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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 07 Sep 2011






India, B’desh settle boundary dispute Neighbours sign nine more pacts, but no agreement on sharing of Teesta waters

Ashok Tuteja/TNS  Dhaka, September 6 India and Bangladesh today signed a slew of agreements and resolved their long-standing boundary dispute, but failed to ink any water-sharing deal.  Upset at India backing out of the Teesta water-sharing treaty at the eleventh hour, following West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to endorse the accord, Bangladesh retaliated by holding back the big-ticket transit treaty that would have given the North-Eastern states in India easier and faster access to the rest of the country.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who arrived here on a two-day visit earlier on Tuesday, sought to calm down tempers in Bangladesh over the Teesta controversy by telling Sheikh Hasina that the two sides would continue discussions on water-sharing accords to reach a mutually acceptable, fair and amicable arrangement for the sharing of Teesta and Feni river waters.  “Our common rivers need not be sources of discord, but can become harbingers of prosperity to both our countries,” he said. The PM also announced that India would provide duty-free access to 46 textile “tariff lines” as requested by Bangladesh.  He said the two countries would also improve border infrastructure that would facilitate Bangladesh’s exports to India and provide it greater opening to India and other neighbouring countries. India would supply bulk power to Bangladesh by connecting its national grids.  The outstanding issues addressed in the boundary accord include: un-demarcated land boundary in three sectors viz Daikhata-56 (West Bengal), Muhuri River-Belonia (Tripura) and Dumabari (Assam); (ii) enclaves; and (iii) adverse possessions. The un-demarcated boundary in all three segments has now been demarcated. The status of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh with a population of 37,334 and 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India with a population of 14,215 has been addressed. The issue of Adversely Possessed Lands along the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam has also been mutually finalised.  “We have signed a protocol to the land boundary agreement of 1974. With this, both our countries have now demarcated the entire land boundary as well as resolved the status of enclaves and adversely possessed land,” Singh told the media after the agreement-signing ceremony.  India’s decision not to sign the Teesta accord is understood to have figured prominently during the 90-minute talks between the two sides, including the one-on-one meeting between the two PMs.     Common Accords      Agreement on development programmes     MoU on renewable energy     Pact on overland transit traffic between Nepal and Bangladesh     MoU on conservation of Sundarban     Protocol on conservation of Royal Bengal Tiger     Cooperation between Dhaka University and JNU, Delhi     Understanding on promoting fisheries     Cooperation between Doordarshan and Bangladesh TV     MoU between NIFT, New Delhi, and the BGMEA Institute of Fashion Technology, Bangladesh


MiG-21 crashes near Rajpura, pilot safe

Umesh Dewan & Aman Sood Tribune News Service  Shambhu (Rajpura/Patiala), September 6 In a miraculous escape, a young Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot sustained minor injuries after a MiG-21 combat aircraft crashed into a farm land, almost 100 metres away from Shambhu toll barrier, Rajpura, today morning.  The pilot who sustained injuries has been identified as Flight Lieutenant Aurnab Ghosh. The mishap took place at least 30 km away from densely populated city areas, and thus, no loss of life or property is reported. According to information, the aircraft pilot was in touch with the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and it was just seconds before the crash that Ghosh ejected himself from the aircraft.  A visit to the site revealed that crops spread across half an acre of the farm land were destroyed owing to the crash. According to reports, the crash took place around 10.47 am and there was no loss of life. At the time of filing of this report, black box was yet to be recovered. According to reports, on account of a routine training sortie, Ghosh took off in the MiG-21 Bison, bearing number CV/2189, from the Ambala air force base today morning.  “At about 10.47 am, the aircraft crashed into farms near National Highway number 1, Rajpura. The impact of the collision was such that the wreckage of the aircraft created a deep crater,” said an eyewitness. Residents of villages situated near the site of the mishap said the impact of the collision was massive and the sound of a blast was heard in several nearby villages.  Following the mishap, police officers, along with IAF officials, reached the site and cordoned off the area. SP Rajpura Manmohan Sharma said the aircraft crashed into agricultural fields and there was no loss of life and property, though there was some damage to crops. “We are in touch with IAF officials. They are looking for the black box to ascertain the reasons behind the crash,” he said.  Meanwhile, speaking to TNS, Iqbal Singh, resident of a nearby village, who was present at the spot when the mishap took place, said he heard a loud sound and spotted an aircraft heading towards the fields. “I sighted a parachute heading downwards. The pilot got entangled in electricity wires and I helped him touch base. In no time, the aircraft hit the ground and caught fire,” he added.  PROBE ORDERED  Senior IAF officials went to the spot to carry out investigation. "We cannot disclose to you the nature of the accident but the pilot is safe and recuperating at IAF Hospital, Ambala. The air force has ordered a court of inquiry into the incident," said an IAF spokesperson, speaking to The Tribune.


