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Saturday, 29 March 2014

From Today's Papers - 29 Mar 2014

IAF’s big bird Super Hercules crashes near Gwalior, 4 officers among 5 dead
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 28
In a major loss, a newly acquired US-made special operations plane — C-130-J Super Hercules — today crashed near Gwalior after taking off from Agra air base, killing five crew members, including four officers.

The dead have been identified as Wing Commander Prashant Joshi, Wing Commander Raji Nair, Squadron Leader Kaushik Mishra, Squadron Leader Ashish Yadav and Warrant officer Krishan Pal Singh.

"One C-130J aircraft crashed 72 miles (115 km) west of Gwalior air base. The aircraft took off from Agra at 10 am on a routine flying training mission. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate into the cause of the accident," an IAF spokesperson said in New Delhi.

The IAF rushed in its helicopters from Agra and Bareilly to look for the debris that has been secured. IAF sources said two C-130-J planes took off from the Agra base at 10 am on a routine tactical training sortie. One of the two planes just dropped from the sky and crashed, they said. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha termed the accident as very unfortunate.

“It is a sad moment for all of us and we share the grief with the families. The best pilots have been chosen to fly these aircraft,” he said. “Events like these are painful reminders of the inherent risks which our brave warriors face in the execution of our daily mission,” said the IAF Chief.

India had recently inducted six Super Hercules aircraft, which were bought from the US and delivered in phases from 2011 onwards. The cost of each plane was around Rs 730 crore as per dollar-rupee exchange rates when the deal was signed in 2008. The six planes had cost $ 962 million, Defence Minister AK Antony had told Parliament.

The crash is seen as a major jolt to the military that has lost a second strategic asset in less than one year - INS Sindhurakshak had sunk off the Mumbai harbour on August 14 last year. Such assets form the backbone of any military operation.

Experts from IAF’s air operations and flight safety wings are trying to ascertain how such an advanced plane crashed without a warning. It has four turbo-prop engines manufactured by Rolls Royce. Even if three engines fail, a highly improbable development, the plane will still land. The details would be clear after the CoI is completed. The IAF may call the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin or the engine-maker, Rolls Royce, for the inquiry.

The planes have completed many daring missions successfully. It includes landing at Dharasu in Uttarakhand in June last year to drop fuel supplies on very short runaway during flood-relief operations. A C-130-J also made a touch-down at the highest advanced landing ground at Daulat Beg Oldie in northern Ladakh.

In February this year, 71 persons had died when a plane of this type crashed in Algeria, Africa.

How it happened

* Two C-130J Super Hercules aircraft took off together from Agra base at 10 am for a tactical exercise, which involved flying at very low heights.

* One of the aircraft just dropped from the sky and crashed around 11 am. IAF sources said the aircraft could not even communicate about the emergency before it lost contact with ground control.

IAF baffled

It is rare for such a high technology plane to crash. The C-130-J is fitted with four turbo-prop Rolls Royce engines. Even if three engines fail, a highly improbable development, the plane will still land, say experts
N-capable Prithvi-II test-fired successfully
Balasore (Odisha), March 28
India today successfully test-fired its indigenously developed nuclear-capable surface-to-surface Prithvi-II missile, with a range of 350 km, from a test range near here as part of a user trial by the Army.

Integrated Test Range (ITR) Director MVKV Prasad said the missile was capable of carrying 500 kg to 1,000 kg of warheads.

"It was a perfect launch and all mission objectives were met," he said, adding the missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher in salvo mode from launch complex-3 at Chandipur at about 9.45 am.

"The missile trajectory was tracked by DRDO radars, electro-optical tracking systems and telemetry stations located along the coast of Odisha," a defence source said.

"The downrange teams onboard the ship deployed near the designated impact point in the Bay of Bengal monitored the terminal events and splashdown," he said.

Defence sources said the training launch of Prithvi II, which was inducted into Strategic Force Command (SFC) in 2003, clearly indicate the country's operational readiness to meet any eventuality besides establishing the reliability of this deterrent component of India's strategic arsenal.

