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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 06 Dec 2011

Rebuilding of Afghanistan must go on: India
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, December 5 India today cautioned the international community not to repeat the mistakes of the past and ensure that Afghanistan does not once again slide back to the ‘dark ages’ of the 1990s.  “The international community must ensure that as it reduces its military commitment to Afghanistan, it increases rather than decreases its economic commitment to the security and rebuilding of Afghanistan,” External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said addressing an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn.  Emphasising that the international community came to Afghanistan because it was under the control of an extremist ideology and had become a sanctuary for international terror, he said terrorism radiated outwards to the region, firstly affecting India and then other countries.  “Today, we have to ask ourselves whether we have succeeded in eliminating terrorism, and the safe havens and sanctuaries from where it is emanating, right from its sources. We have to ask whether, if we withdraw our holding hand, Afghanistan will be able to withstand the forces of radicalism, extremism and violence and stand on its own feet,” Krishna added.  He cautioned about the real danger that as international forces withdraw from a combat role, there would be a transition ‘recession’ (attention and aid would decline, just as the security demands of the Afghan government increase.) “We must make sure that Afghanistan’s security is ensured through non-interference in its internal affairs,” the minister said, in an indirect reference to Pakistan’s attempt to gain a strategic depth in the war-torn nation.  Pakistan is boycotting the Bonn conference as a mark of protest against a NATO attack on a border checkpoint last month in which 24  Pakistani troops were killed. On Sunday, US President Barack Obama offered his condolences but Pakistan refused to reverse its decision not to attend the conference.  Welcoming the Bonn meeting, Krishna said it was an expression of the international community’s determination that even as it reduces its footprint in Afghanistan, it would not abandon the embattled country as it did in the 1990s. The conference marked a political commitment to stay engaged with Afghanistan well into the future.  He told nearly 1,000 delegates from about 100 countries and international organisations that India had recently signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan. Kabul, he noted, would sign similar accords with the US, EU, France, the UK and Australia in due course.  Krishna observed that Afghanistan today faced at least four deficits: a security deficit, a governance deficit, a development deficit and an investment deficit. Afghanistan would require enormous assistance for a long time if it was to address these four deficits adequately.  “We need to back up our commitments with both resources and actions. We need to avert the possibility that Afghanistan is let down or made to feel abandoned by a withdrawal of assistance, at least in terms of quantity if not quality, of international assistance required, in the era after 2014,” he added.
Army inches closer to change the way it goes to battle Ajay Banerjee in Barmer
n what will have a decisive impact on future conflicts, the Indian Army has inched closer to being a ‘proactive’ transformed force of the next generation. High-end technologies like satellites and UAVs are being harnessed to provide real-time information to precisely deploy troops, tanks, choppers and rocket launchers in a battlefield where reaction time would be limited.
In the deserts of Rajasthan, one of the biggest military exercise in two decades - the 1988 Brasstacks being the foremost - is being conducted by the Pune-based Southern Command of the Army. ‘Sudershan Shakti’ involves around 50,000 troops, 300 tanks and 250 artillery guns besides armed helicopters. It’s ethos: to change the way the Army goes to battle. The Bhopal-based 21 Strike Corps is conducting the exercise, the second such exercise in transformation this year after ‘Vijayee Bhava’ conducted during summer.  The transformation is aimed at re-organising and re-equipping the force to provide it the necessary ‘teeth’. All resources of particular ‘theatre’ are utilised optimally and all will go to battle in quick, sharp thrust, said sources. With this exercise, studies on transformation are complete and will now enter the implementation stage if given the nod by Army Chief General VK Singh and GoC-in-C of the Southern command Lt Gen AK Singh.  Once the transformation is implemented, it will bring about quicker deployment. The soldier will operate the next level of battle-technology, which is totally networked and fully backed by real-time intelligence inputs provided by over-flying UAVs, geo-stationary satellites, ground-based sensors and radars. In the ongoing exercise, Sukhoi-30 MKI and Jaguars were used for nighttime and daytime photography.  The aim is that all these inputs be made available to tanks on the ground, IAF aircrafts in the sky and even advancing infantrymen of those para-dropped behind enemy lines. Commanders on the field and generals sitting in war-rooms will see the same live pictures, as the entire battlefield will be connected in a seamless fashion. The data will be beamed across laptops using a mix of satellites and radio communication. “All this will have a very high encryption level and is very secure to prevent snooping,” explained an officer.  The ongoing exercise ‘Sudershan Shakti’ did all this and each available input, its quality and use in the battlefield was evaluated and will be reviewed. The Army is testing some new equipment that is still not known in the public domain, an official said. The Army Chief Gen VK Singh had ordered transformation studies.  The exercise saw the indigenous Dhruv helicopter in a new role -- it was used by Army Aviation to carry a jeep slung under its belly. The spectrum of exercise includes joint operations of T-90 tanks, Arjun tanks, Bofors artillery guns, infantry-carrying vehicles, field radars, UAVs, fighters Jaguars and Sukhoi-30 MKI and the Mi-35 attack helicopters.
