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Thursday, 27 June 2013

From Today's Papers - 27 Jun 2013
Copter pilots couldn’t send distress signal
U’khand crash: 17 out of 20 bodies found
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

Gauchar/Guptkashi, June 26
That the pilots of the ill-fated Mi-17-V5 which crashed last evening got little time to react is evident from the fact that they could not even send out a distress signal. The commander of the helicopter was highly experienced in mountain flying.

Prima facie, the pilots were caught in dense floating clouds at an altitude of around 2,900 metres (around 10,000 feet) and had no time to react, sources have told The Tribune.

The helicopter hit a mountain side in a dense forest near Gumbar, a hamlet around 5 km north of Gaurikund on the Gaurikund-Kedarnath stretch. Sources in the IAF say the V5 variant of Mi-17 is fitted with a device that automatically emits a signal in case of a crash.

“In yesterday’s crash, we did not receive any signal from the pilots,” said Air Vice-Marshal SRK Nair, Assistant Chief of IAF operations.

The IAF will now hinge its court of inquiry on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which has been recovered. The wreckage has been located and has been secured by Special Forces of the Indian Army and ‘Garuds’ of the Indian Air Force.

Seventeen bodies have so far been located in the jungles. Four of these were retrieved during a brief window of flying between 3 and 5 pm. The remaining bodies will be picked up tomorrow, officials said. Most bodies are charred and forensic support, including DNA sampling, would be required to identify them, official sources said.

The helicopter was on its way back to its base after landing at Kedarnath. Once it left Kedarnath, the authorities failed to get any distress signal. The local police was called up to confirm that the helicopter had left Kedarnath.

Those dead are: Wing Commander Darryl Castelino, Flight Lt K Praveen, Flt Lt Tapan Kapoor, Junior Warrant Officer AK Singh and Sergeant Sudhakar Yadav, all of the IAF; Inspector Bhim Singh, Sub-Inspector Satish Kumar, constables Nitya Nand Gupta, K Vinaygan, Bassavaraj Yaragati, Santosh Paswan, Sanjiva Kumar, Pawar Shashi Kant Ramesh and Ahir Rao Ganesh of the NDRF; and Sub-Inspector Jayndra Prasad, Constables Bibhuti Roy, Sarvesh Kumar, Ajay Lal, Joman PG and Nand Ram of the ITBP.

Rs 20 lakh for kin of 2 IAF men from UP
Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday announced a compensation of Rs 20 lakh to the families of two Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel from his state, Sudhakar and Akhilesh Pratap, who were killed in an IAF chopper crash in Uttarakhand. While Sudhakar hailed from Santkabir Nagar, Akhilesh Pratap was from Jagdishpur, Amethi. The government would give Rs 20 lakh assistance to their kin while taking responsibility of free education to their wards, Akhilesh Yadav told reporters. — PTI
Mi-26 makes maiden landing at Gauchar
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, June 26
As the world's largest helicopter, the Mi-26, made its maiden landing at Gauchar in Uttarakhand amidst challenging conditions, ferrying in a refuelling truck for helicopters, it not only established a vital link in flood relief operations, but also underscored the need for heavy-lift rotor capability to reach out to remote areas in difficult times.

With road links washed away and Gauchar being unsuited for operations by fixed-wing aircraft (despite it being an advanced landing ground), deployment of the Mi-26 was the only option left with the IAF to ensure availability of aviation fuel in inaccessible areas.

The 126 Helicopter flight at Chandigarh, also called the Featherweights, was tasked with airlifting two 9,000-litre fuel bowsers to Gauchar and Dharasu along with some Army and NDRF personnel and evacuate stranded pilgrims. After having undertaken four sorties during the ongoing Operation Rahat, the unit is now looking ahead at airlifting heavy machinery and equipment for rebuilding infrastructure.

Flying into the flood-ravaged areas was not without risks and challenges. Not only was the crew operating in uncharted territory in bad weather with no prior experience of the terrain, there were several operational parameters to be constantly reviewed and "spur-of-the-moment" decisions to be taken.

"While flying, we had to re-work our flight plan and change altitude at times to cater to visibility, terrain and air traffic in the vicinity," Gp Capt GS Tung, the unit's commanding officer said.

