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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

From Today's Papers - 06 Mar 2012
In school, this Gen was man of many facets
Gagan K Teja/TNS

Nabha, March 5
Had Lt Gen Bikram Singh, who will take over the reins of the 1.3 million-strong Army on May 31, not been in the forces, he would have been a poignant painter or a soulful singer.

Bikram Singh had a passion for painting during his school days. At his alma mater, Punjab Public School, Nabha, Singh’s paintings fetched him the best artist award for two years in a row.

What’s more, the talented lad was good at crooning too and loved to hum numbers picturised on yesteryear actor Rajendra Kumar.

“From a relatively quiet child to a confident boy, who not only excelled in academics and sports but was equally good in various art forms, he (Bikram Singh) grew by leaps and bounds,” recalled his first housemaster KC Tandon.

“Bikram was in the Beas House. I still remember him as a young boy who was well-behaved and disciplined. He was very resourceful and dependable. Whatever job was assigned to him, he did it to the best of his ability,”.Tandon said.

“I vividly remember his paintings were widely appreciated. He was fond of singing too. Songs filmed on Rajinder Kumar were his favourite,” said Tandon.

“He was an excellent pupil, always ready to shoulder any responsibility. He had a naughty side too and often used to play little pranks. His elevation to the top position of the Army is a matter of great pride for the entire school,” said KPK Tandon, Bikram’s English teacher.

A quick glance through his personal record revealed an interesting detail about the General. After joining the school, Bikram Singh added to his qualities with the each passing year. So in the first year, he was quite child, which turned into confident, cheerful, friendly, dedicated, helpful, and finally an all-rounder. There is not even a single report by his teachers that doesn’t mention his painting skills.

Talking to The Tribune, the headmaster of school, Jagpreet Singh, said: “We are proud of his achievements. The teachers and students have been celebrating since Saturday when the announcement of his elevation was made.”

“Bikram’s father’s letter, which is in our record books, clearly explains that why this school is held in high regards. In his letter, he had thanked the then principal JK Kate for moulding his child into a complete man, who was ready to touch new heights,” said the principal.
Army: Retd Lt-Gen planted phone-tapping story

New Delhi, March 5
The controversy surrounding the purported tapping of some sensitive phones in the Capital by the Army took a murky turn tonight with the Army blaming a retired Lieutenant-General and some disgruntled serving officers of the Military Intelligence of planting a story in the media even as the Defence Ministry has ordered a probe into the matter.

Army sources took the unusual step of telling the media that Lt-Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, who was former chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency, along with “some disgruntled serving officers of the Military Intelligence, against whom disciplinary and administrative actions are in the pipeline, has worked out this fictitious story”.

Tejinder Singh refuted the charge and said he would take action against the people accusing him of any wrongdoing. — PTI
Second Mirage crash in 11 days
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 5
A Mirage 2000 fighter plane of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed near a village in Rajasthan's Sawai Madhopur district today. This is the second crash in 11 days for the plane built by France firm Dassualt aviation. The earlier one was on February 24 near Bhind in Madhya Pradesh.

The Mirage fleet, based in Gwalior, would undergo a thorough test before being put to flying again, sources said. The crash was being viewed seriously as these aircraft started getting inducted into the IAF in the mid-80s and had had a very good flight safety record, the officials said. It played a major role in air-ground attacks during the Kargil conflict in May-July 1999.

Today's crash occurred soon after taking off from Gwalior. The pilot managed to eject safely, IAF officials said.

Today's crash site is around 100 km south-west of Jaipur, near Baman Baas village. The plane crashed around 12.45 pm, officials said.

A court of inquiry (CoI) has been ordered to ascertain the reason for the crash.

The IAF has also recently signed two deals worth over $3.2 billion for upgrading the capabilities of the Mirage 2000 with Dassault, Thales and MBDA. The first two planes are already in France while the remaining will be upgraded by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
India, US military exercises begin in Rajasthan

New Delhi, March 5
India and US kick-started their two week-long joint military exercise in the Rajasthan desert today with their troops set to engage each other in a series of anti-terrorist and urban warfare drills.