Ball of fire scares villagers

Aman Sood Tribune News Service  Shambhu (Rajpura), September 6 “The clouds opened and poured fire instead of rain,” explained a terrified car driver, an eyewitness to the MiG crash that left a deep crater in this sleepy village near Rajpura. It was a cloudy Tuesday morning when an unusual sound from the skies jolted the villagers out of their slumber. They ran out of their homes and were horrified to see the smouldering aircraft wreckage strewn in the fields.  Iqbal Singh of Baprour village was on a morning walk when he saw a huge ball of fire hurtling towards a nearby field with speed.  “Before I could react, there was a deafening blast and I ducked behind the standing paddy crop in fear, wondering if it was an attack from the aliens,” he said. “The aircraft was reduced into ashes within seconds,” he recalled. Another witness Mohinder Singh said he was sipping tea when he saw “the clouds spit fire.”  Hundreds of villagers and anxious residents of Rajpura, who heard the thunderous sound, rushed to the accident site. A nearby teacher Prem Chand said the first thought that crossed his mind was if the pilot had escaped unharmed. “It is hard to forget his terrified face,” he claimed. He said not once did he think about the loss to his standing crop.  With the police and the IAF cordoning the crash site, the villagers watched the burning wreckage from a distance. Among them were two young boys. “My uncle was in the Indian Air Force. He never flew a plane as he was part of the ground staff.  “But I will surely fly an aircraft one day... Such incidents cannot dampen my spirit,” said one of them, sounding rather mature for his age.


China made investment in cultivating ISI: Rao

Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, September 6 This is one opinion that former Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao would not want India’s long-standing military ally, Russia, to know. The latest tranche of cables on WikiLeaks says that in Rao’s opinion Russia was a subordinate partner in its relationship with China.  However, Rao also suggested that the US and India must engage Russia as it was needed to send a signal to Beijing. She also told the US that China had made “significant investment cultivating the ISI” and even had an agreement with an Islamist political party in Pakistan.  The cable cites a meeting between Rao and US Undersecretary William J Burns on regional issues and commented it was “role-reversal” between Russia and China.  It says “Rao noted that China had leveraged its demand for Russian energy to become the dominant partner in the relationship with Moscow, a role reversal relished by Beijing”. (For years, Russia has been the bigger partner in the game with China dependent on it for equipment).  Within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (a group of countries that are neighbours of China), Rao noted that both Russia and China effectively ran the organisation and had the last word, though China set the tone. “Rao thought that there was room for the US and India to engage Russia further on China and send signals to Beijing,” Burns noted.  As per the cable, in Rao’s opinion, Russia had built quite a stable relationship with Beijing, thanks to the disappearance of most territorial disputes after the breakup of the Soviet Union and Russia’s subsequent concessions.  Rao blamed China as it cited Pakistan at the meeting with William Burns saying “India had no illusions with respect to China’s role in Pakistan”. “China had made a significant investment cultivating the ISI and Pakistani army and that it was not inclined to give up,” the cable quotes Rao. At the same time, she asserted that China was reaching out to Islamic organisations in Pakistan, and cited a recent agreement concluded between the International Relations Department of the PRC Communist Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami opposition party in Pakistan. Summing up, Rao noted that China was no longer confining its activism to the Tibetan plateau, which represented a “game changing” development for Indian policymakers.


