya Rifles (on deputation from 13 Rajputana Rifles), respectively. “I don’t look at the phone anymore or wait for calls. You discover strength and determination that you never had,” says Indu on being asked how life has changed after the officer’s death on April 25 last year. “Priorities change. Your relations change. There is a gap that is not going to be filled any more. That is the truth,” says the brave woman, the daughter of a Kerala-based doctor.

She was married to the Major for four years and has a three-year-old daughter. “For now, I need her more than she needs me,” says Indu.

Major Varadarajan, along with his colleague Sepoy Vikram, had taken on terrorists up front. It was in the middle of electioneering for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The officer killed one terrorist, but was attacked by his accomplice. Although bleeding profusely, the officer crawled ahead, fired and killed the second terrorist.

“Being an Army wife, you don’t entertain such apprehensions (of adverse occurrences),” says Indu, who now teaches English at the Army Public School at Bangalore.
Her husband's unit rallied behind her. “It is easier to connect with Army wives rather than my best friend from college. They have really helped. Everybody reached out to me,” recollects Indu, who is yet to decide if she will join the Army or not.
For Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh's wife, life has changed in more ways than one. A housewife, Parmeshwari Devi, is ready to relocate closer to her husband's unit with the aim of educating here sons -- one aged eight and the other seven.
“Mere bete officer banege fauj mein (my sons will be officers in the Indian Army). They need education. We have no cantonment near Bulandshahr. The unit is very supportive like a family. I  will get every support there and will educate my kids,” she says. For the moment, she finds it hard to convince the two boys. “I tell them 'papa shaheed ho kaar duty karte hain Jammu Kashmir mein (your father is on duty after martyrdom)," she says.
The death has impacted her sons. “The younger one thinks his elder brother (who performed the last rites)  burnt their father and often fights with him,” she says with tears in her eyes.

Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh had left his home on August 11, after availing leave for his wife’s treatment. Less than two weeks later -- on August 24 --  he was leading a search operation in Kupwara.
Disregarding his personal safety,  Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh crawled and extricated his colleague. A terrorist threw grenades and opened heavy fire on him, but he inched closer to the terrorist and shot him dead.
Simultaneously, he was attacked by another terrorist, resulting in his rifle falling down. He was shot in the chest. Despite grievous injuries, he pounced on the terrorist, snatched his weapon and killed him in hand-to-hand combat.
Col among 4 killed in Pulwama encounter
Azhar Qadri

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 27
A recently decorated Colonel of the Indian Army, a policeman and two militants affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen were killed in an encounter at a village near Tral town in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district in the afternoon.
The gunfight broke out at Handoora village when security forces launched a counter-insurgency operation after receiving information about the presence of militants in the area, the sources said.

The militants, identified as Abid Khan and Sheeraz Ahmad Dar, were killed in the ensuing gunfight with the security forces, the sources said. “The two militants were hiding in the house (of Abid Khan) and they opened fire while trying to escape,” a police official said. Three security forces personnel, including an Army officer, were also injured in the gunfight. They were airlifted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital, the officials said. Colonel Munindra Nath Rai, Commanding Officer of 42 Rashtriya Rifles, and Head Constable Sanjeevan Singh of state police’s Special Operations Group, were critically wounded in the gunfight. Later, they succumbed to injuries, taking the total death toll to four.

Colonel Rai of 9 Gorkha Rifles, who was currently on deputation and leading the 42 Rashtriya Rifles battalion, had been awarded Yudh Seva Medal on this Republic Day, an army official said.

The other injured soldier of Rashtriya Rifles is being treated at Army’s 92 base hospital and is out of danger, the officials said. Two assault rifles and several grenades were recovered from the encounter site.

Khan was the son of a policeman and a resident of Handoora village where the gunfight took place. He had joined militancy nearly four years ago and was active in south Kashmir’s Awantipora-Pulwama belt. ar had joined the militant ranks last year. The Awantipora-Pulwama belt of south Kashmir has a significant presence of militants whose number has diminished across the region.

The security forces have conducted several successful counter-insurgency operations this month. Five militants were killed during a raid on a hideout in Shopian district.
Onus on govt, says BSF

Tribune News Service

Attari, January 27
The Director-General of the Border Security Force (BSF), DK Pathak, has put the onus of checking the drug menace in the state on the Punjab government, saying that synthetic drugs, not heroin, is the real problem.

Pathak was here at the conclusion of a three-day programme to mark the 66th Republic Day celebrations at the Attari-Wagah check post.

Talking to the media after the Retreat, he said: “As per a study conducted by the Community Medicine Department of Rajindra Medical College, Patiala, and Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, only 0.9 per cent of addiction was owing to heroin and the rest because of synthetic drugs produced in the country.”

He said the study was based on interviews of addicts in 10 government and private de-addiction centres at Patiala, Nawanshahr, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Kharar, Faridkot and Bathinda.

“Heroin, which is the only drug smuggled from across the border fence, accounts for only 0.9 per cent addiction,” he said.

Answering media queries, he said in the past two years, the BSF had made huge seizures of heroin because of stringent measures taken by the force. “The seizures, in fact, are much more than the collective seizures by other agencies,” he claimed.

On ceasefire violations, he said there had been 15 such instances in this month alone. The DG inaugurated a huge LED screen for tourists at the spectators’ gallery for a better view of the Retreat ceremony.

He also inaugurated battery-operated golf carts for senior citizens and the infirm for witnessing the Retreat.
In a Freak Accident, MiG-27 Fighter Jet Falls on Biker in Rajasthan
Barmer, Rajasthan:  A MiG-27 fighter jet crashed in Rajasthan's Barmer today and a part of it fell on a passing motorcycle, injuring the young man who was riding it.

26-year-old Loon Singh was on his way to a village to distribute invitations to his own wedding when the jet crashed a little after 3 pm. He miraculously suffered minor burns and a fractured hand, but his bike was completely burnt.

The Indian Air Force says the pilot ejected safely before the crash at a village four km from Barmer.

The MIG 27 was on a routine sortie from the Jodhpur air base to Uttarlai. The Air Force has ordered a court of inquiry into the incident.


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