L A T E S T      N E W S

Modi dedicates INS Vikramaditya to the nation,
pitches for self-reliance

On board Aircraft Carrier: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today dedicated India's largest warship INS Vikramaditya to the nation and pitched for making the country self-reliant in manufacturing defence equipment, shedding dependence on imports.

In his first outing after taking charge as Prime Minister, he addressed the Naval personnel onboard the ship off Goa coast, calling the addition of the warship to the force as a "historic" step.

"It is an important day for our nation. It is a golden day in Indian Navy's history. For me, it is a matter of pride and happiness that INS Vikramaditya is joining the Navy. It is a historic step," he said.

Stressing on the need for self-reliance in defence equipment manufacturing, he said, "We need to give immense importance to latest technology. This will help the nation.

Why should we import defence equipment? We must be self- sufficient. Why can't we send our defence equipment to other nations." The Prime Minister also promised to set up a War Memorial for those who sacrificed their lives for the country.

He said this government has come with a determination and was committed to implement the "one rank, one pension" scheme for defence personnel.

"Our government has the potential to match anyone in the world and the reason for this is the capability of our soldiers who give us the strength to do so," he said in his address, adding that the country intends to move forward in the same manner, without lowering its eyes.

He also called for setting up a Naval NCC network across the country that could prepare a dedicated force of soldiers which could help the Navy emerge as a big force in the coming times.

Arriving on board the warship in a Sea King chopper, the Prime Minister was given the ceremonial guard of honour by the Navy and was briefed about the warship.

He also sat in a MIG 29 aircraft and had a feel of the combat fighter on the ship.

Modi spent a few hours on board the 44,500-tonne warship, his first visit to any defence facility.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Defence Secretary R.K. Mathur and Naval Chief Admiral Robin Dhowan.

During his stay on the ship, acquired from Russia for over Rs 15,000 crore, Modi witnessed 'air power demonstration' by various naval aircraft, including MiG 29K, Sea Harriers, P 8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft, TU 142M and IL-38SD maritime surveillance planes along with Kamov and Sea King helicopters.

He also witnessed high-speed manoeuvres by the Navy's Western Fleet ships, including aircraft carrier INS Viraat, Delhi-class destroyers and Talwar-class frigates.

The air demonstrations were, however, hampered by heavy rain.

Modi interacted with the senior officers and the crew.

The deal for the aircraft carrier was signed during the previous NDA regime in 2004 and the ship has been dedicated to the nation after a gap of ten years.

The vessel had joined the Indian Navy on November 16, 2013. The ship was earlier commissioned by the then Defence Minister A K Antony in Russia.

Vikramaditya, a floating airfield, has an overall length of about 284 metres and a maximum beam of about 60 metres, stretching as much as three football fields put together.

Standing about 20 storeys tall from the keel to the highest point, the ship has a total of 22 decks and carries 1,600 personnel.

Its logistics requirements include nearly a lakh of eggs, 20,000 litres of milk and 16 tonnes of rice per month. With her complete stock of provisions, she is capable of sustaining herself at sea for about 45 days.

It is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier which was purchased by India from Russia for the Indian Navy in 2013.

The ship has been renamed in honour of Vikramaditya, a legendary 1st century BC emperor.

Originally built as Baku and commissioned in 1987, the carrier served with the Soviet (until the dissolution of the Soviet Union) and Russian Navies before being decommissioned in 1996, it being too expensive to operate. — PTIBack


















Forces capable of responding to ceasefire violations
by Pakistan: Jaitley

SRINAGAR: Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today said the country's forces are capable of responding to ceasefire violations along the Line of Control by Pakistan.

Jaitley, who arrived here on a two-day visit to Jammu Kashmir, said he will review security-related matters with the state government and officers involved in the security grid.

Asked about ceasefire violations, including the one ahead of his visit, the Defence Minister said, "Our forces are capable of responding to it".

Jaitley was speaking to reporters at the Raj Bhavan, where he will be staying overnight.

Accompanied by Army Chief General Bikram Singh, Jaitley arrived here on his maiden visit since assuming charge as Defence Minister last month and is slated to meet Governor N.N. Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Ahead of Jaitley's visit, Pakistan troops had yesterday targeted Indian posts in Poonch sector with heavy weaponary like mortar shells, prompting India to remind it that maintenance of peace on border is a "pre-condition" for normalisation of relations.

Indian troops had retaliated effectively.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had questioned the timing of the ceasefire violation.

"Is it just a coincidence that the Defence Minister is visiting J&K, for his 1st visit, to review the security situation tomorrow?" Omar tweeted.

The firing came a day after an IED blast in the Tarkundi forward area along the LoC in Poonch in which one jawan was killed and three others injured.

Between end of April and mid-May, 19 incidents of ceasefire violation were reported along the LoC. — PTIBack




















Preity Zinta case
Mumbai cops begin probe; charges baseless, says Wadia 

MUMBAI: The Mumbai Police today said they will collect CCTV footage and other "evidence" on allegations of molestation and abuse levelled by Bollywood actress Preity Zinta against her former boyfriend and businessman Ness Wadia, who termed the charges as "false and baseless".