Prez rides T-90 main battle tank  President Pratibha Patil during the exercise "Sudarshan Shakti" at Bugundi battle field near Barmer in Rajasthan on Monday. President Pratibha Patil during the exercise "Sudarshan Shakti" at Bugundi battle field near Barmer in Rajasthan on Monday. — PTI  After taking a flight in the frontline Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft, President Pratibha Patil yet again donned military fatigues to ride a T-90 main battle tank. Dressed in black overalls worn by personnel of tank regiments, the 76-year-old President entered 'Sudarshan Shakti' in Barmer riding in a tank   with Army Chief General VK Singh. Defence Minister AK Antony also arrived in a tank to witness the exercise and was accompanied by Southern Army Commander Lt Gen AK Singh.  Earlier, President Patil witnessed the exercise and addressed the troops. “The country is faced with multi-dimensional challenges and the Army has to measure up to these threats,” she said.
More MiG fighters lost in crashes than those remaining in service
Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, December 5 The IAF has lost more MiG fighters in air crashes and accidents over the years than the number presently left remaining in service. The crash of a MiG-21 Bison aircraft near Sirsa in Haryana today has once again brought the focus on training and flight safety issues associated with the ageing fleet.  The latest report by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence, released in August, states that 476 MiG aircraft had met with accidents thus far, while the remaining fleet comprised 470 aircraft. Since the report was tabled, there have been four more crashes, including those of two MiG-21s, a MiG-29 and a Jaguar.  A written note on the subject by the Ministry of Defence states that a majority of accidents attributed to technical defects pertain to old-technology aircraft. Problems associated with vintage technology, especially aero-engines in MiG-21 and MiG-27, are more pronounced.  The MiG-21 is over 40 years old and the IAF is stated to be the only force flying this aircraft now. In the last decade, the MiG-21 Bis series aircraft were upgraded to the “Bison” configuration to extend their service life and operational capability.  The report also indicates that all may not be well with the technical aspects of the MiG-29 fleet either. The report quotes the Defence Secretary as saying, “Unfortunately, I must confess the Russians are extremely reluctant to share certain information. On the MiG-29 too, there have been instances in the past where we have to really come down heavily. We actually struggle to get the information. They are very secretive about what goes wrong with the machine.”  The IAF has lost more than a thousand fighters since 1970. Investigations into the cause of the accident are still underway in over 15 cases. In the past six years, the IAF has lost 46 aircraft, with 10 going down in 2009, eight in 2006 and 2008 and six in 2005, 2006 and 2010.  According to available information, 40.6 per cent accidents have been attributed to human error (39 per cent by air crew and 1.6 per cent by technical crew), 39.5 per cent to technical defect, nine per cent to bird-hit and 0.6 per cent to manufacturing/servicing by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.  In fact, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne went on record recently saying that most accidents had taken place due to inexperience of pilots who were unable to control the aircraft during take-off or landing. He stressed upon the need for a basic trainer for the force. In the Parliamentary report, the MoD had also acknowledged that availability of a suitable trainer has been “an area of concern”.  The ministry’s note stated that there was need to modernise the IAF’s trainer fleet to meet the requirements of modern high-performance aircraft. This assumes significance in light of the IAF procuring 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft as well as upgrading its existing fleet to Russian and Western origin fighters.  The IAF has, in the recent past, introduced several measures including modifying the pilot’s training curriculum, reviewing flight safety audit mechanisms, improving airfield environment and developing training and management capsules.