Army chief on three-day visit to Mongolia

NEW DELHI: Army chief General V K Singh on Tuesday left for Mongolia on a three-day trip to boost bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries.  The trip of Gen Singh, who will interact with the top civil and military leadership of Mongolia, comes soon after President Prathiba Patil visited the country as part of the policy to bolster ties with countries in India's "strategic neighbourhood".  "Gen Singh's trip underlines India's desire to build trust, further people-to-people contacts and defence cooperation with Mongolia, as it celebrates 100 years of Mongolian liberation and 90 years of formation of the Mongolian armed forces," said an official.  "India and Mongolia already have an established military cooperation, which includes the conduct of joint exercises and training of Mongolian forces in Indian military establishments. A joint working group at the defence ministry level was also established in 2006, the fourth meeting of which was held last May," he added.


Indian MoD comments various defence and security issues

14:05 GMT, September 6, 2011 According to the Indian Press Information Bureau, the following information was given 10 August by the Indian Minister of Defence, Shri AK Antony, and the Minister of State for Defence, Shri MM Pallam Raju, in written replies to members of the Parliament of India:

WORLD NAVY SUMMIT  India did not participate in the World Navy Summit organized in Dijibouti. India is already a member of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), an international cooperation mechanism among the states, regional and international organizations for combating piracy off the coast of Somalia and which informs United Nations Security Council (UNSC) of the progress of its activities on a regular basis. Indian Navy is also cooperating with other Navies in countering piracy in Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea through Shared Awareness and Deconfliction Mechanism (SHADE) etc.

AIRCRAFT FOR VVIP TRAVEL  During the last three years, from September 2008 to July 2011, Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers have travelled by IAF aircraft on 1315 occasions.  As per existing instructions Prime Minister is entitled to use IAF aircrafts for non-official purposes. During the last three years from 1.10.2008 to 31.7.2011, the IAF aircraft has been utilised on 84 occasions for non-official use by Prime Minister. All bills upto 2010-11 have been paid. For the current financial year, bills amounting to Rs.2,78,705/- are under process.

SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF IMPORT FROM CHINA  Government has taken cognizance of security implications of the import of electronic components from China especially while manufacturing encryption products. M/s Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL), a Defence Public Sector Undertaking, which is a manufacturer of strategic defence electronic systems has been advised to ensure that components of encryption products manufactured by BEL are not imported from China.

DEFENCE FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT  Defence cooperation agreements/Molls have been signed with Colombia, Namibia, Sweden, Vietnam, Russia, Republic of Korea, Ecuador and Mongolia in the last three years. The details of joint training exercises conducted with other countries in the last three years are as given below. No training exercise was conducted with New Zealand during this period.  Joint Exercise held with foreign countries during last three years: • 2008: 24 • 2009: 24 • 2010: 24 • 2011 (up to July 2011): 8

IMPLICATIONS OF CHINESE DOMINANCE IN THE INDIAN OCEAN  The China Ocean Mineral Resources and Development Association (COMRA) has filed its application with the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) for Deep Sea Mining Exploration License for approval of plan of work for exploration of polymetallic sulphites in the South West Indian Ocean Ridge. The application has been approved by the International Seabed Authority in July 2011.  The Government keeps a constant watch on all developments concerning on national security and commercial interests and takes all necessary measures to safeguard them in accordance with the prevailing security situation and strategic considerations.