The 39-year-old actress, who jointly owns Kings XI Punjab IPL cricket team with Wadia, has filed a police complaint on Thursday night at Marine Drive Police station against him alleging that he molested, abused and threatened her inside Wankhede stadium in south Mumbai on May 30.

As the case came under intense media spotlight, Zinta said her intention was "not to harm any one but only to protect my self" and requested privacy.

The actress and the businessman had broken off their five-year-long relationship a couple of years back.

"I am shocked at the complaint and the allegations made against me are totally false and baseless," Wadia said in a statement.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria said "offence has been registered. We are trying to collect evidence like the statements of those involved and CCTV footage".

Zinta filed the police complaint alleging that she was molested by Wadia (44) inside Wankhede stadium on May 30.

On that day, an IPL match between Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings was played in the stadium.

She gave a written complaint, following which an FIR was registered against Wadia under IPC Sections 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation) and 509 (Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman), according to police officials.

"This is a very difficult time for me and I would like to request the media to please respect my privacy regarding this matter. My intention is not to harm any one but only to protect my self," Zinta said in a statement here today.

Also, the State Women's Commission gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the Mumbai Police to produce the accused in court.

"A woman was publicly misbehaved with... it is a non-bailable offence.... We have given an ultimatum to the Mumbai Police to take action against the accused and produce him in court," said State Women's Commission member Chitra Wagh.

Wagh also told media persons that the police have assured her that they are gathering evidence and action will be initiated in 24 hours. — PTI


















After mangoes, now 'Paan' from India may be banned by EU

London: Betel or 'paan' leaves from India may be the next item to be banned by the European Union (EU), which has already imposed an import ban on Alphonso mangoes over claims of a fruit fly infestation.

The EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) warned in its annual report this week that there have been consistent reports of Salmonella contamination of betel leaves from the country.

The EU had already issued a ban on the import of paan leaves from Bangladesh earlier this year, effective until at least end July.

"The continuing reason since 2011 for the high number of reports on Salmonella is paan leaves. The continuous reports notified by the UK prompted the adoption of a safeguard measure suspending temporarily imports of paan leaves from Bangladesh and setting up reinforced checks for paan leaves from India and Thailand," the RASFF 2013 annual report said.

Salmonella poisoning causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting in humans.

The RASFF has issued 111 notifications or warnings to India on food contamination last year, of which 12 concern curry leaves and 84 'okra' or ladyfinger.

"Apart from these findings, also five notifications on chilli peppers are noteworthy with sometimes high levels reported," the report concluded.

India also came in as the second highest in terms of overall notifications with 257 in total after China's total of 433.

The EU ban on Alphonso mangoes effective from May 1 had triggered widespread protests, including a petition to the British government to overturn the ban.

EU inspectors are now expected in India for an early inspection of the crop in September.

Other fruits and vegetables banned included Colocasia (taro, eddo) Momordica sp (bitter gourd), Solanum melongena (eggplant) and Trichosanthes sp (snake gourd).

The EU says the decision was taken due to a high number of intercepted consignments containing quarantine pests which could harm European crops. PTI

















Chile hold off battling Australia in 3-1 win

CUIABA (Brazil): Chile got the victory they needed if they are to have any chance of progressing from a daunting Group B when they held off a strong Australian fightback to emerge 3-1 winners in another open and entertaining World Cup match on Friday.

Alexis Sanchez put Chile ahead from close range after 12 minutes and two minutes later, Jorge Valdivia made it 2-0 with a well-struck shot as the South Americans looked in control. 

Australia fought back strongly, though, and Tim Cahill replied with a trademark header after 35 minutes and thought he had equalised with another early in the second half only to have it ruled offside by an excellent linesman's decision. 

Both sides went close in an end-to-end second half before Jean Beausejour grabbed a third for Chile in stoppage time, and they will now have to try to get something from games against Spain or the Netherlands, who thrashed the holders 5-1 earlier in the day.

 Amidst the 40,000 spectators at Cuiaba's brand new Pantanal arena, dominated by Chile's "Red Tide" of fans, the South Americans looked to be coasting to a comfortable victory when Sanchez and Valdivia scored in quick succession. 

"The ambience really helped the team establish its authority to go after those goals at the beginning," Chile's Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli told reporters.

Aranguiz neatly kept the ball in play on the right with defenders scrambling to block him and he chipped into the middle where Eduardo Vargas and Mile Jedinak jostled for the header, the ball falling for goalscoring talisman Sanchez to poke home. 

Chile were quickly two up, carving through Australia's defence before Sanchez squared for Valdivia to rifle into the roof of the net from the edge of the box. A heavy defeat looked on the cards for the Socceroos but Chile sat back and allowed them to settle. 

Australia's record goalscorer Cahill got above Gary Medel to head powerfully home and the striker was denied again moments later when his low strike was saved by Claudio Bravo.

