POINT OF INTEREST: India Trash Pakistan 4-0 in Hockey Champions Trophy Opener

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tejas – Inching Closer To FOC

by Anantha Narayanan K

Ever since its first flight, India’s indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas has been proving its mettle to be a combat-proven asset to the armed forces. In July 2016, it has been inducted into the Air Force by forming a separate Squadron ‘Flying Daggers’ with an aim of eventually replacing the ageing fleet of Mig-21 aircraft. Tejas will play a prime role in the ongoing modernisation drive of the armed forces which aims at gearing them up with the most modern systems and equipment. Though there have been some initial issues, the IAF has validated the performance of Tejas. During the recent Gagan Shakti 2018 exercise, Tejas has once again reaffirmed its air superiority and the IAF has called for the fast production of aircraft to meet its requirements. In this scenario, achieving the Final Operational Clearance (FOC), is one of the prime tasks for the LCA and according to the latest reports, Tejas is inching closer to FOC by turning major hurdles into achievements.

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the nodal agencies for design and development of the fighter aircraft, have been speeding up the FOC procedures of Tejas. Recently, Tejas has achieved another milestone towards Final Operational Clearance (FOC) as it successfully fired Derby Air-to-Air Beyond Visual Range Missile to expand the firing envelope. It has demonstrated safe operation of the aircraft during missile plume ingestion into the aircraft engine under worst case scenarios. The missile has been launched from LCA Tejas on 27 April 2018 from the firing range off the Goa coast after exhaustive study of the missile separation characteristics and plume envelope.

Integration of Derby, a BVR class missile is one of the major objectives of Final Operational Clearance (FOC) of Tejas. Based on the successful integration and demonstration, Regional Centre for Military Airworthiness (RCMA), a unit of DRDO has cleared the series production aircraft of Squadron 45, to be equipped with Derby operational capability. Tejas has successfully completed a series of captive flight trials to clear Derby for the full operational capability in the entire FOC envelope. In the past, Tejas has qualified for the armaments and missile release related trials.

During the Gagan Shakti 2018, the largest ever exercise by the IAF, LCA Tejas has proven its battle-readiness. The 14-day exercise has witnessed the extensive testing of the newly-inducted Tejas supersonic fighter jets of the IAF. Being deployed at forward bases, the operational efficiency and mission worthiness of the aircrafts have been put to test in a real-time intense exercise environment. A milestone towards ‘Make in India’, LCA has employed Close Combat and Beyond Visual Range Air to Air missiles in a simulated scenario apart from Air to Ground weapons.

IAF has done trials and validation of operational efficiency of LCA Tejas and has been able to generate six sorties per platform per day. For Tejas, this is a good development as the IAF usually sticks to around three sorties per day on every Tejas. With the satisfactory performance of Tejas, the IAF now pushes for fast production of the aircraft.

The fighter is getting considerable upgradations and technological improvements in the wake of FOC procedures. HAL and ADA are constantly improving the systems and capabilities of the fighter. The latest updates from ADA tell that Tejas is all set to commence its Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) flight trials. ADA has been carrying out various tests regarding the AAR for the past few months which have been successful. All the simulated ground tests have been successfully completed as Tejas was refuelled by placing it at various attitudes. The technical integration for AAR has been completed and the trials were commenced on the ground. Tejas is expected to be ready for air-to-air refuelling by the end of May.

The IAF plans to induct a total of 123 Tejas Mark-IA, next to 40 Mark-I Tejas LCAs. HAL is currently increasing the production capacity from eight to 16 aircraft per year. A total 20 IOC (initial operational configuration) aircrafts including 16 fighters and four trainers have been delivered by HAL to IAF till date according to the defence ministry. The production of remaining 15 IOC aircrafts (11 fighters + four trainers) are taken up at HAL. The production of 20 more Tejas LCA in the FOC configuration will begin following FOC clearance.

Dr. S Christopher, Secretary Defence R&D and Chairman, DRDO has recently said that the home-grown fighter has emerged among the best in class aircraft, providing flight stability even under extreme unstable conditions. Confirming Tejas’ air superiority, the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the government preferred induction of Tejas over foreign-made aircrafts for the Indian Air Force. She has further said that the production rate of Tejas will be increased to meet the IAF requirements.