Prithvi-II is the first missile to be developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the country's prestigious Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and is now a proven technology. — PTI
Acting by abstaining
India takes a pragmatic stand on Sri Lanka

India has abstained from voting in the United Nations Human Rights Council on a resolution against Sri Lanka. The resolution, passed by the UNHRC, was propelled by the US and other western nations and it asked for an international investigation into possible war crimes in 2009. Both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels have been widely accused of committing atrocities and widespread human rights violations.

Earlier, India had supported other resolutions that censured Colombo. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had even abstained from attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Summit held in Colombo last year. However, this time, India was uncomfortable with a resolution that asked for an international inquiry. India considers such an inquiry intrusive, and that it would set a wrong precedent. Predictably, South Block is facing considerable flak from Tamil political leaders like M. Karunanidhi, and even Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

India faces a delicate task. Human rights got a short shrift during the 26-year civil war, more so in the final stages. Various revelations of extra-judicial killings and torture that have hit the headlines have continued to build pressure for a proper inquiry into the conduct of both sides, something that Colombo has stoutly resisted. Sri Lankan Tamils continue to be discriminated against and there has been little development in the Tamil-dominated northern Sri Lanka. However, an intrusive inquiry into the events may not help the situation. India now must put pressure on Colombo to speed up the process of reconciliation, accountability and political resolution. Tamil Sri Lankans need to be brought into the mainstream of the Sri Lankan story. Human rights violations need to be investigated and those guilty must be punished. India has a major role to play in Sri Lanka and its foreign policy must reflect its concerns and strengths, as it has in this case.
Three militants who attacked an army camp and killed 3 persons in Kathua, J&K, killed
Three militants in combat uniform struck terror in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, killing three persons, including a soldier, in separate attacks. All the three militants were killed in a gun-battle with security forces that went on for several hours.

At around 5 am, the heavily armed militants allegedly stopped a Mahindra Bolero car on the Jammu-Pathankote highway and fired indiscriminately at the passengers, killing one of them. Three others were wounded.

The militants got into the car and surfaced a little later near at the army's "Rocket Regiment" camp close to the international border with Pakistan, where they fired at army men. One soldier was killed and two injured.

The driver of the car they hijacked was found dead in the evening with his throat slit.

Police suspect the militants had sneaked into India recently as part of a plan to carry out attacks ahead of India's national election next month.

The site where they struck is near Hiranagar, where a police station was attacked in September last year by three militants, believed to be from Pakistan. A top army officer was among 11 killed in that attack.

Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, had addressed a rally in Hiranagar on Wednesday. The police say there were alerts about a possible terror attack in the area.

Kathua district is a part of the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency where Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is fighting the election.
Gunmen attempt to storm Kashmir army unit; 6 dead
SRINAGAR, India — Gunmen disguised as Indian soldiers hijacked a car Friday in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing the driver and a passenger, and used it to try to storm an Indian army artillery unit, triggering a firefight that left four more people dead, authorities said.

At least three gunmen fired on the vehicle in the Dayalchak area, about 340 kilometers (210 miles) south of Srinagar, wounding three of the passengers, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
An Indian army spokesman, Lt. Col. Rajesh Kalia, said after hijacking the car, the gunmen tried to storm an Indian artillery unit about 30 kilometers (20 miles) away, but an “alert sentry foiled their attempt.”

Army troops intercepted them and the three gunmen and a soldier were killed in the ensuing daylong gunbattle, the police officer said.

Both the police officer and army spokesman blamed anti-India rebels for the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from any rebel group fighting against Indian rule.

Last year, suspected rebels wearing Indian army uniforms stormed a police station and an army camp in the same region. Eight government troops, three attackers and two civilians were killed.

The divided Kashmir region, claimed by both India and Pakistan, sees flares of violence as anti-India rebels step up demands for independence or incorporation into Pakistan.