Sappers to have eyes in sky Engineer regiments procuring micro-UAVs
Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, December 5 Sappers, the first combat elements to enter the battlefield and the last to leave, would soon be getting their very own “eyes in the skies” for faster and safer conduct of operations in a hostile environment.  The Army’s engineer regiments are to be equipped with micro-unmanned aerial vehicles (micro-UAVs), something similar in size and shape to the flying gadget developed by engineering student Joy Lobo in the film ‘Three Idiots’.  Referred to as Aerial Engineer Recce Equipment (AERE), these are stated to be in the process of indigenous development. They would be capable of being remotely operated on a pre-fed way point, transmitting real-time video from high-resolution cameras. They can take off and land vertically, enabling their use in any kind of terrain and space.  Sappers or combat engineers are responsible for paving the way for offensives through enemy minefields and across other defences and obstacles like bundhs, canals, rivers and ditches. They are also required to lay tracks and build bridges for men and vehicles to negotiate adverse terrain.  AERE would give the commander and troops on the ground a bird’s eyeview of the lay of the land immediately ahead of them, enabling them to assess the situation and identify the topography most suited for operational requirements. These would also help detect enemy presence and gauge the location and strength of their defences.  Besides reducing the risk of exposure to troops, AERE would facilitate faster assimilation and dissemination of information, thereby limiting the need for physical and time-consuming manual survey of the area.  Apart from Sappers, other arms are also planning to induct micro and mini-UAVs for meeting operational requirements. Headquarters Northern Command recently issued a tender for procurement of a limited number of micro-UAVs for deployment in the volatile Northern Sector. The Army is also reported to be in the process of employing about 500 micro and mini-UAVs for tactical surveillance and recce. These are in addition to larger UAVs for long-range operations being procured from indigenous and foreign sources.  In fact, even police forces and paramilitary organisations and law-enforcement agencies have been evincing interest in procuring micro-UAVs to assist them in maintaining law and order during public rallies, demonstrations, general unrest or to deal with specific situations like terrorist encounters or hostage recovery.
Hyderabad gets NSG hub 
Hyderabad, December 5 As part of efforts to enhance the country’s capability to fight terrorism, a regional training hub of the elite National Security Guards (NSG) has been set up at Hyderabad.  Inaugurating the NSG hub at a simple ceremony here today, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said that it would serve as a major training centre for all the southern states in raising their own commando force, anti-terrorist force and quick reaction teams.  This is one of the four regional hubs established in the country. The others are located in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The Hyderabad NSG unit, set up on a 22-acre site at Tirumalgiri at a cost of Rs 37 crores, will have a total strength of 5,150 commandos. The regional training center here is on the lines of the one at Manesar in Haryana. —TNS
Troubled Pakistan’s uncertain future No end to political turbulence
by B.G. Verghese  A visit to Pakistan lays bare the uncertain future facing this troubled country despite much bravado and whistling in the dark. The economy is in parlous condition with growth no more than 3 per cent, 12 per cent inflation, falling FDI, IMF support withdrawn and repayments due next March, public enterprises bleeding, power cuts, a gas shortage, unemployment, a continuing low HDI performance resulting in failure to meet several Millennium Development Goals. With the implementation of the 18th Amendment, a structural problem has arisen with increased revenues going to the provinces and “inflexible” expenditures remaining with the federal government. The “War on Terror”, howsoever calculated, is said to have cost the country $ 60-70 bn whereas US aid has been no more than $ 18 bn.  The saving grace has been buoyancy in the rural economy with bumper production of wheat, cotton, sugar and milk and a transfer of income from the towns to the countryside. Defence expenditure accounts for 18 per cent of the revenue budget and internal security an additional 10 per cent. The tax-to-GDP ratio is low and collections lower. Poor governance, mismanagement and corruption are held responsible for this sorry state of affairs. The extensive 2010 and more limited 2011 floods devastated large swathes of the Indus basin. Independent surveys attribute this not merely to aberrant rainfall, deforestation and consequent heavy erosion in the upper catchments, but also to poor maintenance of barrage and canal infrastructure that gave way and have yet to be fully repaired. Despite all of this, opulent (urban) and feudal life-styles have not been affected.  