Balance activities towards FOC, which will further enhance the operational capability of the aircraft are in progress currently. These include enhancement in the ‘g’ load capability, Air to Air Refuelling, additional weapon integration and gun integration. Dr. Girish S Deodhare, Program Director (Combat Aircraft) and Director, Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), has said that the LCA Tejas is expected to achieve FOC by July 2018.

India Set To Acquire S-400 Missile System From Russia: What Makes It Better Than U.S. Made Patriot?

India's decision to buy Russia's S-400 missile system has left the US uncomfortable. The US had made it fairly clear that defence ties between India and the US could be impacted if New Delhi goes ahead with the purchase of S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems. Despite this, India has decided to go ahead with the deal.

India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border. In fact, Russia and India are likely to announce the deal before an annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in October.

There can be two possible reasons why the US is unhappy with the deal. One is that since India has emerged as the largest importer of military equipment in recent years, the US keen to become New Delhi's main supplier. Another is that S-400's comparable missile system, US made MIM-104 Patriot, is losing market to the Russian weapon system across the globe.

Both are surface-to-air systems designed to shoot down aircraft and ballistic missiles. But the S-400 has a longer range than the Patriot, 250 kilometres (155 miles) vs. 160 kilometres. An upgrade coming later this year is expected to stretch the S-400's range to 400 kilometres.

It also has a more powerful radar, can destroy targets moving twice as fast, and is quicker to set up. While both systems are mounted on trucks, the S-400 can be ready for action in five minutes, compared with an hour for a Patriot battery. The S-400 is also slightly cheaper than the Patriot, on a per-battery basis.

All you need to know about S-400:

The S-400 Triumf is an anti-aircraft weapon system developed in the 1990s by Russia's Almaz Central Design Bureau as an upgrade of the S-300 family. It has been in service with the Russian Armed Forces since 2007. The S-400 uses four missiles to fill its performance envelope: the very-long-range 40N6 (400 km), the long-range 48N6 (250 km), the medium-range 9M96E2 (120 km) and the short-range 9M96E (40 km). The S-400 was described by The Economist in 2017 as "one of the best air-defence systems currently made."

Development of the S-400 system began in the late 1980s, and the system was announced by the Russian Air Force in January 1993. On 12 February 1999 the first, reportedly-successful tests were performed at Kapustin Yar in Astrakhan, and the S-400 was scheduled for deployment by the Russian army in 2001.

In 2003, it became apparent that the system was not ready for deployment. In August, two high-ranking military officials expressed concern that the S-400 was being tested with "obsolete" interceptors from the S-300P system and concluded that it was not ready for deployment. Completion of the project was announced in February 2004, and in April a ballistic missile was successfully intercepted in a test of the upgraded 48N6DM missile. In 2007, the system was approved for service.

States Get Ready To Target Leadership of Maoist Outfits

Documents accessed by ET reveal that the idea is to first knock down district level commanders since they are source for recruitment and peddling terror at the ground zero

NEW DELHI: The home ministry has set a calibrated goal for states to target the brass of Left wing extremists, including 11 CPI(Maoists) central and regional committee members.

States identified district, regional and central committee commanders during a review meeting home secretary Rajiv Gauba held recently.

Maoists’ central committee members Misir Besra, Kishanji and Sitaram Manjhi figure high in the hit-list which includes leaders of other banned groups. The Jharkhand police alone has announced a reward of `1 crore, each, on their heads. The red corridor is now restricted to thirty districts due to concerted effort of the MHA in the last four years.

Documents accessed by ET reveal that the idea is to first knock down district level commanders since they are source for recruitment and peddling terror at the ground zero.

Next is to size up regional commanders and finally take on central committee members. State and central paramilitary forces are hunting for Maoist area commanders Patiram Manjhi, Raghunath Hembrum, Anmol Daa and Ajay Mahto though intelligence agency sources realise that it’s a tough task to smoke them out from their in jungles pocket boroughs spread across Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Jharkhand Police director-general DK Pandey told ET that due to focused action to contain Naxalism, their influence in the state has been reduced to 31 villages, which was 2000 villages in the state before 2014. The state’s rural and tribal population are scattered over 32,000 villages.

