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Sunday, 22 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 22 May 2011

16 killed in NATO fuel tanker blast in Pak
Landikotal (Pak), May 21 At least 16 persons were killed in northwest Pakistan today after a bomb attack claimed by a militant group hit a truck carrying fuel supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan, the latest attack in an upsurge in violence since Osama bin Laden was killed.  It took place near the Torkham border crossing in the Khyber region, the main route for moving supplies to NATO and American forces in Afghanistan. “The tanker was on fire because of a blast late in the night. There was another blast early in the morning in the same tanker and 16 persons who gathered near it to collect oil were killed,” a senior local administration official in Khyber said. Police officials said the first blast was caused by a bomb.  In another attack in the same region, a bomb struck 16 NATO fuel trucks late on Friday, setting them on fire. No one was hurt.  Abdullah Azzam Brigade, a militant group affiliated with Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for both attacks on the NATO trucks.  “It is our jihad against Americans. We want to stop supplies for NATO from our territory,” Abu Musa’ab, a spokesman for the group, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.  Residents of Landikotal stood looking at 15 wooden coffins holding the victims. Nearby a truck that was hit by the bomb was burned out and gutted. — Reuters

Air-to-air missile 'Astra' tested successfully off the Orissa coast   Read more at:
Balasore, Orissa:  India conducted a successful ballistic flight test of indigenously developed Astra - Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile - from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur today.  "The missile was test-fired around 1032 hrs and the trial was successful," Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources said.  The missile is envisaged to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds in the head-on mode at a range of 80 km and in tail-chase mode at 20 km.  "Before the sophisticated anti air-craft missile would be integrated with fighter aircraft like Su-30 MKI, MiG-29 and Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, it would undergo some rigorous and flawless tests both from ground and fighter jets," said a scientist associated with the project.   Read more at:
Astra, which uses solid propellant, can carry a conventional warhead of 15 kg. It is the smallest of the missiles developed by the DRDO in terms of size and weight.  It is 3.8-metre long and has a diameter of 178 mm with an overall launch weight of 160 kg. The missile could be launched from different altitudes  it can cover 110 km when launched from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when fired from an altitude of eight km and 21 km when the altitude is sea-level.  DRDO officials said it was more advanced than the similar class of missiles of the U.S., Russia and France.  The missiles captive flight tests from Su-30MKI were carried out near Pune in November 2009 when seven sorties were conducted.  Astras first flight trial took place on May 9, 2003 from the ITR at Chandipur

US troops embedded with Pak forces: WikiLeaks
Contrary to Pakistani military's persistent assertion that it will not allow foreign troops to operate within the country, US special forces were embedded with Pakistani troops for intelligence gathering and were also deployed on joint operations in their territory, according to secret US diplomatic cables.  The cables released by WikiLeaks said that US special operations forces were embedded with Pakistani troops for intelligence gathering by the summer of 2009 and deployed with them on joint operations in Pakistani territory by September the same year.
The issue has gained heightened sensitivity in the wake of the US raid against Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.  The revelations go against the Pakistani military's claim that it will not allow foreign troops to operate within the country for operations to flush out the Taliban and other militant elements.  "We have created Intelligence Fusion cells with embedded US Special Forces with both SSG and Frontier Corps (Bala Hisar, Peshawar) with the Rover equipment ready to deploy," then US Ambassador Anne Patterson was quoted by Dawn newspaper as saying in a cable to the State Department in May 2009.  "Through these embeds, we are assisting the Pakistanis collect and coordinate existing intelligence assets," she said.  At the time, Patterson noted that the US had "not been given Pakistani military permission to accompany the Pakistani forces on deployments as yet."  By September, plans for joint intelligence activities had been expanded to include army headquarters.  "Pakistan has begun to accept intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support from the US military for (counter-insurgency) operations," Patterson wrote.  "In addition, Intelligence fusion centers" had been established "at the headquarters of Frontier Corps and the 11th Corps and we expect at additional sites, including GHQ and the 12th Corps in Balochistan", she said.  In April 2009, the cell at Bala Hisar assisted the Pakistan military operation then taking place in Lower Dir district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.  "US Special Operations Command Force are assisting the FC at the Intelligence Fusion Cell at FC Headquarters with imagery, target packages, and operational planning," a cable from that month said.  A number of leaked cables reveal that the US was eager to embed American troops with Pakistanis soldiers.  "On a brighter note, there is the possibility that operations in the northern FATA may provide additional opportunities to embed US Special Operations Forces with FC units to provide ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) support and general operational guidance," Patterson wrote in a November 2009 cable.