"The US Army is being represented by troops from 25 Infantry Division while the Indian side has pitched in troops from Jammu and Kashmir Rifles and Mechanised Infantry," an official said.

The 170-strong member US team is being led by Colonel Thomas J Roth, Commander of 2nd Engineer Brigade and the Indian side is being commanded by Brigadier B S Dhanoa.

Both sides will jointly plan and execute a series of well developed tactical drills for neutralisation of likely threats that may be encountered in UN peace operations, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said.

The war games which will be conducted over the next two weeks will see troops from both the sides hone their tactical and technical skills. — PTI
Antony's office bugging scare: Army blames former General

Read more at:
New Delhi:  Three days after denying that Defence Minister A K Antony's office was bugged, the Army on Monday admitted that "some abnormality" was noticed which it claimed later turned out to be malfunctioning of an instrument. The Army also sought to blame a retired Lieutenant General for giving out "salacious and malafide stories" to the media on it.

"In a routine check, some abnormality was noticed in Mr Antony's office, which was brought to the notice of Defence Secretary. Further checks carried out revealed that voltage drop noticed was due to malfunctioning of the instrument," a press release said today. After reports of alleged bugging in Mr Antony's South Block office, the ministry had denied the reports.

Pointing fingers at a former Defence Intelligence Agency chief, the Army claims that the stories are being put out by him. "The present story has been put out by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, who was the ex DGDIA and who has been earlier questioned on the purchase of the 'Of the air Monitoring System', without sanction by the technically empowered committee," the Army press release said, adding,"This officer has also been an allottee in Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai and has also offered bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vetra Limited, which supplies vehicles to BEML. The Officer along with some disgruntled serving officers of the military intelligence, against whom disciplinary and administrative actions is in the pipeline has worked out this fictitious story."

Lieutenant General Singh has denied any wrong doing. In his defence, he says he retired two years ago and there are no inquiries against him. He admits to having a flat in the controversial Adarsh Society in Mumbai, but says that is under no inquiry. He also said he had made no purchases 'without sanction' as claimed by the Army in their press release.

The report of alleged bugging in the Defence Minister's office has become the second such instance. A few months ago the Finance Minister's office was found to have a sticky substance underneath his desk.

Read more at:
Defence Ministry blacklists six companies
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Mar 05, 2012, 19:27 IST

Defence Ministry has blacklisted six companies including Singapore Technologies, Israeli Military Industry and Germany's Rheinmetall Air Defence for 10 years for their alleged role in ordnance factory scam.

The firms, including two Indian and one Russian, were blacklisted following action against former Director General of Ordnance Factories (DGOF) Sudipta Ghosh who was chargesheeted by CBI for his alleged role in defence scams.
"Consequent to the filing of the charge sheet in the case related to illegal gratification against Sudipta Ghosh, former DGOF, the firms were recommended for blacklisting by CBI on basis of evidence collected against them," Defence Ministry officials said here today.

Two Indian firms -- Delhi-based TS Kisan and Company and RK Machine Tool based in Ludhiana, have also been blacklisted. Russian firm Corporation Defence also figures in the list of the companies against whom action has been taken.

The firms have been debarred from further business dealings with Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Department of Defence Production under the Defence Ministry for a period of 10 year, they said.

"These firms were issued notice to show cause as to why action against them should not be taken, consequent to filing of the charge sheet in the case related to illegal gratification against former DGOF Sudipto Ghosh," the officials said.

In June 2010, the CBI had filed the charge sheet in a special court at Kolkata against Ghosh and 11 others people for graft.

It was alleged that Ghosh had entered into conspiracy with other accused with the object of demanding and obtaining illegal gratification for various supply orders placed by OFB and also in the matters relating to transfer or posting of the officers of Ordnance Factories.

Following registration of case and subsequent probe, the CBI had arrested Ghosh and few other people.

During the raids conducted by CBI, the agency had seized huge amount of cash from the residences and bank lockers of the former DG and his wife.

The charge sheet has named Ghosh and his wife Kajal Ghosh, director of TS Kishan and Companies Private Ltd, Satish Mahajan, and Sunil Handa, manager of RK Machines Tools.