“We follow action and development to battle Naxalites in Jharkhand. Due to the success of the police working in close coordination with intelligence agencies, there are hardly about 100 Naxalites left in 31 villages. We have also approached their families to persuade them to give up arms. We are also seizing their assets with the assistance of NIA and ED,” Pandey said.

Jharkhand police have identified 37 district level commander targets. Out of them, 14 are Maoists commanders operating in districts including of Ranchi, Gumla, Lohardaga, Palamu, Latehar, Garhwa, Jamshedpur and Chiabasa. Four are from Peoples Liberation Front of India — the most influential Naxal outfit after Maoists in Jharkhand and adjoining states — and same number are also from Tritiya Prastuti Committee. Among PLFI which Jharkhand police is looking for are its supremo Dinesh Gope and his other supreme commanders Jageshwar Singh and Vijay Dang.

Sources said TPC’s supremo Brajesh Kumar Ganjhu, Niraj Ganjhu and Karampal are on the radar of the state police.

PAK SCAN: Why India Must Change Its Kashmir Policy

Residents of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) protesting against the illegal Pakistani occupation 

The mood in Kashmir is more dangerous than ever before. India must change tactics before it’s too late

by Ikram Ullah

On May 7, 2018, Saddam Padder, a top-ranked commander of the militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in a gunfight with Indian troops in Heff village of Shopian, in South Kashmir, along with two other militants. Among the killed was a militant of 40 hours, Dr. Mohammad Rafi Bhat, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Kashmir.

Thousands of people from across Kashmir poured into Shopian to attend the funeral of the militants, bypassing the restrictions that had been put in place to contain human and vehicular movement across South Kashmir by the authorities. Due to the sheer number of mourners, 15 back-to-back funerals were offered.

Militants carrying AK-47s appeared from the roof of Saddam Padder’s house and raised slogans in favor of Azaadi, freedom. At one point, a woman was seen among the militants; the next instant she had an AK-47 on her shoulder pointed to the sky. She pressed the trigger three times. That was the mother of Saddam Padder offering a gun salute to her son and that image is a microcosm of Kashmir in 2018.

How Did Things Reach This Point?

What brought Kashmir to this point? One major factor: the perception that Indian policymakers are simultaneously callous, arrogant, and perpetually timid when it comes to the sentiments of Kashmiris.

In 1999, when the armed insurgency was at its peak in Kashmir, the Indian government at the time, led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, vociferously pushed for the dialogue to resolve the Kashmir conflict. It went on to declare that “autonomy within the ambit of the Indian Constitution” could be among the options and endorsed the earlier government’s famous reiteration that the “sky is the limit.”

This lead to hope among the general Kashmiri public for resolution through dialogue. The then Indian government held talks with the Hurriyat, the separatist political leadership in Kashmir, and the Hizbul Mujahideen, the main militant organisation, which led to the declaration of a ceasefire. Hope in dialogue as a means for resolution sapped support for militancy among the Kashmiri public and as a result militancy largely ebbed away. The effects could actually be felt on the ground in Kashmir and on the Line of Control with militancy-related casualties drastically decreasing from 4,507 in 2001 to 377 in 2009.

However, as militancy receded, the Indian government further tightened its grip on Kashmir. The dialogue processes were given up. The separatist political leaders were either put in jails or under perpetual house arrest. Indian soldiers, roughly 700,000 strong in Kashmir, still manned civilian areas and continued to enjoy virtual impunity. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which necessitates prior approval from the central government in New Delhi for the prosecution of any army personnel in Kashmir, ensured that not a single Indian soldier was ever prosecuted for violations in Kashmir, not even when accused of rape in cases like Kunan-Poshpora.

On the diplomatic front, India dismissed and restricted Hurriyat from talking to Pakistan over the resolution of the Kashmir conflict, stating that Kashmiri people have no place in talks with Pakistan. India maintained the political status quo in Kashmir and extended its rhetoric by declaring that “Kashmir is an internal affair.”