AGEING EQUIPMENT OF FORCES  Replacement of ageing and obsolete arms and equipment is part of modernization of the Armed Forces which is a continuous process based on threat perception, operational challenges, technological changes and available resources. The process is based on a 15 year Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), five year Services Capital Acquisition Plan (SCAP) and Annual Acquisition Plan (AAP). Procurement of required equipment and weapon systems is carried out as per the AAP in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure. This is a continuous process undertaken for the modernization of the / Armed Forces to keep them in a state of readiness to meet any eventuality.  Delays occur sometimes due to unavoidable circumstances. There are contractual provisions for penalties including imposition of liquidated damages for delay in execution of contracts. To counter systemic and institutional delays, procedures are continuously refined on the basis of experience gained during the procurement process.  The Defence Procurement Procedure contains stringent provisions aimed at ensuring the highest degree of probity, public accountability and transparency. The Procedure includes provision for signing Pre-Contract Integrity Pact in procurement cases of the estimated value exceeding Rs.100 crore as well as provisions prohibiting engagement of agents or use of undue influence. In order to promote transparency, the issue of Request for Information (RFI) has been made mandatory to provide advance information and encourage a wider vendor base. As and when any irregularity comes to notice, appropriate action is taken as per rules.  With a view to achieve greater self-reliance in Defence production, Government has announced a Defence Production Policy in January, 2011. Besides, the Government has included a new categorization 'Buy & Make (Indian)' in the Defence Procurement Procedure in November, 2009 to encourage indigenous production in the country. In foreign procurement cases, Transfer of Technology is sought, wherever required.

COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS OF AIRCRAFT  The aircraft being procured from the United States of America are equipped with all vital communication equipment required by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The only difference in the configuration of airborne communication equipment in the aircraft delivered to the IAF is in respect of certain standardized encryptions. This had been taken into account while finalizing the procurement.  There is no impact on the safety of the aircraft.

FORCE LEVEL OF COAST GUARD  There are 73 Surface Platforms and 52 Aircraft including Helicopters in Indian Coast Guard located at various units across the country. Further, procurement of necessary equipment including Vessels and Aircraft is an ongoing process. The Coast Guard has been adequately equipped to carry out the role assigned to it by the Government.  Modernisation of Coast Guard Units including assets and equipments is an ongoing process based on requirement for which adequate funds are provided. Budgetary allocations under Capital Head for the financial years 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 were Rs.516.82 crores, 834.31 crores and 1101.00 crores respectively. During the last three years, a total of 15 Ships/Boats and 7 Aircrafts including Helicopters have been inducted into service.

MONITORING OF VEHICLE MAINTENANCE  There has been one instance of overpayment of USD 195,940 in respect of maintenance contract of unmanned aerial vehicles which was refunded by the company. Procedures have been put in place for effective monitoring of contracts including provision of an asset review meeting for carrying out period review of assets under maintenance in all such contracts.

MILITARY INFRASTRUCTURE ON BORDER  China disputes the International Boundary between India and China. There is no commonly delineated Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries. Both sides patrol up to their respective perceptions of LAC. From time to time, on account of differences in the perception of LAC, situations have arisen on the ground that could have been avoided if we had a common perception of LAC. The number of such intrusions in the last three years have generally been as per established pattern.  Government is aware that China is undertaking infrastructure projects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). We have conveyed our concerns to China about their activities in PoK and asked them to cease such activities. China has also been carrying out rapid infrastructural development in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and in areas along the India-China border. It is carrying out construction of strategic roads, railway lines and airfields close to the LAC, which has improved its military capability.  Government is seized of the security imperatives of the country as well as the need for developing requisite infrastructure in the border areas. Necessary steps, as required, have been initiated for ensuring that national security concerns are adequately addressed through development of infrastructure, including rail, roads and forward air fields, as well as operational capabilities of the Armed forces to secure the desired national security objectives.

T-72 TANKS  The T-72 Tank fleet is fully operational in the Indian Army. Out of the total holding of the tanks, a part of it is already equipped with high end technology night vision device. Further, the process of upgrading the night fighting capabilities with the state-of-the-art thermal imaging is an ongoing process.

DEALS WITH BLACKLISTED FIRMS  CBI had registered a First Information Report (FIR) on 17th May, 2009 against certain firms in respect of transactions with Ordnance Factory Board. In the light of above, Government decided to put on hold all contracts with the firms figuring in the FIR. The decision to put on hold was contested by some companies before the Delhi High Court and the High Court set aside the decision vide its judgement dated 11th February 2010 and directed that penal action can be taken only after following the principles of natural justice. Accordingly, show cause notices were issued to the firms by Ordnance Factory Board. The replies received from the firms are under consideration in the Department of Defence Production.