"The valleys in Uttarakhand are very narrow and there were about 55 other helicopters operating in that area and we had to maintain constant radio contact with them," he added. With him were his co-pilot Wg Cdr AS Bajwa, navigator Wg Cdr A Kukreti and two JCOs.

The weather was also a major factor with visibility being just 2 km and clouds drifting across the flight path. Flying in the mountains without visual contact with the terrain is not possible. High-tension cables across valleys and increased bird activity during the monsoon were added threats. "Safety of the aircraft and those onboard is paramount," Wg Cdr Tung said.

Road construction soon: Fernandes
Chandigarh: It would take some more time to begin road construction in Uttarakhand, said Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Oscar Fernandes today. He was speaking after inaugurating the NSUI help desk at Panjab University here. A feasibility study had already begun, he added. The minister said, "The construction of damaged roads will start soon. Right now, I can't say how long will it take to rebuild the roads, but the work will start soon to bring the life back to normal." Fernandes, who had been on a visit to flood-affected areas in Uttarakhand, reached Chandigarh on Wednesday morning. — TNS
South Asia's boiling cauldron
India needs to make tough choices
by Harsh V. Pant

In one of most brazen attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan in recent times, militants disguised in foreign military uniforms and carrying fake documents attacked an area outside the heavily fortified presidential palace compound earlier this week. The Taliban described the attack as part of its spring offensive and facilitated with “inside help and through special tactic”. It was timed to coincide with the visit of James Dobbins, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Kabul for meetings with Afghan officials about the peace talks and came a week after the Taliban opened an office in Qatar to pursue talks with the United States on a political solution to the conflict.

The discussion about these so-called peace talks acquired a new momentum after the Obama administration made it public the other day that it will be starting formal peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar, the first direct political contact between the two since early last year. There was a lot of confusion initially after the Karzai government refused to support American efforts. Kabul was angry when the Taliban displayed the group's flag during their press event and spoke in front of a banner that proclaimed, in Arabic, "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", in effect portraying themselves as an alternative government. Washington was forced to defend itself with President Obama suggesting that it was no surprise there's friction in early efforts to launch peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan's government. The US Secretary of State reportedly had to assure Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Taliban flag had been removed from the newly opened office and the sign was changed to “Bureau of Peace Talks.”

The Karzai government remains worried about its ability to fend off the challenge from the Taliban after the departure of western troops from Afghanistan in 2014. It certainly would not want the Taliban to gain any international acceptance at this stage. Washington, which is keen on preserving some semblance of normalcy in a country where it has been militarily involved for the past 12 years, wants to enter into some sort of negotiations with its major adversary before it is too late. It faces enormous challenges as was evident over the last few days not only with what has been happening in Kabul but also because of the responses of regional states towards the peace talks.

The Afghan peace talks figured prominently during the discussion in New Delhi with Secretary Kerry for the fourth round of bilateral strategic dialogue. New Delhi perceives Kerry to be too sympathetic to Pakistan's military-jihad complex. Arguing that Pakistan has not got "credit sufficiently for the fact that they were helpful (in getting Osama bin Laden)," Kerry had suggested during his confirmation hearings that "it was their permissiveness in allowing our people to be there that helped us to be able to tie the knots." He has been against adopting a "dramatic, draconian, sledgehammer approach," because Pakistan is too integral to America's supply routes into Afghanistan. He helped broker the release of the CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, arrested on suspicion of murder and also later persuaded Pakistani officials to return parts of a US stealth helicopter that crashed during the May 2011 raid on Abbottabad. It was John Kerry who long ago dubbed the Afghan war “unsustainable,” and he has been a long-time advocate of Pakistan-centric Afghan policy.

India's other worry is the return of the Taliban. Pakistan is leveraging its role in the ongoing transition in Afghanistan by releasing some Taliban leaders and expressing its support for a negotiated settlement there. Islamabad wants to let the Taliban and the Haqqani network loose in post-2014 Afghanistan so that it can exercise control over Kabul. All this leaves India out of the Afghan picture, even though Mr Karzai has wished for an Indian presence to counterbalance Pakistan. The more dominant Pakistan feels in the neighbourhood, the more it may be willing to risk confrontation with India. There have also been damaging media reports that Kerry has struck a deal with the Pakistani Army Chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, whereby in exchange for the Pakistani Army facilitating Washington's talks with the Taliban, the US would ignore the past activities of the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban and work towards a power sharing arrangement with the Taliban.