To the people in Kashmir, India, having successfully defeated militancy by offering dialogue and diplomacy, was now trying to dodge the political aspirations of Kashmiris and render them a nonparty to the conflict.

The Outburst

At the beginning of 2016, when I was in Kashmir, I felt the anger and the frustration that had pent up among many young Kashmiris. The narrowing political space had caused many to feel pushed against a wall. The mass civilian protests of 2008, 2009, and 2010, which were violently repressed, causing hundreds of civilian deaths, were cited by many as proof of India’s indifference to the nonviolent movement — and hence its futility.

In May 2016, I wrote in Foreign Policy that India was losing ground as well as any support it had in Kashmir. In July, Burhan Wani, the then-commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed. Kashmir erupted like never before and it continues to simmer. But unlike earlier uprisings, many young Kashmiris are again turning to militancy and finding huge support from the civilians. The slogan “there is only one solution — gun solution, gun solution” is becoming more popular in Kashmir each day.

A number of young and well-educated Kashmiri people, among them engineers, doctoral students, and scholars, are choosing militancy over diplomacy.

I visited Kashmir again toward the end of 2017. If anything, there is more anger and deeper frustration. The horror of pellet munitions, which wreaked havoc and left behind a crisis of blindness during the 2016 uprising, continues to this day. To young Kashmiris, this is a reminder of a drastically skewed political balance — they see themselves at the mercy of an Indian soldier in full riot gear with lethal weaponry aimed at them. The visuals of Farooq Ahmad Dar, tied to the hood of a military jeep and paraded as a human shield, have caused a sense of collective humiliation and desperation.

Today, the situation in Kashmir is worse than it appears. It would be safe to say that there are as many takers as guns available. A political commentator told me recently that “if there is a truckload of weaponry, it would run out in an hour.” One can comprehend this by the fact that there have been so many cases of militants snatching weapons from police that recently the police banned the use of smartphones for on-duty personnel to ensure full attention from the police.

Perpetual Denial

On June 14, the United Nations Human Rights Office published a 49-page report on the human rights violations in both India as well as Pakistan-administered parts of Kashmir. It called for the “respect of the right of self-determination” of the people of Kashmir and inquiries into the allegations of abuse.

The Indian state was swift to dismiss the report as “fallacious” and went on to accuse the UN human rights chief of “prejudices.”

What is more astonishing — perhaps even shameful — is that the elite liberal Indian journalists and commentators also vehemently denied any human rights violations in Kashmir by dismissing the UN report as “airy-fairy.” By doing so, these elite Indian journalists are essentially denying that human rights abuses were carried out when (for example) Farooq Ahmad Dar was used as a human shield, legitimizing to the Indian public what could amount to a war crime according to Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions. Such denials embolden perpetrators to repeat offenses, which they did just recently in Pulwama in South Kashmir, where a bunch of civilians were used as human shields during clashes.

Instead of accepting the UN report as an opportunity for urging the government to act against the violators of human rights in Kashmir, mainstream Indian commentators prefer to outrightly deny that mowing down three Kashmiri protesters with armored military vehicles could be considered excessive. And the rapes, the mass graves, and disappearances, the epidemic of dead eyes — by rejecting the UN report, analysts either completely deny that these violations happened or essentially stand by them.

The United Nations has repeatedly been denied unconditional access to both parts of Kashmir. On June 18, its Human Rights Chief declared that they would continue to remotely monitor the situation and would push for a commission of inquiry into human rights abuses at the UN sessions this week.

It would be prudent for India to change its Kashmir policy now, when the situation is still controllable. India should genuinely start the dialogue process amicably, with both Hurriyat as well as Pakistan, with the aim of reaching a viable solution that would ensure peace and stability in the region. It should show its goodwill by acting on the United Nations report and ensure that the perpetrators of human rights violations be punished and not protected behind the smokescreens of denials and dismissals.

