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Thursday, 18 February 2016

From Today's Papers - 18 Feb 2016

UT, IAF to hold joint survey for shortest route to new airport
Administration presses for creating a tunnel from old airport
Ramkrishan Upadhyay

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
The UT Administration and the IAF will carry out a joint survey to find a workable solution for providing a shorter route from Chandigarh to the international airport in Mohali.

The Administration raised the issue during the Civil Military Liaison Conference held today at the Haryana Raj Bhawan under the chairmanship of Punjab and Haryana Governor-cum-UT Administrator Kaptan Singh Solanki.

During the meeting, Solanki called for a joint survey of the area for an early resolution of the matter.

The Administration presented three options in this connection.

While UT officials pressed for the shortest route from the existing route to the airport, they also gave presentation of developing two other roads — one from the Sector 47 side and the other connecting with the airport road in Mohali. In the last two cases, additional land will have to be acquired by the Government of Punjab and the Chandigarh Administration.

These two routes would require an additional detour of about 10-12 km for the residents of Chandigarh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

However, if the first option is followed, the distance from the city airport to the international airport would be merely 0.7 km.

The Chandigarh Administration has again proposed to build an underground tunnel to have direct connectivity to the international airport terminal in the area of Punjab. Under the proposal, the tunnel will pass through the runway and connect with the road to the airport in Chandigarh.

A senior UT official said though this plan was discussed with the Airport Authority of India earlier and the latter supported it, it could not materialise. “So we have requested the IAF to look into the matter again as we have no other option,” the official said.

While appreciating the role of armed forces, Solanki said a country could progress only if its citizens felt secure and were at peace. He emphasised the importance of holding such meetings regularly so that issues of the defence personnel and the civil administration did not remain unresolved for long.

UT Finance Secretary Sarvjit Singh assured that the issue of allotment of land for a girls’ hostel, Armed Forces Tribunal and the primary wing of Kendriya Vidyalaya in Sector 47 would be resolved soon.

Home Secretary Anurag Agarwal said as far as reservation and pay protection of the ex-servicemen on re-employment in the civil administration was concerned, the UT had already adopted the pattern followed in Punjab. Similar was the case as far as giving compensation and concessional benefits to the next of kin of deceased defence personnel was concerned.

Lt Gen KJ Singh, GOC-in-C, Western Command, appreciated the cooperation extended by the Administration from time to time in dealing with the issues pertaining to defence forces promptly. Meanwhile, he expressed concern over the security of military establishments and the Air Force Base in the wake of terrorist attacks in the recent past.
British firm picks Mahindra to make howitzers for Army
New Delhi, February 17
Leading gun-maker BAE Systems today announced selection of Mahindra as its Indian partner for the around $700-million deal for the supply of 145 M777 howitzers to the Indian Army—the first new artillery guns after the Bofors scandal.

The gun, with a strike range of 25 km, will form the backbone of the Mountain Strike Corps, being raised by the government for the mountainous borders with China.

It is a 155mm titanium-based ultra-light howitzer (ULH) and can be airlifted by helicopters with ease to distant mountainous military posts. The gun deal will be through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS), but the "spares, maintenance and ammunition will be operated through Indian systems", defence sources said. "BAE Systems has selected Mahindra as its business partner for the proposed in-country assembly, integration and test (AIT) facility for the M777 ultra lightweight howitzer," BAE, a British company with a subsidiary in the US, said in a statement.

The gun is owned by the US government and hence the deal has to be through an the FMS route. “India and the United States are in discussion for supply of 145 M777A2 LW155 howitzers for the Indian Army,” it said.

"BAE Systems looks forward to working with Mahindra in the coming weeks to finalise details of this AIT facility and to negotiate the terms of its contractual arrangement," the company said. Last year, BAE developed and submitted a US government-supported proposal offering a higher degree of indigenisation on the M777 weapon system. The highlight of this is the commitment to establish AIT capabilities in India in partnership with a domestic Indian firm. — PTI
China deploys missiles in disputed sea, sparks tension
Beijing dubs it move in self-defence | Obama, ASEAN leaders call for restraint
China has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system on one of the disputed islands it controls in the South China Sea, Taiwan and US officials said, ratcheting up tensions even as US President Barack Obama urged restraint in the region.

Taiwan defence ministry spokesman Major General David Lo said the missile batteries had been set up on Woody Island. The island is part of the Paracels chain, under Chinese control for more than 40 years but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. A US defence official also confirmed the "apparent deployment" of the missiles.

China's foreign minister said reports by "certain Western media" should focus more on China's building of lighthouses to improve shipping safety in the region. "As for the limited and necessary self-defence facilities that China has built on islands and reefs we have people stationed on, this is consistent with the right to self-protection that China is entitled to under international law so there should be no question about it," Wang Yi said in Beijing.

The Chinese defence ministry said defence facilities on "relevant islands and reefs" had been in place for many years, adding that the latest reports about missile deployment were nothing but "hype". China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year, and has been building runways and other infrastructure on artificial islands to bolster its title.

The US has said it would continue conducting "freedom of navigation patrols" by ships and aircraft to assure unimpeded passage through the region, where Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the US Pacific Command, said the deployment of missiles to the Paracels would not be a surprise but would be a concern, and be contrary to China's pledge not to militarise the region. "We will conduct more complex freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea," Harris said. — Reuters

What images show
Satellite images taken on Feb 14 show two batteries of eight surface- to-air HQ-9 missile launchers and a radar system on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea. The HQ-9 air defence system has a ‘range of over 200 km’.

Rising tension
China’s increasing military presence in the disputed sea may effectively lead to a Beijing-controlled air defence zone, analysts say

Significance of Woody Island

    Woody Island is largest in the Paracel archipelago, inhabited by at least 1,000 people, mostly soldiers, construction workers and fishermen
    In 1956, China established a permanent presence on the island, which it calls Yongxing
    In 2012, China established Sansha city local government office on the island to administer the whole South China Sea area
    The island is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam

Making position clear
China: This is an attempt by Western media to create news stories. All of those are actions that China has undertaken to provide more public goods and services to people — Wang Yi, Chinese Foreign Minister

US: We need tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions, including a halt to further reclamation and militarisation of disputed areas — Barack Obama, US President

Taiwan: Tensions are now higher in the South China Sea and all parties should work on peaceful solutions and  self-control principles to find solutions for various problems — Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan Prez-elect

Vietnam: The PM wants the US to have a stronger voice and actions requesting termination of activities changing status quo, especially construction of artificial islands and ending militarisation — Vietnam govt, on its website

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