Antony opens modernisation project at GSL
VASCO: Defence minister A K Antony on Saturday commissioned the 1st and 2nd phases of infrastructural modernisation project of Goa shipyard limited (GSL) and the state-of-the-art " Shiplift System" considered the first of its kind in defence shipbuilding yards in India.  This has enhanced GSL's infrastructure by two repair berths, transfer area, shiplift piers in addition to the shiplift facility. GSL can now pride itself as India's first defence shipyard to be equipped with a modern shiplift facility for launching and docking of ships.  Antony also laid the foundation stone for the 3{+r}{+d} and 4{+t}{+h} phases of the modernisation project, while his wife Elizabeth Antony launched a 105-metre naval offshore patrol vessel "INS Sumedha" meant for ocean surveillance and surface warfare operations.  The naval offshore patrol vessel is the third in the series of four such vessels being indigenously designed and constructed by GSL for the Indian Navy.  According to a GSL press release, the vessel will be deployed for monitoring sea lines of communication, defence of offshore oil installations and other important offshore national assets. Besides, the vessel can be deployed for escorting high value ships and fleet support operations. Sporting a flight deck, the vessel supports embarkation and operation of a multi-role helicopter.  The foundation stone for the 1st and 2nd phases of GSL's modernization project was laid by A K Antony on January 21, 2009.  The modernization plan at a cost of ` 800 crore is essentially transforming the shipyard to be ready for cutting-edge technology warships. Once the modernisation programme is fully completed, it will result in substantial augmentation of GSL's capacity to fabricate and construct steel, aluminum and GRP hull vessels to nearly three times the present yard capacity.

Non-papers exchanged on Sir Creek issue
ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan on Saturday sought to take “discussions forward” on the vexed Sir Creek issue by exchanging ‘non-papers' and agreeing to meet again at a mutually convenient date. Non-papers are negotiating texts informally exchanged by countries to facilitate discussion without making any commitment to the content.  Ahead of wrapping up their two-day meeting in Rawalpindi, the official delegations discussed the India-Pakistan land boundary in the Sir Creek area and delimitation of the International Maritime Boundary between the two countries.  The Indian delegation was led by Surveyor General of India Swarna Subba Rao and the Pakistani delegation by the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Shah Sohail Masood. The Indian delegation also met Pakistani Defence Secretary Syed Athar Ali, according to a joint statement issued simultaneously by the Pakistan Foreign Office and the Indian High Commission here.  Considered among the most “doable” of the contentious issues between the two countries, the last meeting on Sir Creek, in May 2007, had seen the two countries discuss the delimitation of the maritime boundary as well as the delineation of the boundary in Sir Creek in the light of the results of a joint survey conducted earlier that year. Maps and charts, which showed respective positions on the twin issues, had been exchanged.  The joint survey of Sir Creek — a 96-km strip of water in the Rann of Kutch marshlands — was conducted from mid-January, 2007, as per an understanding reached between the two sides in May, 2006, to undertake an exercise that would verify the outermost points of the coastlines of both countries with regard to the equidistance method.  Having triggered the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the disputed marshland, which separates Pakistan's Sindh province from Gujarat on the Indian side, has been the bane of the fishermen of both countries as they are often caught straying into contested waters, ending up in long prison stints that are further stretched if there is a freeze in bilateral relations.  While neither side was willing to elaborate beyond the joint statement, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua maintained the broad understanding that neither side would cross words on ticklish issues in public since the second Thimphu thaw set in this February.  ‘It is an Indian list'  Asked to comment on the controversy over the Indian list of ‘50 most wanted terrorists', which New Delhi handed over to Islamabad only to discover later that at least two of them were in India, Ms. Janjua refused to be provoked into a sharp response. “It's an Indian list. The Indians can put any name they want on it. It is for them to decide whom to put on the list. As far as we are concerned, we will consider any such issue raised with us with great seriousness.”