Ikram Ullah is of Pakistani original and a Kashmiri doctoral candidate at the University of Marburg, Germany. His works have appeared in Foreign Policy and The Express Tribune

U.S. Senate Passes Defence Bill Without CAATSA Waiver

The S-400 Air Defence System by India could come under strain following the Non-Waiver

The Senate version of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for 2019 passed on Monday has no waiver provisions

The U.S Senate has ignored the Donald Trump administration’s request for powers to waiver provisions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which requires it to impose sanctions on countries that have “significant” defence relations with Russia.

The Senate version of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for 2019 passed on Monday has no waiver provisions.

The version of the NDAA 2019 passed earlier by the House of Representatives has a provisions for waiver in rules attached to it, but that is inadequate to address India’s concerns about the law. India is caught in the crossfire of the bipartisan law against Russia, due to its defence relations with Kremlin.

The House version allows for waivers for 180 days, provided the administration certifies that the country in question is scaling back its ties with Russia. This formulation is inadequate to resolve the Indian situation, as it links waiver to India rolling back ties with Russia.

The House and Senate versions of the bill are reconciled through a conference process, but any hope of a legislative resolution to the CAATSA headache now appears out of reach. People lobbying for changes in the law in order to ensure that India’s increasing defence purchases from America won’t be interrupted by sanctions said lawmakers would be more amenable after the November 2018 midterm elections.

Indian Army Makes Big Strategic Changes To Nab Terrorists & Reduce Terrorism In Srinagar

During the funeral procession of terrorists, a large population of local men; where armed terrorist commanders give provoking speeches and brain wash the young men and make them join their groups

Srinagar: The Indian Army is going strong against the rising terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and has prepared a hit-list of 22 terrorists, who it would aim to nab as soon as possible, under operation ‘All out’. In the wake of operation ‘All out’, the Army has already killed a terrorist in Anantnag on Friday; therefore, it has 21 more terrorists in its radar.

The Army has also changed its strategy and has decided to no more hand over the dead bodies of JeM, LeT, or ISIS terrorists to their respective families. In fact, they would be buried by the Army at a secret location.

The reason behind the move is, during the funeral procession of terrorists, a large population of local men are present; where armed terrorist commanders give provoking speeches and brain wash the young men and make them join their groups.

To put an end to their general practice, Army has taken a huge decision of performing the last rites of the terrorists.


Nepal To Maintain Close Ties With India, China While Pursuing Independent Foreign Policy, Says KP Oli

Nepal can serve as a bridge between India and China, Prime Minister K P Oli has said, insisting that his country will maintain close ties with the two neighbours while pursuing independent foreign policy

Nepal can serve as a bridge between India and China, Prime Minister K P Oli has said, insisting that his country will maintain close ties with the two neighbours while pursuing independent foreign policy. Oli, who is here on a five-day visit, held talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, following which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed to build a railway link connecting Tibet with Kathmandu, along with 14 cooperative documents.

In an interview to China’s state-run Global Times, Oli said since the formation of his government, Nepal has intensified engagements with both neighbours. “We have made it clear that we pursue an independent foreign policy and a balanced outlook in the conduct of international relations,” he said.

“In foreign policy conduct, our two neighbours naturally receive top priority and with both of them, our relations are broad, comprehensive and multi-faceted,” Oli said. Asked whether Nepal will be the “land of the competition” or “bridge of cooperation” between China and India, Oli said Nepal has remained a sovereign and independent nation throughout history.

“We are firmly committed to not allowing our territory to be used against the sovereign interests of our neighbours. We have the resolve to maintain this and we naturally expect similar assurance from our neighbours,” he said. Given this policy percept, “I see a good prospect of cooperation among our three countries,” he said.

Oli said Nepal’s developmental needs were immense and needed meaningful and mutually beneficial economic partnership with both its neighbours. “Fortunately for us, both our neighbours are rising in global stature and making tremendous progress in every area of development. They are in a position to support Nepal in its developmental journey,” he said.

“We believe that Nepal can serve as a bridge between our two neighbours. In fact, we want to move from the state of a land-locked to a land-linked country through the development of adequate cross border connectivity. Our friendship with both neighbours places us in an advantageous position to realise this goal,” he said.