TRAINER FLEET OF IAF  IAF’s fleet of HPT-32 trainer aircraft has been grounded since August, 2009 after a crash of an aircraft on 28th July, 2009 due to engine failure. In order to improve the reliability of the engine, M/s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is implementing certain modifications on the engine and air frame including integrating a system called Aircraft Parachute Recovery System.  The Request for Proposal (RFP) for procurement of Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA) for the Indian Air Force was issued on 16th December 2009. In response techno-commercial proposals were received from M/s Korean Aircraft Industries, South Korea; M/s GROB Aircraft, Germany; M/s EADS PZL, Poland; M/s Hawker Beechcraft, United States of America; M/s Alenia Aerammachi, Italy; M/s Aerostar of Romania; and M/s Pilatus, Switzerland. The proposal for procurement of the trainer aircraft is being progressed in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure-2008.  No issues which are considered critical to flight safety had emerged during the technical evaluation of the aircraft.  The estimated cost of the procurement is Rs.2900 crore. The proposal is expected to be finalized during the current financial year.

COMPOSITION OF BRO  Border Roads Organisation (BRO) consists of the personnel from two streams namely Army and Civilians. The civilian stream is called General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF). The present strength of BRO is 36761.  As per present arrangements, the post of Director General Border Roads (DGBR) is always held by a military officer to facilitate operations of the forces.  An Expert Committee to review the existing manning ratio between Army Officers and General Reserve Engineer Force Officers was constituted on 1st June, 2011 and has made recommendations on the manning ratio.  The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in September, 2006 approved restructuring of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the manpower strength of BRO was increased from 36945 to 42646.  The pay and allowances of the civilian and military engineers have been fixed by Government orders in pursuance of 6th Central Pay Commission recommendations. There are differences in allowances based on exigencies of civil/military service. Government has ordered cadre review of GREF officers/employees to recommend cadre structure and strength.

FLEET STRENGTH OF INDIAN NAVY  Government constantly reviews the security environment and decides about induction of appropriate defence equipment/platforms, including various kinds of ships/submarines for the Navy. This is a continuous process undertaken as per the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) from various indigenous as well as foreign sources for the modernization of armed forces to keep them in a state of readiness to meet any eventuality. Proposals for induction of naval ships are based on the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP)/Five Year Plan/Annual Plan which stipulates the number and type of vessels required as well as timelines for such inductions. Divulging further details would not be in the national interest.  Major warship construction projects of the Navy running behind schedule include Project-15A (P-15A) and Project-17 (P17). The cost escalation in these two projects has been about 225% and 260% respectively. The major cost escalation & delay has been due to uncertainties associated with the complex warship building process. Reasons for delay and cost escalations in respect of P-15A and P-17 are as follows:  P-15A: The main reasons contributing towards cost escalations are - delay in supply of warship building quality steel by Russia, escalation due to increase in expenditure towards services of Russian Specialists on account of inflation during the build period, impact of Wage revision due from October 2003 and finalization of cost of weapons and sensors.  P-17: The main reasons contributing towards cost escalations are - delay in supply of warship building quality steel by Russia, delay in acquisition of weapon equipment from Russia, and delay in finalization of propulsion equipment in view of complex combined diesel and gas arrangement introduced for the first time in Indian Navy frigate.  A contract was signed with Rosoboronexport, Russia in 2006 for acquisition of three Talwar Class follow-on ships and the delivery schedule for these three ships was April 2011, October 2011 and April 2012. Rosoboronexport has intimated that the delivery of the ships would be delayed as follows: 1st Ship - 12 months, 2nd Ship - 11 months and 3rd Ship - 14 months. The contract for acquisition of these three ships is a fixed price contract.  A programme for construction of six Scorpene submarines is currently underway at M/s. Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) under Project- 75. As per the contract, the 1st submarine was scheduled to be delivered in December 2012 and thereafter, one each every year till December 2017. There has been delay in this project due to initial teething problems, absorption of complex technology, augmentation of MDL infrastructure and procurement of MDL Purchased Material (MPM). The 1st submarine is now scheduled to be delivered in the second half of 2015.  Acceptance of Necessity for acquisition of Six Submarines under Project-75 (India) has been accorded by the Defence Acquisition Council. The proposal is being progressed. A modernization programme has been initiated for the existing submarine fleet and a number of platforms have already been modernized. The programme has been worked out by the Navy catering to the obsolescence/non- supportability of system/equipment and to include contemporary technology.  During the last five years, construction of three ships under P-17, three ships under P-15A and four ships under P-15B has been assigned to MDL. The 1st ship and the 2nd ship under P-17 have been commissioned in April 2010 and August 2011 respectively and the 3rd ship is expected to be commissioned in early 2012. The three ships under P-15A are scheduled to be delivered by March 2012, March 2013 and March 2014 respectively. Contract for four P-15B ships has been signed in January 2011, with delivery schedule as July 2018, July 2020, July 2022 and July 2024 respectively.  There is no proposal at present for creation of MDL facilities at Mangalore.