Three separate cases were also registered by CBI against Ghosh for possessing assets disproportionate to known sources of income.
Did Brahmos deviate from its planned path?
Though India termed supersonic cruise missile BrahMos’s testing at its Pokhran firing range as successful, a section of the local media questioned its success and reported that the missile lost track. The local residents said the missile landed on dry grass spreading over 8 to 10 kilometres in the area and it took four hours to control the fire. The police, however, confirmed the incident of fire, but feigned ignorance about the cause.

The defence spokesperson described the BrahMos testing as most successful. “The Indian Army unit successfully launched the BrahMos missile and destroyed the elected targets,” said a defence official. According to the Indian Army, BarhMos has the capability of attacking surface targets by flying as low as 10 meters in altitude. The villagers, however, said a dry grassland in the open area caught fire after a big sound on Sunday. “We saw the fire after a loud blast,” says Swaroop Singh, a resident of Ajasar village located close to the firing range. “I think the missile lost track,” said Mr Singh while speaking over phone. “Yes, there was an incident of fire on Sunday and our officials rushed to the spot. Since there was no loss of life or loss of property, our officials returned back. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertain,” said Mamta Bishnoi, Jaisalmer SP.
On the other hand, India and the US started a bilateral military exercise in the deserts of Rajasthan from Monday, involving mechanised forces.
An advance group of about 30 US military personnel, along with a platoon of Stryker Recon, has arrived in the state. The joint excercise has been designed to promote cooperation between the two militaries at a tactical level. Defence sources said troops from both nations will engage in joint planning for a variety of missions.
India Bans Six Defense Companies
In the wake of a bribery scandal, India has banned six defense firms, including four international vendors, from doing business in the country for the next 10 years, hurting the army’s plans to acquire ultra light howitzers (ULH) for its artillery units.

“The firms were recommended for blacklisting by the Central Bureau of Investigation on the basis of evidence collected against them in a case related to illegal gratification against former Director General of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) Sudipto Ghosh and others,” defense ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar says.

The defense ministry on March 5 decided to bar Singapore Technologies (ST) Kinetics, Israel Military Industries (IMI), Zurich-based Rheinmetall Air Defense, Russia’s Corporation Defense, New Delhi’s TS Kisan and Co. and Ludhiana, India’s RK Machine Tools from further business dealings with the OFB or defense ministry, Kar says.

“These firms were issued notice to show cause as to why action against them should not be taken consequent to the filing of the charge sheet in the case related to illegal gratification ... The decision to [bar them] was taken today after [reviewing] their replies,” Kar says.

In June 2009, the government decided to put on hold all defense dealings with the entities that were named by the investigative agency in the graft case and it recommended that they be blacklisted.

However, some of the firms appealed the decision and the New Delhi High Court put the defense ministry order on hold, noting that the companies had not been given the opportunity to be heard.

ST Kinetics had been the front-runner for the army’s $1 billion-plus order for 155mm ultra light howitzers for mountainous terrain.

In 2009, despite being ordered to put any dealings with the company on hold, India received a consignment of 155mm light Pegasus howitzers from ST Kinetics for field trials. However, the self-propelling guns were never tested.

A senior army official says halting defense business dealings with STK and IMI could adversely affect the army’s artillery modernization program as Bofors and Denel – two producers of artillery guns – are already banned in India.

“STK had plans to address India’s strategic needs and was fielding tailored solutions to meet the requirements of the modernization program of the armed forces. Today’s decision is very unfortunate,” the service official says.

The army’s 180 artillery gun regiments each have 18 guns. However, now India plans to buy 145 of the M777 ultra light guns from U.S.-based BAE Systems via the government-to-government route.