On the Tibet-Kathmandu railway link, he said “cross-border connectivity is our top priority. Both sides have discussed developing a multidimensional trans-Himalayan connectivity network. This will enhance overall connectivity between our two countries.” “Our two countries are working seriously to establish cross-border railway connectivity. Kerung-Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini railway project has received priority in our partnership,” he said.

On China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), he said “this is an important initiative launched by President Xi Jinping with the aim of promoting connectivity and cooperation among the countries in the region and beyond.” “We believe that the BRI should be beneficial to all the participating countries. Nepal wants to benefit from the initiative and at the same time, works for the benefit of the international community,” he said. India has reservations over the BRI as it includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Congress Listening To Language of Separatists: Union Minister

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday criticised the Congress Party for listening to the language of separatists. The BJP’s response came in response to Congress leader Saifuddin Soz comments on Kashmiri independence.

Addressing the media, Union Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi was strengthening anti-India forces. Prasad said Ghulam Nabi Azad’s comments on the Army were “irresponsible, shameful and deeply regrettable.” On Thursday, Azad courted controversy when he said the operations by the army in Jammu and Kashmir killed more civilians than terrorists.

“They (forces) take action against four terrorists and kill 20 civilians. Their action is more against civilians than terrorists. For instance, they killed 13 civilians in Pulwama and just one terrorist,” Azad said in a TV interview.Prasad continued, “Ghulam Nabi Azad insults Indian Army by saying that army killed more civilians than terrorists. This observation of Ghulam Nabi Azad is irresponsible, shameful and deeply regrettable.” Prasad questioned the Congress as to why it was standing with anti-nationals who wanted to break the country.

Continuing his tirade against the grand old party, Prasad said, “What can we expect from today’s leadership of the Congress, when their chairperson goes to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) chanting ‘We will break India into pieces’ and ‘Insha Allah, Insha Allah'”. The Union Minister also compared the number of terrorists killed during the rule of Congress and the BJP.

“In Jammu and Kashmir, 72 terrorists were killed in 2012, up from 67 in 2013. In June 2014, we came to power and 110 were killed in 2014. 108 in 2015, 150 in 2016, 217 in 2017 and 75 have been killed so far till May 2018. So, Ghulam Nabi Azad, you can see the difference between yours and our government. The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is supporting what the Congress is saying,” Prasad added.

Prasad added that such statements that came from a former Jammu and Kashmir were disappointing, adding that the Army and policemen laid down their lives for the country.

Launching a scathing attack on Azad, he continued, “Those who support Ghulam Nabi Azad’s statements are the one who supports terrorism. We salute (Rifleman) Aurangzeb’s bravery. But Ghulam Nabi Azad says that Army chief (General Bipin Rawat) and Defence Minister’s (Nirmala Sitharaman) visit was nothing but a drama. People will never tolerate this.” Furthermore, the Union Minister went on to say that the Congress views on the security of the country had changed, adding that Rahul “can cross all lines for getting votes and doing petty politics.”

Earlier today, Soz backed former Pakistan President Musharraf’s statement on Kashmiris’ independence and told ANI, “Musharraf said Kashmiris don’t want to merge with Pakistan, their first choice is independence. The statement was true then and remains true now also. I say the same but I know that it is not possible.” Jammu and Kashmir is currently under Governor’s Rule, which came into effect after Mehbooba Mufti resigned as Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Minister, following BJP’s withdrawal from its alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

The differences between two parties cropped up following the government’s decision to resume anti-terror operations in the state, which were suspended during Ramzan.

UN Under-Secretary-General For Peacekeeping Operations To Visit India

India is among the largest troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions with 6,712 Indian personnel currently deployed in about nine peacekeeping missions

UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix will visit India and three other nations to thank the troop contributing countries for their service and update them on the ongoing reforms in the peace and security area.

Lacroix will visit Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Pakistan from June 23 to July 3. He will visit Dhaka, Bangladesh, following which he will travel to Kathmandu. He will then travel to New Delhi, before concluding his trip to the region with a visit to Islamabad.

A note issued to reporters here yesterday said that troops and police from these four countries together make up close to one-third of some 91,000 uniformed personnel across 14 UN peacekeeping operations.