As such, India has repeatedly made it clear that any peace initiative with the Taliban should not violate the “red lines” drawn up by the international community. India's External Affairs Minister has underlined that India has "from time to time reminded all stakeholders about the red lines that were drawn by the world community and certainly by the participants should not be touched, should not be erased and should not be violated."

During Kerry's visit to India earlier, New Delhi forced him to clarify his stand on the talks when he tried to assuage Indian concerns by suggesting that the talks with the Taliban will only be taken forward under "certain conditions." Kerry also assured India that the United States plans to continue supporting Afghanistan's military and to keep American forces in the country "under any circumstances" after the scheduled combat troop withdrawal in 2014. Washington has also sent its special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, to brief the Indian government.

It is difficult to see how this will be enough to make India comfortable with the changing American regional priorities. But what is very clear is that the road to negotiations in Afghanistan will be a very difficult one, given all the domestic and regional stakeholders who will need to be reassured. And New Delhi will have to prepare itself for making some tough choices in the coming days. The days of merely relying on “soft power” in Afghanistan are well past their sell by date.
US envoy arrives to discuss Afghanistan peace plan
KV Prasad/TNS

New Delhi, June 26
In a move to reassure India and assuage its concern over plans by the Barack Obama administration to open talks with the Taliban, Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins arrived in Delhi to discuss issues, including the “Afghan-led reconciliation process” initiated by Washington.

After visiting Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan over the course of four days, Dobbins today met Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai with another discussion scheduled with Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Satinder Lambah.

The decision to send Dobbins to New Delhi was announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday after he assured New Delhi that its apprehensions on the issue would neither be undermined nor overlooked.

Ahead of Kerry’s arrival in India on Sunday, India made it clear that any effort to resolve the problem in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led and nothing should be done that appeared to give either legitimacy to the insurgent group or show it on the same footing as the elected government there.

Secretary Kerry stated that the talks with the Taliban would be held not by the US but the Afghan High Peace Council and emphasised that the conditions for it had not been met. The conditions included respect for the Afghan Constitution, rights for women and minorities and no links with the Al-Qaida or violence.

A news report published in a Washington daily, however, said officials in the Obama administration stated last week that two conditions — eschewing international terrorism and recognising Afghan democracy — had been met.

Kerry also said any final outcome from discussions with the Taliban would be decided by the people of Afghanistan through this negotiation or when elections were held next year without the Taliban.

The move by the Taliban to open an office in Qatar last week under a flag and a plaque identifying itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan stirred a controversy with Karzai reacting strongly by pulling out from the scheduled talks with the US over exit plans for NATO forces there.

International wire services reported from Pakistan that Dobbins told Islamabad that Washington was “enraged” over the manner in which the Taliban opened its office, which was not quite in line with an agreement.

New Delhi’s concern

    India has expressed its concern over lending credence to the Taliban by involving it in Afghanistan peace talks
    US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday assured New Delhi that its apprehensions will not be overlooked
    US Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins has arrived in Delhi to assuage India’s concerns
Mass cremation begins, Air Chief vows to continue ops
Bad weather hits rescue
3,500 still stuck in Harsil, Badrinath
Tribune News Service & Agencies

Gauchar/Guptkashi, June 26
With the weather clearing a bit and the threat of an epidemic looming large, mass cremation of bodies of people killed in the rain fury in Uttarakhand finally began in Kedarnath today, even as 3,500 people waited to be rescued 11 days after the disaster.

Fresh rains and dense fog hampered rescue operations on Wednesday even as 1,000 more stranded people were evacuated from Badrinath and Harshil sectors by air and road routes in rain and fog. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne on a morale-boosting mission to Uttarakhand after Tuesday’s IAF helicopter crash pledged to continue with rescue efforts and hoped to wrap up the same in the next few days.