In April 2009, IMI won a $300 million contract to build a chain of ordnance factories in Nalanda, in eastern Bihar, to manufacture ammunition for Bofors 155mm guns. TS Kishan and Co. manufactures explosive shells for the 155mm Bofors guns through a link with OFB. RK Machine Tools is a supplier of components to the OFB such as 120mm shells and 155mm ammunition and flares for the artillery guns.
Ajai Shukla: Dragon soup for the Indian soul
Ajai Shukla / Mar 06, 2012, 00:58 IST

On Sunday Beijing announced that it would raise defence spending this year by 11.2 per cent to 670 billion yuan (Rs 5.26 lakh crore). This is thrice India’s allocation of Rs 1.64 lakh crore for the current year, and one-fifth America’s allocation of $530 billion (Rs 26 lakh crore) for 2013. Many wonder how a rising and assertive superpower, with the world’s largest military in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), gets away with allocating for national defence just 1.3 per cent of its national product. The answer of most China-watchers is that Beijing fudges the figures.

That is a comforting thought, Dragon Soup for the Indian Soul that has never quite recovered from the 1962 lambasting. But obsessing over Chinese perfidy blocks us from some badly needed analysis. Even if actual Chinese defence expenditure is twice the declared figure – the outer range of Pentagon estimations – that still begs the question: how is China building a world-class military (not there yet, but on its way) with so little? Even a defence spend of 2.6 per cent of GDP is relatively restrained.
This is all the more striking after President Obama threw down the gauntlet in January by announcing America’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific. China can hardly gloss over the challenge in its own backyard. Adding further to the pressure on Beijing for greater defence spending is the election climate in China. That country’s “fifth generation” of leaders will take power this autumn at the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Candidates who covet a seat in the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee can hardly overlook the PLA’s backing.

Yet Beijing has reacted with a mere 11.2 per cent increase in defence spending. What on earth is Zhongnanhai doing, shriek the right-wing hordes in China’s blogosphere?

The answer is that China does more with less. Two crucial policies work to get more bang for the renminbi. Firstly, China’s national defence doctrine is rooted in truly national elements. In a conflict with America, Beijing will exploit the advantage of fighting close to home against an enemy hamstrung by extended lines of communication. Purpose-built PLA weapons like the Dong Feng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile will strike American aircraft carriers, the centrepiece of its armada. China is also perfecting cyber capabilities and satellite warfare capabilities to disable crucial US command systems, disrupting the application of focused US firepower. And the PLA is pioneering “swarm tactics” in which high-tech US fleets are swamped by hordes of cheap, small, expendable vessels. This indigenous, proactive doctrine is more effective and affordable than attempting to match a wealthier and technologically superior US weapon-for-weapon (although that option is not ruled out for the future).

Secondly, China has built an indigenous defence production capability that provides the PLA with weaponry cheaply and quickly. This has not happened by accident. Till the late 1990s China, like India, was a major buyer of overseas weaponry and a “catch-up country” in indigenous weapons development. During the last decade, though, Beijing’s focus on military indigenisation has transformed it into a major producer that is now a serious player in the global arms bazaar. This was achieved through the opportunistic recruitment of out-of-work Soviet scientists after the Soviet Union collapsed; by focusing on technology absorption; and by ruthlessly restructuring a moribund defence production behemoth (not unlike India’s defence public sector undertakings) into result-oriented, innovation-driven enterprises.

Indian planners show no such nimble-mindedness. Our national defence doctrine (so far as one exists!) assumes that a Chinese attack in 2012 would faithfully follow the script that Mao wrote half a century ago in 1962. In Arunachal Pradesh, Indian troop deployment centres on Tawang and Walong, China’s 1962 objectives, in the belief that difficult terrain precludes major offensives elsewhere. This is false, given China’s infrastructure build-up in Tibet. Even more worryingly, this defensive-mindedness cedes the initiative to the enemy, who is allowed to decide where and how to fight. Instead of shaping the battlefield to its advantage, as China plans to do with America, India aims merely to block China until international pressure halts the war. True, New Delhi plans to raise a mountain strike corps over the next five years that, it hopes, will take the battle to China. But islands of operational initiative cannot exist in a sea of defensiveness.

While India’s geographical disadvantages, stemming from its difficult mountainous terrain, are regularly compared with China’s easy operations on the Tibetan plateau, there is little recognition of China’s enormous difficulties in operating through a resentful Tibetan populace that seeks any opportunity to strike at Beijing. An Indian think tank recently recommended that the military should plan to leverage Tibetan partisans in the event of war with China. But such boldness, it would appear, is alien to our security planners. Even while planning war with China, there is fear of angering Beijing.

