Friday, May 17, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Limited attack on cards?
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 16
The security forces are apprehensive that their operations to counter the menace of cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir should not take a back seat with the BJP-led NDA government’s resolve to go through with the democratic process in the sensitive border state.

The armed forces have drawn the Vajpayee government’s pointed attention at the highest level that the priority accorded to blunting Pakistan’s proxy war aimed at whipping up a fear psychosis by killing the innocent should not be lost sight of because of the ensuing elections in J and K.

It is learnt the Chiefs of Staff Committee during its recent meeting with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had underlined the need for gearing up “Operation Parakram” with the snows melting in the heights.

Though the security forces have achieved success in tackling the scourge of terrorist violence, this assumes importance because of increased infiltration and stepped up terrorist violence. It has been evidenced in the past that terrorist violence takes an upward graph in the summers and especially in the months of July and August. Pakistan and the ISI will not be found wanting in trying to scuttle the democratic process in J and K.

The view in the armed forces is that putting the brakes on infiltration and dealing a debilitating blow to cross-border terrorism must take precedence at this critical juncture rather than holding forth on holding free and fair elections in J and K.

Sources said there is a possibility of leave being granted freely at present to the troops massed on the border with Pakistan for the last six months being put on hold next month before the onset of the monsoon.

There is overwhelming public opinion that the Vajpayee government must act decisively in putting an end to Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism as India has shown enough restraint for more than a decade now. Besides, the government did not hedge in telling the visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca that Washington should pressurise Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism for reducing tension in South Asia.

The averments of Mr Vajpayee and his senior Cabinet colleagues as well as the BJP following Tuesday’s barbaric suicide attack by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists in J and K does not rule out the possibility of a limited attack considering the fact that New Delhi’s patience is wearing thin.

Authoritative sources said Mr Vajpayee is expected to outline the government’s strategy in dealing with cross-border terrorism tomorrow when Pakistan’s intransigence in this regard is discussed in the Lok Sabha before the curtain rings down on the Budget session of Parliament.

A strongly worded resolution moved by the Chair is expected to be adopted unanimously so that a clear message is sent that enough is enough and it is time that India gears up its loins.

After the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament House in the national Capital, the Prime Minister had spoken of launching a decisive and final battle against Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism. Following the terrorist strike in Jammu on Tuesday, Mr Vajpayee alluded to taking revenge or retaliating though the Prime Minister’s spokespersons were on an overdrive giving a different perspective to the word "Pratikar."



Paratroopers hold joint exercise
Indo-US defence ties touch new high
S Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

Indian paratroopers and their US counterparts preparing for a joint exercise at Air Force station, Agra, on Thursday. — PTI photo 

Flying Officer Gunjan Kaushik (L) and US 1st Lt. Stacie exchange views during the joint military exercise on Thursday. — PTI photo

A US soldier (R) talks to an Indian soldier during the exercise on Thursday. — Reuters photo

Agra, May 16
The Drop Zone near the Indian Air Force airfield in the city of the Taj, which is popularly known as the Mecca of Indian paratroopers, came alive today with Indian and American paratroopers engaging in a joint exercise on interoperability in airborne assault operations marking a new high in Indo-US defence cooperation.

More than 90 American and about 150 Indian troops, including special forces from both sides, are taking part in the exercise, code named “Balance Iroquois”, the first joint exercise since Pokhran nuclear tests in May 1998, which saw Indo-US defence ties touch their lowest ebb.

The highlight of the joint exercise was the degree of “jointmanship” and “synergy” that was evident as American troops donned Indian parachutes and jumped off from Indian Air Force’s AN-32 aircraft and their Indian counterparts alighted from USAF’s Hercules C-130 aircraft donning American parachutes.

As the operations began early this morning, the Drop Zone, near the Air Force Station, first saw the Containerised Drop System (CDS) by Hercules C-130, followed by a couple of sorties by AN-32 for dropping American troops. Later, Hercules came for a high-speed, low-level drop while the IAF’s IL-76 displayed platform dropping before the Akash Ganga team of Parajumping Instructors (PGIs) displayed the skill of guiding themselves to the ground to hit with precision the “bulls eye”.

For the next few days, these professionals from the two armed forces will operate together and train jointly in several areas of airborne assault operations, Air Commodore S N Bal, Air Officer Commanding of the Air Force Station, told the visiting newspersons here today.

“The synergy so achieved would lead to mutually beneficial transfer of skills in the areas of planning and executing tactical missions with greater accuracy and harder punch,” he said. The familiarity drive was not confined to elite special forces; the US and Indian Air Force pilots also took turns to familiarise themselves by being behind controls of IAF IL-76 and AN-32 and US Airforce Hercules C-130.

“We have crossed the initial phase well”, Lt Col G S Buterbubugh of the US Air Force said, adding that the coming days would see a larger interaction.

The US special forces are getting their lethal MP-4A multi-purpose carbines which have accessories like laser guidance, infra-red target seekers and silencers with which India is keen to equip its elite para-commandos and naval marine commandos.

“The initial phase was without armaments and the next phase would include live firepower war manoeuvres simulating actual battlefield conditions and also para dropping exercises at night” Col Donald H Zedler, US Army Attache, said at the Malpura Drop Zone, about 9 km from here.



Blackwill has not quit: USA
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 16
The US Embassy here issued a statement today, denying reports of the resignation of Ambassador Robert Blackwill.

The denial came in the wake of reports that an Inspector-General was reviewing Mr Blackwill’s performance and the Inspector-General’s office had sent two teams here to review Mr Blackwill’s running of the mission.

The Washington Post had yesterday quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Mr Blackwill was “incredibly arrogant” and treated his staff like furniture. The Far Eastern Economic Review said in its latest edition that the “combative” Blackwill faced a recall from his post.

The US Embassy statement here quoted the State Department as saying: “Robert Blackwill is the US Ambassador to India. Everything else is speculative. He has not been asked to resign.”


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