Growing China-Pak ties worry India
NEW DELHI: India views with ‘serious concern’ growing defence ties between China and Pakistan and says it will have to bolster its own military capabilities to meet the challenge.  “It is a matter of serious concern for us. The main thing is we have to increase our capability — that is the only answer,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters here on Friday night.  The comments followed reports that China planned to accelerate supply of 50 new JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat jets to Pakistan under a co-production pact.  Mr Antony alleged that safe havens for militants in Pakistan was another ‘main concern’ for New Delhi and asked Islamabad to ‘disband and destroy’ all guerilla outfits if it sincerely wanted to improve relations with India.  Mr Antony declined to comment on remarks by senior Indian military leaders that India had the capability to launch a strike like the one the US carried out in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that India will not undertake such a strike.  But a leaked diplomatic cable published earlier in the week quoted India’s home minister as saying in 2009 that India would have to respond to another attack on its soil by Pakistan-based militants.—AFP

Indian military team to go to China to restore defence cooperation
After a break of one year, India is set to restore full defence cooperation with China, with a visit by a high-level military delegation there next month.  The decision to resume defence cooperation with China was arrived at during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing in April this year.  "The delegation would be led by a Major General rank officer from Northern Command. The issues to be discussed are being finalised," army officials said.  They further added that Maj Gen Gurmeet Singh, general officer commanding (GOC) of Delta Force, would lead the delegation. His name has been cleared by Beijing.  Delta Force takes care of militancy-infested areas of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban in Jammu & Kashmir.  As part of the renewed defence cooperation, a series of interactions are being planned between the defence forces of two nations.  During Singh's visit, the two countries also agreed on visits by senior political leaders, holding of strategic economic dialogue, official consultations and people-to-people contacts.  The decision to send a military delegation to China marks an end to the freeze on high-level defence exchanges by India after the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen BS Jaswal was denied a proper visa in July last year for travel to Beijing because he served in Jammu & Kashmir.  India called off defence exchanges last year after China refused visa to Gen Jaswal on the ground that he headed troops in Jammu & Kashmir.  China apparently started issuing stapled visas to residents of J&K since 2008 on the ground that it is a "disputed" territory for which India raised vociferous objections.

India successfully test fires Astra interceptor missile again in Orissa
BALASORE (ORISSA): For the second time in two days, India today successfully test fired indigenously developed air-to-air Astra interceptor missile with an 80 km range from Chandipur in Orissa.  Developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air missile was test-fired yesterday also to study the modifications incorporated in its main frame and flight systems.  "The missile was test-fired around 1032 hrs from the Integrated Test Range and the trial was successful," Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources said.  The missile is envisaged to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds in the head-on mode at a range of 80 km and in tail-chase mode at 20 km.  "The missile is on developmental stage and we are yet to check all of its performance parameters before conducting the user trials. More such tests are scheduled to take place. Necessary modifications are made after every test ," DRDO officials said in Delhi.  Every time a development test-fire takes place the missile is checked against few pre-decided coordinates and parameters which helps in improving its performance. The results are further evaluated to make it perfect, the officials added.  Yesterday, the missile was test-fired at around 0950 hours, to gauge performance of its motor, propulsion system and the configurations of the vehicle and aero-dynamics performance.  "The complete evaluation of all the parameters and coordinates may take some time as few more tests are expected," said the officials.  Following a series of successful tests, the missile would be user-tested to suit the requirement of air-dominance fighter jets like Su-30 MKI, MiG-29 and Light Combat Aircraft Tejas in the inventory of Indian Air Force ( IAF )).  Based on solid propellant, Astra can carry a conventional warhead of 15 kg. It is one of the smallest missiles developed by the DRDO in terms of size and weight.  It is 3.8-metre long and has a diameter of 178 mm with an overall launch weight of 160 kg.  With its state-of-art technology, the missile's reach in air can be extended when it is fired from different altitudeS.  It can cover 110 km when launched from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when fired from an altitude of eight km and 21 km when the altitude is at sea-level.  DRDO officials said it is more advanced than the similar class of missiles of the US , Russia and France.  The missile's captive flight tests from Su-30 MKI were carried out near Pune in November 2009 when seven sorties were conducted.  "Before the sophisticated anti air-craft missile would be integrated with fighter aircraft like Su-30 MKI, MiG-29 and Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, it would undergo some rigorous and flawless tests both from ground and fighter jets," said a scientist associated with the project.

