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Saturday, 14 February 2015

From Today's Papers - 14 Feb 2015

Copter deal: Boeing hints that delay will means cost
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
The ambitious plan to acquire specialised helicopters for the Indian Air Force — one for combats and the other for lifting heavy loads – has hit a new hurdle, US-based supplier Boeing today sounded alarm bells saying it cannot wait indefinitely for New Delhi to ink the $2.5-billion deal.

The IAF is buying 15 heavy lift CH47F Chinook and 22 AH-64-D Apache meant for the newly created Mountain Strike Corps.

Addressing a press conference, Boeing India president Pratyush Kumar said: “We are inching closer to a situation where our ability to hold prices will not be there.” In simple terms, Kumar meant India would need to hurry up or the company would not be able supply the copters at the price it had bid.

As per current dollar-rupee conversion rates, $2.5 billion would translate to some Rs 18,000 crore. Sources said India had selected the US copters in November 2012. Chinook and Apache had beaten Russian-built Mi-26 and Mi-28-H, respectively, in an open competition trials for which were conducted in 2010 and 2011. The price quoted is almost five years old.

Following the long negotiations, the Indian Defence Acquisition Council, in August last year, accepted the US proposal. It is yet to be ratified by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In August 2014, a DAC meeting chaired by then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley accepted the proposals of the US company. The 22 Apache Longbow gunships, armed with Hellfire and Stinger missiles, will be worth $1.4 billion. The 15 Chinooks, equipped with powerful contra-rotating tandem rotors, will be worth $1.1 billion.

Boeing has agreed to extend the validity of negotiated prices twice with the latest six-month extension being granted in October 2014. Sources have indicated that the Cabinet Committee on Security may approve the purchase of the copters before this financial year closes.

Currently, the Indian Air Force has been using Russian/Soviet produced helicopters in both the roles. IAF operates a Russian-built fleet of ageing Mi-35 attack helicopters and for the heavy lift it uses the Mi-26.
CoI blames pilot for AN-32 crash landing

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 13
A court of inquiry (CoI) instituted by the Air Force to investigate the crash landing of an AN-32 transport aircraft in Chandigarh in September last has blamed the pilot for the incident in which the aircrew and passengers had a miraculous escape and the aircraft was totally destroyed.

IAF sources had then termed it as a freak accident resulting from the vagaries of the weather. The CoI has reportedly held that despite knowing there was bad weather over Chandigarh the pilot failed to appreciate the situation did not anticipate the sudden gust of wind due to which the aircrew lost control of the aircraft while landing.

The findings of the CoI, which was presided over by a Group Captain from the Aircrew Examination Board, Hindon, have been forwarded to Headquarters Western Command for finalisation and directions thereof, sources said.

The CoI had forwarded its findings to Command Headquarters earlier, but these were not accepted and the CoI was directed to reassemble to review some of its findings and observations, sources added.

The AN-32 with 11 crew members and passengers was on an operational deployment and returning from Bathinda. As it was about to land, a sudden wind shear that erupted due to overhead cloud cover was so strong that it virtually slammed the aircraft on to the runway.

The aircraft, which was then a few feet in air, hit the runway at a high speed, bounced up and veered off course. In the process, its right wing hit the ground and tore off and the aircraft overturned. Fuel from the wing tanks spilled out and ignited. The aircrew and passengers escaped with minor bruises.

It was the use of seat belts by the aircrew and passengers that had prevented serious injuries or possible fatalities in the accident.

The IAF had procured 120 AN-32s from the erstwhile Soviet Union from 1984 onwards. Of these, 105 AN-32s remain in service, which are used in the tactical transport role, including airdropping supplies over Siachen Glacier and maintaining the vital airbridge to the northern sector.

Several AN-32s have been involved in the accidents in the past. Some of the accidents have resulted in the loss of lives.
Pakistan opposes India’s UNSC membership bid
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

Reiterating strong opposition to India’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council in a telephonic conversation with US President Barack Obama, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said India continues to flout the UN resolution on granting the people of Kashmir the right to self-determination.

President Obama called Sharif on Thursday evening and discussed with him bilateral and regional issues against the backdrop of his visit to India last month. The Pakistani premier sought US support for Pakistan’s quest to be admitted to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.

President Barack Obama discussed his administration’s efforts to improve India-Pakistan relations, the White House said in Washington. The US President made the call to “discuss bilateral and regional issues” with the PM and both leaders expressed “the intent to meet at a mutually convenient time”, said a White House statement after the call which lasted nearly half an hour.
47 Myanmar soldiers die in clashes

Yangon, February 13
As many as 47 Myanmar soldiers have been killed this week in fighting with ethnic minority insurgents near the border with China, the military said in a statement issued on Friday.

The fighting and heavy casualties are a setback for government efforts to forge a nationwide ceasefire and end a patchwork of insurgencies that have bedeviled Myanmar since shortly after its independence in 1948.

The clashes in Shan State in the northeast between the army and a group called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) have alarmed China which fears an influx of villagers fleeing violence and called this week for peace on the border.

The military said 73 soldiers were wounded in clashes from Monday to Thursday.

It gave no more details of the fighting but the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Thursday that the military had carried out five air strikes against the rebels.

Officials from the MNDAA were not available for comment.

Myanmar’s reformist, semi-civilian government, which took power after 49 years of military rule, wants to implement a nationwide ceasefire agreement with all rebel factions. — Reuters
Terror Group ISIS to be Banned in India
The dreaded terror group ISIS and all its affiliate organisations will be banned by India under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act soon.

A notification declaring ISIS and its affiliates ISIL and IS as proscribed organisations will be issued very soon, official sources said today.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said in Parliament on December 16, 2014 that the Middle-East group had been declared banned in India under a United Nations Schedule.

Mr Singh had said the group has been proscribed under the provisions related to organisations listed in the Schedule to the UN Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order, 2007 made under section two of the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1947.

Four men from Mumbai had gone to Iraq-Syria in May 2014 to join ISIS. One of them returned late last year while the whereabouts of the remaining three are yet to be known.

A Bangalore-based executive of a multi-national company was arrested in December last year for allegedly running a pro-ISIS Twitter handle.

Last month, another person from Hyderabad was barred from travelling to Syria, ostensibly to join ISIS.

Recently, retired Intelligence Bureau chief Asif Ibrahim had said there was an imminent danger of Indian youths moving to the conflict zone (Iraq-Syria), emerging as a role model, and such developments may directly or indirectly pose a threat to the country.

"The threat potential is accentuated with some lower rung elements returning from conflict zone," he had said.

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