NALANDA ORDNANCE FACTORY  The work of setting up of ordnance factory in Nalanda in Bihar has not been stopped. There are mainly four plants i.e. Nitro Cellulose (NC), Nitro Glycerine (NG), Sulphuric Acid Concentration (SAC)/Nitric Acid Concentration (NAC) and Bi-Modular Charge System (BMCS) planned to be set up at Ordnance Factory Nalanda, Bihar for manufacture of BMCS. While the work of setting up of NC, NG, SAC/NAC plants is going on as per schedule, the work of setting up BMCS plant could not commence till date.  Work was started after sanction of the project in November 2001. The project was kept in abeyance from June 2005 to June 2006. In the meantime Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) submitted a proposal for revision of project cost due to escalation and cost overrun. Accordingly, the revision of project cost was sanctioned in February 2009 with the completion period of 30 months i.e. by 5th August 2011.  No ancillary company is involved. OFB has entered into contracts with the main companies who are completing the supply of NC, NG, SAC/NAC Plants as per schedule. However, the work of BMCS Plant contracted with M/s IMI Israel has not commenced. As reported by CB.I, M/s IMI Israel was alleged to be involved in paying illegal gratification to Shri Sudipta Ghosh, former DGOF & Chairman, OFB. The case is under investigation by CBI.  The plants - NC, NG, SAC/NAC and BMCS are sequential and the output of first three plants will be utilized as input for BMCS Plant for production of BMCS. Hence, the final product BMCS can only be supplied after all the plants are commissioned and put in production.  In consultation with CVC and Ministry of Law and Justice, OFB has issued show-cause notice to M/s IMI Israel. The reply of M/s IMI has been examined and further necessary action will be contemplated/taken in consultation with Ministry of Law and Justice.  There is no such report of some foreign elements reportedly creating problems in the factory resulting in undue delay in its production system.

DEFENCE PRODUCTION  The Defence Industry sector is open up to 100% for Indian Private sector participation with FDI permissible upto 26%, both subject to licensing.  The Government promotes production of equipment/components/ spares under transfer of technology from foreign suppliers through acquisitions categorized as "Buy & Make" and "Buy & Make (Indian)" under Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).  The DPSUs and OFB have developed their capabilities by way of absorption of technologies through TOT route over the times and thereby are catering mainly to the procurement by the services from domestic sources. Private sector is enhancing its capabilities. However, the rate of change in technologies in the defence sector is limiting procurement from domestic sources.  The Defence Production Policy-2011 endeavors to build up a robust indigenous defence industrial base by, proactively encouraging larger involvement of the Indian private sector in design, development and manufacture of defence equipment.  The Defence industry sector is capital intensive and the investments in this sector are driven by the commercial interests. Foreign technology infusion is being encouraged by permitting FDI upto 26%, subject to licensing, in the defence industry sector. Greater allocation of resources in R&D by the DPSUs and DRDO is also being encouraged.



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