Internal discourse in the army —Brigadier Mehboob Qadir
No one bothered to pause and consider that Pakistan neither had the political, economic nor technological depth for its Afghanistan venture. The result has been a massive muddle in Afghanistan and a thoroughly ravaged Pakistan  Raymond Davis and the Abbottabad raid may be hideous Siamese twins but perhaps they were overdue; not for the horrible way they killed but the way they demolished our self-esteem in a matter of three plus 40 minutes both put together. Our official reaction has been at best halting and less than resolute.  This was so because, for a long time, we have adopted a posture of bluff and bluster, overblowing our offensive and defensive capabilities, a mix of actual and virtual nuclear weapons and missile programmes and the claim of a superior and hard hitting air force. Fortunately, the Navy has not added to this chorus. That is a small comfort as our seashores have also become vulnerable in many ways. Into this general environment of tentativeness, picture our fledgling national leadership that has yet to get a grip on governance, foreign policy and the articulation of national power.  The mother root of this ongoing malaise has mainly been twofold. One, the total absence of a comprehensive national vision, followed by repeated attempts by the army (military takeovers) to monopolise state power and foreign policy. The result is a barren political landscape and tragic loss of national direction.  National vision and the question of ensuing national direction is a function of an energetic national leadership that is thrown up only by the votes of the people. Until then, what needs to be done is to free it from the so-called vigil of the military and reorient the armed forces towards their primary task, which is to defend the country’s geographical frontiers.  The Pakistan Army showed remarkable grit, determination and commitment in eliminating militants from Swat/Malakand and South Waziristan. It also performed commendably during natural disasters. Civic duties notwithstanding, military takeovers have invariably been the most devastating and regressive in their consequences for the country. Our dismal national state of affairs is a result of recurring military rule and intervening wobbly civil administrations that kept looking over their shoulders towards the GHQ.  The military is not a hermetically sealed alien, unaffected by what afflicts the country. The bleak national canvas has affected the minds of the rank and file imperceptibly. Their compelling and sharpened sense of threat to the country is baffled at their collective inability to fully deflect the same despite nuclear capability. This has given birth to a great informal internal discourse within the military and the hum appears to have increased considerably after the defining Abbottabad raid. A strategic opportunity seems to have arisen out of the debris of the Blackhawk in Abbottabad for objective military introspection and corrective action.  There are four major notions that, in my assessment, need to be addressed and rationalised if we are looking forward to a professional and hard hitting military in Pakistan.  First comes the clarity and the will to submit to the parameters of the opportunities and limitations that are outlined by the constitution for the armed forces. The army has had its forays into and out of the constitution a number of times. Each time, both have ended up badly bruised and messier than before. The result had been a serious dysfunction in the political, administrative and social architecture of the country. The entire national construct is leaning awkwardly and quite perilously over the military. The national centre of gravity has shifted into the armed forces, which is an extremely narrow and delicately poised base. The army has become the custodian of patriotism, ideology and security of Pakistan. It has also come to be the arbiter of its political dispensation and strategic direction of foreign policy. The armed forces must debate themselves out of this minefield under their own well-considered determination.  