M A I N   N E W S

No Purulia-type mission: MEA
Nepal-bound plane lands at Ahmedabad
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 29
Even as a plane carrying arms and ammunition for the Nepalese Government to help it fight Maoists violence made a stopover at the Ahmedabad airport this morning, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) rubbished claims that the cargo plane hired by the US Government was on a Purulia-type mission to India.

The MEA issued a statement which, while denying media reports that the plane was stranded at an airport in the country after being found carrying arms and ammunition, said the Government of India “was aware of the supply of certain explosives and ammunitions by the US Government to Nepal.”

The statement said the ammunition was went for training the Nepalese police in counter-insurgency operations.

Officials at the Ministry of Civil Aviation said that the plane had all necessary clearances and as projected by the media reports it was not on a secret mission. The officials send the plane had not landed in an Indian airport on Saturday, but only this morning.

They said the cargo plane of Bulgarian firm Vega Airlines landed early in the morning and after four hours of mandatory checks and custom clearance left for Nepal before noon.

Confirming this the MEA in its official statement said: “The flight arrived at Ahmedabad airport this morning and has left for Kathmandu after mandatory checks,” while adding that the media reports were “highly exaggerated” and over-dramatised “what was a routine procedure.”

Incidentally, this joint Indo-US exercise also reflected India’s resolve to help Nepal fight Maoists violence as has been assured to Kathmandu earlier.

Officials at the MEA denied that the plane had been awaiting clearance to fly out since Saturday last. It landed this morning for routine refuelling and later left for Kathmandu.

The statement further said that the plane had been granted permission to land after completing necessary internal procedures. “The clearance for this flight (subject to standard stipulation) was issued yesterday.”

However, reports emanating from Ahmedabad suggested that despite all clearances, the police authorities carried out intensive checks on the plane this morning. Flight operators had sought permission for refuelling here from the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) as per rules almost five days ago.

The AN-12 aircraft had apparently taken off from Baltimore in Maryland yesterday and was initially scheduled to halt for 15 minutes at Sardar Vallabhai Patel International Airport on its arrival at 7.15 am, but was held back for more than five hours for the necessary checks.

A US Embassy spokesman here said the training being imparted in Nepal was part of the State Department’s Anti-Terrorist Assistance Programme, being carried out in countries around the world.

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