About 68,000 people have been killed since 1989 in an armed uprising and subsequent crackdown by Indian forces. While the rebellion has largely been suppressed, anti-India resentment still runs deep.
Democracy’s violent edge
The gruesome sight of bodies of paramilitary troops stacked on the ground in front of a police station, killed by Maoists in a daylight attack in Chhattisgarh in eastern India, is a grim reminder of the violence that marks the campaign, now in full swing. The coincidence of the killing and announcement of the elections is not accidental.

Taking on the security forces is the most effective way for the Maoists to assert their local control. Such attacks are well-calculated — meant as much to loot weapons and assert their influence, as to show determination to enforce the poll boycott that the Maoists have already announced. In view of these violent threats, polling is spread out over nine phases, which is necessary for the deployment and movement of troops to protect polling. The presence of paramilitary forces is imperative not just for “disturbed areas” such as Kashmir or the Northeast, but for the country as a whole. Paradoxically, the world’s largest democracy can generate consent only under military protection.
The rise of law and order as a major election issue would probably give an edge to the electoral campaign of Narendra Modi, the star campaigner of the NDA, who has recently claimed that there have been no Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat during the past 10 years, in sharp contrast to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, states led by his main critics. But the hope that “Modi will fix it” is a dangerous delusion.

The Modi mantra that sums up governance in terms of seven core issues — “family-based value system”, agriculture and villages, women’s empowerment, protection of “jal, jungle aur jameen”, youth, democracy and knowledge — does not make any special mention of law and order, which could be a tactical move to hold critics of his leadership style at bay. The fact remains, however, that even in the event of an NDA victory in the forthcoming polls, law and order, as stipulated by the Constitution of India, will still remain the primary responsibility of the state government.

That is where the buck stops. When it comes to orderly rule, the Central government can prod or hinder, but the primary responsibility to combine order, welfare and identity that alone can deliver governance still remains with India’s federal states.

The Central government can neither take over policing (short of an Emergency) nor deploy the Indian army in anti-Naxalite operations, for the reluctance of the army high command to engage in civilian warfare is well-known. Incidents like the recent Maoist attack, where local police had failed to follow proper operational procedures, need to be controlled locally. Though the NDA is currently ahead of the UPA in opinion polls, the chances are that it might fall short of a majority in the Lok Sabha and will need support from regional leaders, precisely in the states most affected by Maoists.

The strategic significance of this and the imperative of compromise that this entails are unlikely to be lost either on the NDA or the Maoists, or for that matter, the regional parties that dominate local politics.

To cope with the violence that casts its long shadow on contemporary politics, there are three issues that need urgent attention. First, the linkage between widespread corruption and criminalisation of the political arena (chargesheeted legislators, black money, bribery, nepotism) are visible signs of the symbiosis between lawlessness and disorder. As such, legitimacy-lowering activities by people in leading positions should be exposed in the media.

In his recent, much publicised move, Rahul Gandhi reached out to the tribals of Odisha, calling for radical action, and leaving it for the local administration to pick up the pieces after his hasty departure. The antics of Arvind Kejriwal in his previous avatar as Delhi’s chief minister, staging a dharna against local police, have now been followed up by the flagrant violation of rules against illegal assembly, which marked the start of his campaign in Maharashtra.
Second, the “model code of conduct” — India’s all-purpose remedy against electoral malpractices — is no help against the Maoists who explicitly reject the electoral option. However, a firm directive to political parties to refrain from seeking the help of Maoists overtly or covertly at the pain of appropriate sanctions by the Election Commission will possibly deny anti-state forces the political protection they get from local politicians and candidates.
Finally, India’s active judiciary and civil society need to remember that “hungry men rebel” is at best a dangerous half-truth. Being quintessentially strategic actors, the likely rebels are those who see a concrete benefit and an opportunity to strike and get away. The solution for turning rebels into stakeholders lies not in homilies but in fostering the rights to livelihood, security and property, backed by firm policing and administration, and holding local panchayats accountable for the maintenance of law and order.