Second comes the Pakistan military’s professionalism, which was seriously jeopardised by the expedient induction of jihadist notions and overplayed religious zealotry into its training handbooks. Both these notions are the strengths of a Muslim army but not at the cost of professionalism and battlefield realism. This political expediency of military rulers to manufacture legitimacy among their ‘home constituency’ soon transformed into an art form in the hands of incompetent commanders. This helped them create false bravado and a sense of divine invincibility. The result has been successive military debacles when pitched against a determined and well-trained adversary. This flawed courtship with faith produced bitter fruits of its own. While it began to embed emotional Islam into military culture at the cost of hard professionalism, it also exposed the rank and file to various shades and influences of militant dogmas. On the other hand, this patronage of violent religious streams not only caused public proliferation of jihadi and sectarian militancy but also severely polarised society on sectarian and communal lines. No good can ever come out of this nest of hornets. It is even more necessary now than ever before to regain a truly national and professional character of the military.  Third is the ever-present bogey of so-called ‘strategic depth’ that was so imprudently floated in the late 1980s. The timing was simply inopportune as Pakistan was fast sliding off the international process of shaping the future of Afghanistan post-Soviet withdrawal. In hindsight, it appears the faulty hypothesis was perhaps a smokescreen for continued leverage in affairs beyond our western borders. No one bothered to pause and consider that Pakistan neither had the political, economic nor technological depth for such a venture. The result has been a massive muddle in Afghanistan and a thoroughly ravaged Pakistan. The other downside of this wild shot has been the label of regional manipulation slapped on Pakistan’s back. This disabling constraint invariably stumps us from playing a genuine role in helping stabilise that unfortunate country. The debilitating notion of strategic depth and the destructive urge to unilaterally shape the regional environment must be ejected out of military calculations.  Fourth is that the military threat from India has been the central theme of all defensive formulations in Pakistan. What started off as preparation to meet possible Indian aggression gradually transformed into an existential, ideological and holy struggle to defeat an enemy who was disproportionately stronger. This escalating romance with war is full of military pitfalls and capability gaps. More dangerously, it seems to factor into strategic calculus dicey faith-based resilience. Performance in war is a reflection of hard training, appropriate weaponry and capable leadership; not romantic notions or far-fetched fancies. Military history shows that fancies have never been the currency for victory. Thus, a review of the possible operational environment ipso facto calls for a dispassionate and realistic reassessment of the threat India poses to Pakistan’s territorial space and what should be done to deter the same to preserve our freedom. A need emerges to clearly visualise the parameters of defence of our country, our resources and options and how we want to engage ourselves with the region and globally, and then sit down to painstakingly chisel a doable military strategy. Fanciful notions of wide and deep strategic sweeps, spectacular conquests and invincibility are misleading and must be shunned. We need to know what we can really achieve and how best to do that.  This is easier said than done. A selective mindset exists that looks for arguments to support such military sentiments. It requires razor sharp intellect and military leadership of a superior kind that can bring about such a dramatic change in the military’s worldview and, more importantly, view of itself. For Pakistan to realise its proper potential and engage with other nations in a constructive and helpful manner, it is necessary that we encourage the signs of a paradigm change within the thinking of the military as a major prelude to evolving a new national paradigm.  The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at