Pakistan continues to be afflicted by political turbulence and military assertiveness in governance. The Memogate crisis (following an alleged missive drafted by the former Pakistan Ambassador in Washington, Hussain Haqqani, at the instance of President Zardari and handed over to the US military by a controversial Pakistan-born US businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, pleading for US pressure on General Kayani to avert a coup after the inglorious and incomprehensible Osama bin Laden episode, in return for a more zealous Pakistani role in the War on Terror) incensed the Army and has given it greater ascendancy over the civil government. The Foreign Minister, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, admitted that Memogate had provoked questions. The Army had “played a larger-than-life role in the history of Pakistan” and the assertion of civil power in the existing democratic set-up had to be an “evolutionary process”.  It was at this delicate moment that US-NATO forces bombed a border post, killing 24 Pakistan military personnel. Outrage and fury marked nationwide demonstrations denouncing the Americans for deliberately and repeatedly violating Pakistan’s sovereignty with drone attacks along the AfPak border. The engagement lasted two hours with ascending ferocity despite US-ISAF commands being informed. The Americans aver they were given permission by Pakistan to engage a Taliban raiding party, but the Pakistanis assert they were provided the wrong coordinates. The other theory is that the Taliban decoyed the US into action by firing on its aircraft. Both sides have ordered inquiries, pending which Obama has refused to apologise, though senior US officials have regretted the loss of life.  Many issues arise. US forces have not infrequently been responsible for “collateral damage”, while Pakistan has a long record of violating Indian (and Afghan) sovereignty through well-established cross-border strikes. Despite its protestations of innocence about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, the Pakistan Army had sheltered him under its eye in Abbottabad. Since the Army does not admit to singular incompetence, complicity alone explains what happened.  As in Abbottabad, so in the Mohmand border post strike, the Pakistan Air Force or ground forces did not engage the intruders? Why not? In both cases the Pakistan military presumably thought discretion the better part of valour as it feared escalation would cost it dear. However, Pakistan has closed all US supply routes to Afghanistan and ordered the US to vacate the Shamsi air base in Balochistan from where it has mounted drone attacks on targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Curiously, but typically, the Shamsi base was leased to the UAE (for what ?) which had in turn sub-leased it to the US. So much for sovereignty!  Pakistan has declared that it is reviewing its entire relationship with the US. It will huff and puff but is unlikely to break its military-strategic alliance with Washington. China is not willing, nor militarily able just yet to take on the US role of playing military godfather and banker to Pakistan. It is already getting all it wants strategically from Islamabad by providing it military supplies, nuclear reactors and assistance to upgrade and extend the Karakoram Highway, build the Neelum-Jhelum and Diamer-Bhasha dams and undertake mining projects in Gilgit-Baltistan. It has also proposed a trans-Karakoram rail link from Tibet and Xinjiang to Gwadar and an oil/gas pipeline along a similar alignment.  With its economy on drip, Islamabad needs US aid as much as the US needs Pakistan’s cooperation to sustain an effective presence in Afghanistan. Therefore, the current stand-off is likely to be followed by a rapprochement, continuing US aid and more elbow room for Islamabad to position itself as top-dog in Afghanistan when US-ISAF militarily pull out in 2014. Pakistan is talking to its own Taliban as a first step. Its formal boycott of the Bonn conference on Afghanistan will not necessarily detract from that meeting. The fact is that the US is part of the problem rather than of the solution in Afghanistan. The best option would be to secure a truce in Afghanistan, regionalise a reconciliation and reconstruction programme for it (with Pakistan, Iran, India, China, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and others), with US-European and World Bank backing. The object should be to rebuild its infrastructure and economy and restore to a neutral Afghanistan its traditional role as a thriving crossroads and international commercial hub.  Unfortunately, Pakistan is still caught in a hate-India identity crisis, reflected in its uncorrected school textbooks, and the fetishism it has developed about J&K. The last week of November saw the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) take schoolchildren from Faisalabad to Lahore to protest the US/NATO Mohmand air strike. The speeches spoke of plans to Talibanise Pakistan, wreak vengeance on “Christians and Americans” and wage jihad against the US and India.  The decision to extend most-favoured nation treatment to India and promote trade and investment is greatly to be welcomed. But tolerance for JuD hate rallies suggest that, for some, this could be no more than a tactical move to tide over a difficult time. Hopefully, the opening of trade and investment will be truly transforming. Some weeks ago, the widow of Moshe Dayan, the Israeli hero of the 1967 war, wrote, “Zionism has run its course.” The same is true of the “Ideology of Pakistan”, born of a hollow and divisive two-nation theory. A recent article in Friday Times, Islamabad, commented, “By now everyone in Pakistan should at least suspect that being “not Indian” isn’t a strong enough foundation on which to build a country.” How true.