Meanwhile, India’s weapons procurement follows an even more depressing trend, evident from our shameful status as the world’s largest arms buyer. Just as India financed Russian R&D in the 1990s when Moscow was staring at bankruptcy (and when China was poaching their scientists and reverse-engineering weaponry), the continuing purchases of overpriced foreign platforms like the Rafale fighter will only breathe life into the R&D and production establishment of foreign countries instead of enhancing India’s indigenous capability. Indian success stories like the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and the Arjun tank are criticised, held to an exalted standard, and eventually stalled by the Indian military — which fails to see the connection between its enthusiastic backing of French, Russian or American platforms and the failure of indigenous production.

There are many lessons that India can learn from China. Right up there is the need to indigenise defence strategy and production based on local advantages. That is the only way to confront a superpower.
Government examining new charges against Army chief Gen VK Singh
NEW DELHI: The government may have ended speculation over the next Army chief but the last may not have been heard in the standoff between the government and Army chief Gen VK Singh in his all-out battle to correct his age record.

An anonymous, detailed complaint received by the government in recent days has several allegations against the Army chief, including possible misuse of off-the-air interceptors to listen in on phone conversations in the national capital. The complaint also accuses Gen Singh of appointing several officers belonging to the Rajput Regiment to many important posts in the Army.

A senior government source said they were looking at the allegations that at least two off-the-air interceptors were deployed illegally in the national capital to listen in phone conversations. The complaint says the deployment was part of an effort to eavesdrop on conversations between key people who may have decided the government strategy on Gen Singh's age issue.

According to information in the complaint, which is being examined, the interceptors were acquired from Ukraine purportedly for counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast. But the equipment was not deployed there, but in the national capital illegally.

Sources said the intelligence bureau is looking into the complaint and verifying if indeed the Army detailed the interceptors in the national capital. If established, the allegations would further strain the already damaged relationship between Gen Singh and the government.

Sources said the complaint also talks about a new division created in the Army headquarters, headed by a colonel rank officer of the military intelligence, after Gen Singh took over as Army chief. The charter of this division's duties is not clear, but it holds widespread powers and is accused of being behind the deployment of the interceptors.

The complaint says the division may have mounted two interceptors, which can listen in on mobile phone conversations in a three-kilometer radius, on private vehicles and deployed them in the capital.

The complaint with the government also accuses Gen Singh of posting several officers of Rajput Regiment, to which he belongs, in several crucial posts in the Army. Murmurs of nepotism have been swirling in Army circles for some time but now it is part of the written complaint.

The complaint also talks about Gen Singh's efforts to use media to fight his age battle.

A source said they would rather let Gen Singh 'run his Army', and wouldn't interfere with decisions concerning internal issues of the force. However, the question of passive interceptors being deployed in New Delhi was a matter of grave concern, he said.
The Supreme Court’s intervention in the dispute between the government and the Army chief over the latter’s date of birth may have enforced a ceasefire of sorts, but disquieting distrust still appears to linger beneath the surface.

And last week’s reports that Defence Minister AK Antony’s office had been bugged, which the government denied, are feeding that element of distrust. The Times of India reports, citing unidentified government sources, that the government is looking into an “anonymous, detailed complaint” that makes several allegations against Army chief Gen VK Singh.

The charge that the Army authorised electronic surveillance of the government is serous. AFP

One of those allegations, the report suggests, is that the Army chief deployed electronic surveillance devices to tap phone conversations in order to know the government’s mind on the dispute relating to Singh’s date of birth.

A report in India Today last week, again citing unidentified government sources, too transmitted the suspicion that the Army had been “snooping on phone conversations around South Block” by deploying ‘off-the-air interceptors’… over the past year.”

These interceptors are portable snooping devices – about the size of a desktop computer – that can tune in to telephone conversations, and had been procured from Ukraine for counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states. But they had deployed not in the sensitive border areas, but at two locations – in Sena Bhavan and the Delhi Cantonment, the media reports said.

The Army is not authorised to tap phones, although that authority rests with nine other designated agencies.