When Air Chief Marshall Browne arrived at the launching pad of the massive rescue operations in his dark blue flying overalls, the mood was sombre. A fighter pilot himself, the IAF Chief had four messages for the two dozen-odd pilots and an equal number of ground crew stationed here. Three of the messages were subtle confidence-building measures, but one message was loud and clear, perhaps aimed at his entire force of 1.70 lakh responsible for securing the country’s airspace: “I want to see the pilots and crew smiling.”

The first subtle message was that the IAF Chief too travelled in a Mi-17 helicopter (a similar copter had crashed yesterday killing twenty persons, including three pilots and two crew members). He flew on a sortie carrying relief material and supplies and not on a VVIP flight. On the return flight, he even brought some people to Dehradun. Third, he went and sat in the pilots’ makeshift tent that serves as the command centre sipping tea and pepping up the team after yesterday’s crash.

Minutes after landing, the Air Chief addressed the pilots and crew on the tarmac of the small air strip at Gauchar in the Himalayas. When reporters asked him what he told the pilots and crew, he said: “I just told them that I want to see them smiling. I told them they need to keep moving forward.”

This is not the first time that Air Chief Marshall Browne has assured pilots. On December 20, 2011, he flew a Sukhoi-30-MKI a week after one of the machines crashed to repose confidence in the plane and assure the country that it was safe.

Talking to reporters, Browne said “The morale of the force is extremely high. They're proud to be here, they're proud to be doing this job and I'm extremely happy with the way they are performing.

An absolutely marvelous effort not just by our people, but also of the Army, the ITBP and the NDRF.” Browne stayed here for almost an hour and also met the two Brigadiers of the Indian-Army based there to monitor operations, the ITBP’s IG, IS Negi and its DIG Amit Prasad.

At Kedarnath, the epicentre of the destruction, the cremation of bodies finally began. "The cremation of bodies in Kedarnath, which was being put off again and again for the past two days due to bad weather, was finally started this afternoon," IAS officer Ravinath Raman told PTI from Guptkashi. However, the number of bodies cremated was not immediately known.

Around 3,500 people are still waiting to be evacuated from Harsil and Badrinath areas, an Army release said. Around 1 lakh stranded people have been rescued so far since the disaster struck the hill state on June 15.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said people stranded in Harsil and Badrinath areas would be rescued in the next two days if the weather remains conducive to flights and all steps were being taken to prevent epidemic outbreak in the flood-affected regions.

Copter crash: 17 bodies found

The bodies of 17 out of 20 killed in the crash of the IAF’s MI-17 V5 helicopter in Uttarakhand on Tuesday have been recovered. "Seventeen bodies have been recovered. The cockpit voice recorder has also been found. We will be able to ascertain the reason for the crash only after analysing the cockpit voice recorder," Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said. P2

Hemkund Sahib shut for a year

The Hemkund Sahib Gurdwara that bore the brunt of the Uttarakhand flood fury may remain closed for the rest of the year as the road link to the shrine has been badly damaged. Staff has been asked to come down to Gurdwara Govind Dham, Shri Hemkund Sahib Management Trust vice-chairman Narinder Jit Singh Bindra said.

Toll may climb up

National Disaster Management Authority vice-chairman M Sashidhar Reddy said there is high possibility of the death toll climbing up. "There is 10-foot debris in Kedarnath and we fear that several bodies are trapped," he said. Nearly 350 people are untraceable, raising fears that all of them are dead, he said. Official figures have out the number of dead at 822 so far
US Army chief to visit India in July
Press Trust of India | Posted on Jun 26, 2013 at 07:30am IST

Washington: US Army Chief Raymond Odierno said he will visit India next month to expand the existing military to military co-operation between the two countries.

Terming the visit to be an "important relationship for the US", Odierno on Tuesday said that he would meet Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh and other defence officials during the visit.

"We will discuss many issues that we have in common to help each other grow as armies," he said.
Asserting that the US would continue to work and build on areas of common interests Odeirno said, "I will have a chance to go around the visit the Indian Army and I am looking forward to that very much".
Serving army colonel to appear before Huda panel tomorrow
A serving colonel of the Indian Army, who has allegedly obtained multiple flats illegally under the defence quota, will appear for a hearing before the Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda) on Thursday.