Chinese General Heads to India for Talks After Border Setback
Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- India and China, which have fought a war over their disputed border and compete for resources to feed Asia’s two fastest growing economies, will hold their highest level military talks in almost two years.  General Ma Xiaotian, the deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff, will lead a delegation to New Delhi for meetings Dec. 9 with Indian Defense Secretary Shashikant Sharma and ministry officials. The previous round of defense dialogue was held in Beijing in January 2010.  The nuclear-armed neighbors, home to more than a third of the world’s people, claim territory held by the other and clashed during a brief border conflict in 1962. India has replaced China as the world’s top weapons importer, according to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, as it aims to modernize its armed forces and defend against security threats from Pakistan and China.  Ma’s visit indicates that China and India have for now “resolved a degree of their tit-for-tat diplomacy,” said Lora Saalman, a Beijing-based analyst at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. “It does not signal that the overall tensions underpinning such disputes have been resolved.”  Military relations between the world’s two most populous nations were suspended in August 2010 after China issued a visa to an Indian army officer in charge of forces in Kashmir without stamping his passport, an act seen as questioning India’s rule over the disputed Himalayan territory. China has a close alliance with Pakistan, which has waged two wars with India over Kashmir.  Dalai Lama Protest  Border talks scheduled for Nov. 28-29 were scrapped after China objected to a Buddhist meeting in New Delhi at which the Dalai Lama was set to speak, the Press Trust of India reported. The government in Beijing refused to go ahead with the dialogue even after India said President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would not attend the Dalai Lama session, the Times of India newspaper reported Nov. 27.  The Dalai Lama has lived in India since fleeing in 1959 after China’s military takeover of Tibet. China accuses him and the government-in-exile that is also based in the north Indian town of Dharamshala, of secretly seeking independence for his homeland. The Dalai Lama says he wants autonomy for Tibet, not separation.  India’s foreign ministry said in a statement Nov. 25 it was looking forward to rescheduling the boundary talks “in the near future and the two sides remain in touch to find convenient dates.”  Arms Transfers  India and China which went to war five decades ago over part of their 3,500-kilometer (2,175-mile) boundary, have tried to prevent their disagreements from affecting economic ties. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao traveled to India with 300 business executives in December last year. During that trip the countries vowed to raise trade by two-thirds to $100 billion in five years and reduce India’s trade deficit by promoting its exports to China.  The defense delegations will this week discuss “regional and global security issues,” review attempts to address the border issue and finalize military exchanges for next year, according to a statement from India’s defense ministry. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed Chinese participation at a regular briefing in Beijing yesterday.  India received 9 percent of international arms transfers by volume during 2006-10, Sipri said in a March report. India has tripled its military budget in the past decade to $32 billion this year in competition with a near-quadrupling of spending by its neighbor and rival China in the same period. China said it planned to spend $91.5 billion on defense this year.  Territorial Disputes  India accuses China of occupying 38,000 square kilometers (14,670 square miles) of territory in Jammu and Kashmir to the west, while the government in Beijing lays claim to 90,000 square kilometers of land in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in India’s east. The two sides have been unable to resolve their disputes after more than a dozen rounds of discussions since 2005.  