IAF team conquers Mt Everest
A 27-year-old officer became the first woman from the Indian Air Force to conquer Mt Everest on Saturday as more of her peers from the 14-member expedition bided their time to set foot on the highest peak in the world. Flt Lt Nivedita Chaudhary from Rajasthan became the first member of the Indian Ai r Force Mt Everest Expedition 2011 to stand on the top of the world around 8.50am, followed by a second member of the team, Corporal Raju Sindhu, 26, from Haryana.  An exultant Chaudhary, who almost wept in joy, said she was stunned by the magnificent view from the top and that she was overjoyed.  Chaudhary, a navigator with the IAF, is currently posted in Agra.  The expedition, headed by Group Captain Narendra Kumar Dahiya, had trained on the snowy slopes of Siachen glacier for the arduous ascent. The team includes eight women.  This is the second IAF expedition to Mt Everest after the first one in 2005 via Tibet. The joy of summiting in 2005 was diminished by the death of Squadron Leader SS Chaitanya, who became separated from his Sherpa guide and lost his way while descending due to a snow storm and perished.  Women from the country's defence forces also made their mark on Mt Everest the same year, putting four climbers from the Indian Army on the 8,848-metre summit in an expedition led by Major SS Shekhawat.

OFB-DRDO offer Milap carbine to Army
NAGPUR: The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is once again set to woo the Indian Army with its new carbine, a weapon that has left a trail of controversy in recent years. The Army is looking for a new version of carbine for a couple of years but things have not really moved.  After an earlier plan to make a carbine in association with a global firm M/s Singapore Technologies went haywire following an alleged corruption scandal, OFB has now tied up with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to produce the weapon. Named Milap, for the joint venture, the OFB-DRDO carbine is expected to be shortly presented to the Army for trials.  The cost of making Milap is estimated to be Rs 50,000, which is half of what it was envisaged with Singapore Technologies. Carbine is an automatic weapon generally used for close quarter battle.  Around 20 prototypes of Milap would be ready in a month's time and presented to the Army. The bulk production would depend on approval and indent by the user, said Director General of OFB D M Gupta. He was in the city to attend a high-level meeting to decide on future strategy held at the National Academy of Defence Production (NADP).  The carbine to be made in association with Singapore Technologies was estimated to have cost Rs 1.10 lakh apiece, said a source. However, an alleged scandal related to the deal led to the arrest of the then DG OFB Sudipto Gosh a couple of years ago and the firm being blacklisted.  Earlier, the OFB had developed a 5.56 mm carbine Amogh. However, it did not get the acceptability among forces. The weapon was offered to both Army as well as the central paramilitary forces. However, both did not show much interest in it, said a source.  Sources said Milap would have a better range and accuracy compared to the existing one used by the forces. The prototypes will be made at the Small Arms Factory, Kanpur. Once the order is received, manufacturing will take place at a new factory coming up at Korba in Chhattisgarh. Even if Milap is does not clear the user trials by the Army, the one approved will be made at Korba.  After the Singapore Technologies deal was set aside, the Army once again began scouting for vendors for a carbine and had issued a request for information. The process started afresh and OFB-DRDO is one of the contenders. There are chances that the Army may go in for a foreign weapon too.

Car sporting four stars, beacon at Attari border a private one
AMRITSAR: A car flashing red beacon tried to cross over the zero line into Pakistan at Attari on the international border on Thursday. It was, however, intercepted by the Border Security Force (BSF).  The car was a privately owned Honda City even though it had a beacon and four stars above its registration plate.  Suresh Sharma, a senior sector officer of Ferozepur railway division was in the car. He was on his way to pick up Pakistan's railway minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour. He managed to dodge the security until BSF intercepted it at the international border gate. The car belongs to Satpal, a vehicle contractor with the Indian Army. He and and Sharma were charged under sections 484 IPC for counterfeiting a sign used by a public servant, Section 179 IPC for refusing to answer a public servant authorized to question, and Section 177 IPC for furnishing false information. They were later released on bail though the police has confiscated the car.  Satpal said the four-star plate had been used for former Army chief Deepak Kapur's visit on May 7. "The plate though had been covered and the beacon was removed while Kapur was traveling in it," said Gharinda police station in charge Shivdarshan.  General (retd) Kapur was on a personal visit and the Army did not provide him a vehicle, said defence spokesperson Naresh Vig. Retired generals are not entitled to star-tagged vehicles. Only a field marshal, who is a five-star general and never retires, can use such a vehicle, Vig said.  Attempts to contact Ferozpur divisional railway manager Vishwas Chobey proved to be futile. Assistant railway manager G P Singh said an assistant mechanical engineer had booked the vehicle.  SSP Amritsar (rural) Gurmeet Singh Chauhan said putting up a red beacon was a non-cognizable offence. In their complaint, the customs department had mentioned that they had checked the vehicle and nothing incriminating was found from the occupants.  While admitting there was a security breach, customs commissioner Ranjit Singh said, "Since there is lot of truck movement, the car could have been overlooked."

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