The lowest-ranked team of the 32 in Brazil began the second half strongly with Cahill's bullet header ruled out and then veteran midfielder Mark Bresciano forcing Bravo into another sprawling save, this time one-handed low to his left. Australia had a let-off when Alex Wilkinson got back to clear off the goalline from Vargas but Chile could not relax. Cahill again demonstrated his renowned aerial ability when he climbed above his marker Gonzalo Jara but this time headed over.

Any hopes of securing a point vanished when substitute Beausejour drilled a low strike into the far corner in stoppage time. Even so, the outcome was a victory of sorts for Australia coach Ange Postecoglou, hired in October to rejuvenate an aging team only to be faced with one of the toughest groups in December's draw. 

"The good thing is that we believe in our football, we believe in our structure," said Cahill, who scored his 33rd goal for Australia. "Last week they were questioning whether we could create chances - we did create quite a lot."

After the tougher-than-expected challenge from Australia, Chile recognised that they need to do better to get to the next stage. They play Spain in Rio de Janeiro on June 18. "This is good to correct things and we need to play more complete games to face the strong teams ahead of us," Sampaoli said. — ReutersBack












Obama sets pre-condition for action in Iraq

Washington: President Barack Obama has said that the US will not indulge in a military action against the Islamist militant group ISIL in Iraq in absence of a political plan by the Iraqi government.

“I want to make sure that everybody understands this message — the US is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together,”  Obama told reporters at the White House.

“We’re not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we’re there, we’re keeping a lid on things, and after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we’re not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has met with senior military leaders over the last 36 hours to discuss events on the ground, and to prepare options for the President’s consideration.

“I won’t detail those options, but I can tell you they cover a wide range of military capabilities and will be designed to help break the momentum of ISIL’s progress and bolster Iraqi security forces.

“But clearly, any decision to employ these options rests solely with the commander in chief,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

For several months now, the Pentagon has been working in close coordination with State Department to augment the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.

“Our focus has been on increasing their capacity to defend themselves and their people and remain responsible for taking on the threats over the long term,” he said.

“In March, the US delivered a hundred Hellfire missiles on an expedited timetable, bringing the total to some 300. That’s in addition to millions of rounds of small-arms fire, tank ammunition, helicopter-fired rockets.

“Late last year, the US delivered additional armed scout helicopters to the Iraqi armed forces, and a few weeks ago we notified Congress of an additional $1 billion in foreign military sales,” he added.

“The (US Defence) Secretary believes it is imperative that Iraq and its neighbours have strong security forces to meet evolving threats from the violence that’s spilling over certainly from Syria’s borders. We are fully committed to that effort,” Kirby told reporters.

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, however, said that Obama has not made any decision yet concerning military assistance to Iraq.

“He (Obama) has not made a decision yet in terms of how to take short-term steps to help the Iraqis and assist in this fight.

“What we’ve said is that anything we do needs to absolutely be coupled with a commitment from the Iraqi Government and its leaders to pull their country together, to step up to the plate and to stop doing some of the things that have led in part to vulnerabilities within the Iraqi Government and the security forces,” she said.

The US, she said, has increased its surveillance capabilities and sharing of intelligence with the Iraqis.

“All of this builds into this picture that the President mentioned, we need to take a little time to make the decision, to develop options, and to get as much intelligence and information as possible if we decide to take action,” she said.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham agreed with Obama and said “We have long said the same. However, the recent advance of al-Qaeda-linked fighters has created a more urgent security problem: the grave risk of renewed sectarian conflict in Iraq and the expansion of what is already the largest terrorist safe haven in history.”

“This is not just Iraq’s problem. It is also a growing threat to the U.S. and our partners and allies. Therefore, while we continue to urge Iraqi leaders to unify and reconcile, our most immediate priority must be to reverse the advance of a terrorist force that is more radical, violent, and ambitious than al-Qaeda,” the senators said.

They advocated use of air strikes by the US to deal with situation in Iraq.

“We see no way to achieve this goal without US air strikes, among other military and intelligence actions and additional support for our Iraqi partners.

“A delayed or weak response from the United States will only deepen the Iraqi government’s dependence on Iran, and destroy the prospects of national reconciliation,” they said. — PTIBack












US offers 'groundbreaking' defence technologies to India

WASHINGTON: The US has a number of "groundbreaking" defence technologies, including a helicopter and an unmanned aerial vehicle programme, to offer to India for co-development and co-production, a top Pentagon official has said.

"We have a number of offers on the table for India. There's a groundbreaking offer to share in the next generation of the Javelin missile, co-production and co-development," Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Frank Kendall, told reporters.

He said the offers in the list also include a helicopter programme and an unmanned aerial vehicle programme.

"We have an artillery piece. We have a number of things in different stages of process," said Kendall, who has been tasked by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel to lead Pentagon's Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) with India.

The Indian side during the previous UPA regime was led by former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon whose replacement is yet to be announced by the Narendra Modi government.

Kendall said the US would continue with the initiative while looking for additional opportunities.

"We also had some good discussions about science and technology cooperation that we need to continue. So to some extent, it will be continuing the work that we've already started, but we're also looking for additional opportunities. So I think there's a lot of potential there," he said in response to a question. — PTI





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | E-mail |