India and China are competing around the world to secure oil, gas and metals. India and Vietnam signed an agreement Oct. 12 to expand joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, waters where Chinese claims over resources have led to clashes in recent months. India’s Foreign Ministry Sept. 1 denied a report that said a Chinese warship confronted an Indian navy vessel after it left Vietnamese waters in late July.  “Though there are irritants like the border, a trade imbalance and now the South China Sea, both countries want to push forward dialogue,” said R.N. Das, an analyst at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses.  Assertive India  Army ties resumed when Indian officers traveled to Beijing in June. A People’s Liberation Army delegation came to India Nov. 4-9, India’s defense ministry said in its statement. A further round of military exchanges will take place before the end of this month, it said.  “India’s relations with Vietnam and Myanmar and its refusal to intervene in matters concerning the Dalai Lama that are purely of a religious nature” signal it is becoming more assertive, Bahukutumbi Raman, an analyst at the Chennai Centre for China Studies, said in comments posted on his blog.  Both India and China are investing in ports, railways and oil and gas pipelines in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, that give them access to natural resources and trade routes in the Indian Ocean region.  “India has in recent months started slowly asserting its own interests and concerns without surrendering totally to those of China,” Raman said.  --With assistance from Nicholas Wadhams and William Bi in Beijing. Editors: Mark Williams, Peter Hirschberg
India’s Wait for 197 Light Choppers May Get Longer
India’s long delayed procurement for 197 light helicopters may stretch even longer going by fresh information about the trails, as reported by the Indian media, besides progress in certification of the two contenders, Eurofighter Fennec AS550C3 and the Kamov 226T.        The validity of the bids of the two finalists, Eurocopter and Russian Helicopters (Kamov) had been extended till the end of December 2011 but it remains to be seen if the finalist in the US$1 billion deal is announced by deadline time.        A news agency report dated November 13, 2011 said that the Department of Defence Finance, a part of the Indian MoD had raised objections over the trial process where one of the requirements in the RFP, which was to land at over 15,000 feet and take off the next day without external power, was not fulfilled. The trials conducted by army were held at 12,000 feet, the report said.        An industry source pointed out that one of the contenders, Kamov with its KA-226T helicopter had been restricted during the trials as its Arrius 2G1 engine was unable to operate at optimum level above 15000 feet as the engine was then not certified for such high altitude operations. However, the engine recently received the European Safety Agency (EASA) certification, the announcement of which was made during the Dubai Air Show in November 2011. The Arrius 2G1 is made by the French firm, Turbomeca, a part of the Safran Group and this is the first time it is being tried out in a coaxial propeller helicopter.         Similarly, the Eurocopter AS550 C3 engine, the Arriel 2G1B with a customized FEDEC (the electronic control of the engine) is yet to certified for very high altitude missions, the sources said.        India wants the helicopters to be used by its army for high altitude missions such as ferrying men and supplies by altitudes in excess of 18000 feet.        The missions are currently operated by an ageing fleet of Cheetah/ Chetak helicopters. The requirement is for over 300 helicopters.
Pak violates ceasefire in J&K
Violating the ceasefire along the Line of Control, Pakistani troops fired at Indian posts in Karnah area of Kupwara district. The Pakistani troops opened fire at 5.00 pm on Sunday towards Indian posts located close to civilian areas in Karnah area, 140 kms from here, official sources said on Monday.  They said the Indian Army retaliated the firing with small weapons and the exchange lasted several minutes.  This is the first ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops along the LoC in Kashmir Valley in the past three months.  A roof top of a mosque was damaged on the Indian side of the LoC in the firing, the sources said.  Pakistani troops had violated ceasefire several times during August and September, resulting in the death of an Indian Junior Commissioned Officer and three Pakistani soldiers.

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