The Indian reaction, from the high and low, to Maoist violence has been mostly ritualistic. The home minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, “vowed to take revenge and to hunt down those involved in the attack” in nationally televised comments from Jagdalpur, a city near the place of attack. Seen together, the dead bodies on public display, ceremonial salutes to the fallen, effete pronouncements against the “cowardly attack” and the righteous sentiments of the Left and civil society activists linking the “cause” of the attack to poverty and deprivation convey a dangerous sense of general drift.

The long-term challenge is to sustain the pace of democratisation and economic growth, effective and accountable policing, and to strive for a level playing field. But, in the short run, one needs to see the grim lesson from Chhattisgarh as a violent edge to India’s expanding democracy. For the safe conduct of the polls and to enhance the legitimacy of the outcome, it is supremely important for the government, regardless of which party or combination comes to power in June, to hold its nerve, and to have faith in democracy but keep the powder dry.
In rerun of Samba attack, terrorists target Army camp in Jammu, kill 3
TWO days after Narendra Modi assailed Pakistan at an election rally in Hiranagar, three terrorists in army uniform attacked an SUV in nearby Dayalachak on the Jammu-Kathua national highway, killing two occupants of the vehicle and injuring three.

The heavily armed men then attacked an Army camp at Janglote and killed a jawan before being shot dead in an encounter with security forces that lasted all day.

The SUV commandered by the terrorists was found abandoned in the Sahar Khud (nullah) in the morning. Bodies of two terrorists and their two vicitms were recovered in the evening.

The third terrorist, who began a fresh exchange of fire with security forces around 4.45 pm, was shot dead after helicopters established his location in the dense foliage, sources said.

I-G, Jammu zone, Rajesh Kumar, said three-four terrorists had tried to enter the Army camp, but had slipped into the forests after being engaged by a sentry on duty. The attack was similar to the one that was carried out last September on Hiranagar police station and Samba Army camp about 20 km away.

No terrorist outfit had claimed responsibility for the attack until evening. Sources said police and security forces had intelligence inputs about terrorists’ plans to disrupt the Lok Sabha elections. Dayalachak and Jaglote are part of the Udhampur-Kathua Lok Sabha constituency, where union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is a multi-cornered contest with the BJP’s Jitender Singh. The deceased have been identified as Tarsem Singh, who was driving the vehicle, and Ajit Singh. Kamaljeet Singh, 33, Sahib Singh, 50, and Gurpreet Singh, 35, all from Punjab, have been admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu.

All the victims were sewadars who had been constructing sheds and other facilities at the Radha Soami Satsang Beas in Vijaypur’s Thandi Khuie area for the last two months. The spiritual leader of the sect, Baba Gurinder Singh, was expected to visit the centre over April 12-13, sources said.

According to the sources, the devotees had left Vijaypur in a Mahindra Bolero around 4 am to go to Beas for a darshan of the Baba, and to pick up material for the ongoing works at Thandi Khuie. Some half an hour later, they were signalled to stop by three men in Army uniform at a bridge on the Tarnah nullah in Dayalachak.

The terrorists asked all occupants of the vehicle except the driver to get off, Kamaljeet Singh said. “They told us to start running away from the vehicle. As we did, they opened fire from their rifles, killing one of us and injuring others,” he said. After the terrorists had driven off towards Kathua, taking the vehicle and its driver along, one of the injured men called the secretary of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas in Jammu from his mobile phone. The secretary informed the police around 5 am. It was raining heavily at the time, and there were very few vehicles on the highway.

Even though all checkposts along the highway were alerted, the terrorists could be intercepted only around 7.30 am, after they had travelled nearly 20 km to Sahar Khud. They had apparently left the highway and taken the road to the camp of the 111 Rocket Unit of the Army’s Artillery Regiment, sources said.

However, they had had to abandon their vehicle after it got stuck in the soft soil of the nullah bed. They had continued on foot, and had reached the camp around 7.45 am.

It was yet to be ascertained whether the terrorists took the entire time after hijacking the Bolero to travel to Janglote from Dalayachak, or whether they spent time in recceing the camp before being challenged by the alert sentry. It had also not been ascertained whether they had entered India recently, or had already been staying in the country, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

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