These reports also channelled the government’s concern that a shadowy unit of the Military Intelligence had been carrying on such electronic surveillance, although it wasn’t immediately clear who was being targeted for such surveillance.

The government’s investigation of the alleged snooping by the Army on governmental goings-on accentuates the distrust between the two in the dispute over the Army chief’s date of birth. Singh had wanted the government to treat his year of birth as 1951, and not 1950, and even filed a petition before the Supreme Court to argue his case. But after the Supreme Court intervened, he withdrew his petition.

The government subsequently served a notice of retirement on Singh, and named his successor.

But there is still a bit of bad blood between the Army and the government, as evidenced by the cancellation by the government of the Army chief’s planned visit to Israel, and the ongoing investigation of the grave allegation of electronic surveillance.

The Army chief retires in May, but going by the current atmospherics, the last few months of his tenure may test the limits of the relationship between the government and the Army, which bodes ill for smooth governance.
Indian Army Inadvertently Says Ex-General An Arms Agent For Tatra, Vectra
Has the Indian Army inadvertently exposed malfeasance by two defence firms, without actually intending to do so? Well it certainly seems like it. Let me take you through this step by step.

On March 2, INDIA TODAY, India's largest weekly news magazine fronted a story about a bug scare in Defence Minister's A.K. Antony's office. We at Headlines Today picked up the story and put it on air. The story was denied almost instantly by the Army and MoD, but was followed up by virtually every news organisation, channel and wire agency. The story made a mention of  suspicions that "off-the-air" interceptors had been employed by the Army to snoop on communications in the national capital, completely in violation of the law. On March 4, The Indian Express led with the story. A day later, the Army issued another denial, this time more comprehensive. My head still hurts when I read the denial, so I'll put it up here, in full, for you to see. Trust me, read it fully:

    The Story on Maligning the Army is a fabricated fiction and people responsible are some disgruntled officers, retired and serving, whose sole aim is to create a mistrust between the Army and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The Military Intelligence has the mandate to routinely debug the offices of senior functionaries of the MoD and the Army. In a routine check, some abnormality was noticed in the Raksha Mantri’s office, which was brought to the notice of the Defence Secretary. Further checks carried out revealed that the voltage drop noticed was due to malfunctioning of the instrument. The Army does not carry out “Of the Air Monitoring” but seeks the assistance of the IB, if it finds the need. The Monitoring equipment is in the possession of the Signal Intelligence and is deployed along the borders and in Counter Insurgency areas. This equipment is under the control of the Director General Defence Intelligence Agency(DG DIA) and not under the Military Intelligence. The present story has been put out by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, who was the Ex DGDIA and who has been earlier questioned on the purchase of the “Of the air Monitoring System”, without sanction by the technically empowered committee. This officer has also been an allottee in Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai and has also offered bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vectra Limited, which supplies vehicles to BEML. The Officer along with some disgruntled serving officers of the military intelligence, against whom disciplinary and administrative actions is in the pipeline has worked out this fictitious story. The Army strongly denies this and take strong exception to such salacious and malafide stories, coming out as news.

Now BEML produces a variety of Czech vehicle-maker Tatra's trucks under license and has done so for long (many of the Army's weapon systems, including the Smerch MBRL pictured above, are based on Tatra vehicles). More recently, on Feb 26, BEML and Kamaz Vectra signed an MoA agreeing to cooperate in the manufacture of commercial vehicles for civil and defence applications. The statement by the Army above officially states that a retired officer from its ranks, Lt Gen Tejinder Singh (former DG Defence Intelligence Agency) "offered bribe" for Tatra and Vectra, presumably to push contracts. Now unless I'm very much out on a limb here, the Army has indicated the presence of an arms agent pushing contracts for Tatra and Vectra in the country. Whether those bribes were accepted is irrelevant at least at this stage. The act of offering a bribe -- the very act of being an agent in India -- for a defence contract is illegal, and has always attracted harsh punitive action. The statement above isn't a scurrilous, anonymous letter -- it is an official statement from the Army HQ. I can't wait to see what Tatra and Vectra think of this. Hoo boy.

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