Colonel Narendra Yadav was issued a notice by Huda on June 10 for the cancellation of one of his plot allotments in Gurgaon and registration of an FIR against him.

As reported by HT earlier, Huda had served a similar order against him on February 7, 2011 following a complaint but no further action was taken in this regard and the officer did not appear before the panel.

In the meanwhile, the files pertaining to one of the plots -- plot number 64 in Gurgaon's Sector 38 -- also got mysteriously burnt in the Huda office.

Huda documents reveal that the officer got three plots - one each in Gurgaon, Faridabad and Rohtak -- between 1997 and 2000.

If Yadav's plot is resumed and an FIR is registered against him, it will set the ball rolling for action against several other officers of the armed forces who are allegedly involved in the misappropriation of plots.

On the basis of preliminary inquiry, the vigilance department which is probing the case has recommended registration of FIR against two other officers.

On June 7, after scouring through a set of RTI replies by Huda, Hindustan Times had reported that several serving and retired defence personnel - even those who have held ranks of lieutenant general, brigadier and colonel - acquired as many as 12 residential plots each, even though they were entitled for only one plot, by submitting false affidavits.

Based on a complaint by a former defence personnel and Gurgaon resident SK Sharma, vigilance sleuths attached with the Haryana chief minister's flying squad are probing the allegations against 36 senior servicemen - both retired and serving -- who got total 124 plots under the quota all across the state. Twenty four of these plots are in Gurgaon.
Sri Lanka army turns down Indian offer of training
COLOMBO, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The Sri Lankan army said on Tuesday it had turned down an offer by India to train two Sri Lankan army officers at a new location after they had to be pulled out from a training college in southern India.

The two officers who were following the Defence Services Staff Course (DSSC) in Wellington of India returned to Sri Lanka on Tuesday prematurely following stiff opposition in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to the training given to them.

Tamil Nadu political parties had wanted the two Sri Lankan officers to remove from the Wellington training center over human rights allegations raised against the Sri Lankan military over its conduct during the final stages of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said that due to some security concerns the Indian government had offered to transfer the two officers from DSSC Wellington to the Higher Defence Management Course (HDMC) in the College of Defence Management in Secundrabad in Andhra Pradesh.

The army spokesman said that the Sri Lankan authorities, whilst appreciating the offer, declined to accept it as it was observed that the HDMC was not in line with the initial purpose of sending the two officers for training in India.

"Moreover, a higher course with an entirely different scope would neither benefit the officers nor the Sri Lankan armed forces in immediate future employment of these officers. Hence, the Sri Lankan government made a request to withdraw the two officers from DSSC course and accordingly they returned to the island this morning," he said.

However he reiterated that the withdrawal does not in any way hamper the growing relationship and training partnership between the armed forces of India and Sri Lanka.
Pune youth tops Combined Defence Services examination
PUNE: ChinmayUdayTalawelkar, an engineering graduate from the city, has topped the Combined Defence Services (CDS) examination in the naval branch and has secured seventh rank in the army branch. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) on June 21 declared the results of the CDS exam, conducted in September 2012, and the ensuing staff selection board interviews.

A merit list of 326 candidates, including 239, who have qualified for the Indian Military Academy (IMA), 65 for the Naval Academy, Ezhimala, Kerala, and 22 for the Air Force Academy, Hyderabad, was released by the UPSC.

Chinmay, who had done his engineering degree studies from the PVG College of Engineering, has ranked first in the merit list for the Naval Academy. He hails from a family with a defence background as his father, Commodore Uday Talawelkar, is a serving naval officer and grandfather Major (Retd) Ashok Tilak, an army officer. Chinmay is set to join the Naval Academy, Ezhimala, and on completion of his training, will be commissioned as a sub-lieutenant in the Indian Navy.

According to the UPSC press release, the government had intimated 250 vacancies for the IMA, including 32 vacancies reserved for the NCC 'C' certificate (army wing) holders; 40 vacancies for the Naval Academy, including six for NCC 'C' certificate (naval wing), and 32 for the Air Force Academy, Hyderabad.

A total of 5,604 candidates had qualified the UPSC written test for the IMA, while another 1,799 and 595 candidates had qualified the written test for the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, respectively. Of these, total

326 candidates have cleared the staff selection board interviews.

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