The purpose of Lacroix's visit is to "thank the four countries for their service and sacrifice in the name of peace, as well as to update on the ongoing reforms in the UN peace and security reform area, and specifically the UN Secretary-General's Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative to make peacekeeping more focused, safer and stronger," the note said.

While in the region, Lacroix will meet with senior officials from all four countries, including government, military and police officials.

India is among the largest troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions with 6,712 Indian personnel currently deployed in about nine peacekeeping missions. The highest number of personnel, 2928, is deployed with the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has lauded India's contribution to peacekeeping missions and paid tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. India lost the highest number of its peacekeepers deployed in various UN peacekeeping operations in the last 70 years, with 163 military, police and civilian personnel from the country making the supreme sacrifice.

During this year's commemoration of UN International Day of Peacekeeping, Guterres thanked the government of India for its strong and sustained support to UN peacekeeping.

"...You have indeed given a very strong contribution to global solidarity and to international peace and security," he had said. "For decades now, India has been one of the top contributors of military and police personnel to UN Peacekeeping."

Paying tribute to the Indian Peacekeepers who died in the line of duty, Guterres said the 163 Indian peacekeepers, the highest number of all troop contributing countries, have given their lives for peace. "We recognize their service and sacrifice as well as the service and sacrifice of all those from all countries that have fallen in the line of duty," the UN chief had said. 

ISRO To Bring Free Satellite Training Program For Students of 45 Developing Countries

The best projects may be launched into space, says ISRO Chairman

India has thrown open its satellite-building expertise to engineering graduates chosen from other countries.

Starting this year, and for three years, a total of 90 qualifying engineers from various countries will be taught to build and test three small satellites each year. They will be hosted in Bangalore for two months each year and work in three annual batches of 30.

India is also ready to launch the small satellites built during the programme if they are good, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), K. Sivan, and other ISRO officials announced at an event in Vienna, where the global space community is meeting from June 18 to 21.

Indo-UN Small Satellites Program

Indian start-ups and participants at the meeting shared the details of the training proposal, called the Indo-UN Small Satellites Programme (UNSSP).

The countries are marking the 50th year of the first UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space — called UNISPACE+50. Three such conferences held earlier recognised the potential of space and laid the guidelines for human activities and international cooperation related to outer space.

ISRO’s Bangalore-based UR Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) — until recently known as ISAC — will train the overseas students in November and December this year through 2020, according to URSC Director M. Annadurai. In the last 40-odd years, URSC has rolled over 100 Indian satellites for various purposes out of its facilities.

Dr. Sivan said the capacity-building programme was India’s contribution to the world in response to a request that the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs had made to space-faring nations last year.

NDA Government’s Claim of More Militants Being Killed In Its Rule Shows It Allowed Militancy To Re-Emerge: Omar Abdullah

The former J&K chief minister was reacting to Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's tweet and statement that more militants were killed under the NDA government than in the UPA rule

National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah today said the NDA government’s claim that more militants were killed in Kashmir during its rule than in the UPA dispensation actually tells how it allowed militancy and violence to re-emerge in the Valley. “Actually minister sahib this tells the story of how your government allowed militancy & violence to re-emerge in J&K forcing the security forces to kill more terrorists,” Omar wrote on Twitter.

The former J&K chief minister was reacting to Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s tweet and statement that more militants were killed under the NDA government than in the UPA rule. Prasad said security forces had killed 72 and 67 militants in 2012 and 2013 under the UPA and the figure rose to 110 in 2014 when the BJP-led NDA came to power at the Centre. He said the forces killed 108 militants in 2015, 150 in 2016, 217 in 2017 and 75 till May this year. Omar said the increase in the number of militants killed was not an achievement. “You should be embarrassed by these statistics not be claiming them as some achievement,” the NC vice president wrote.

Short-Lived Bonhomie: Trump Declares North Korea 'Extraordinary Threat'

President Donald Trump speaks on immigration at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex on June 22, 2018, in Washington

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump cited an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to American national security as he maintained long-standing economic restrictions on North Korea, including the freezing of any assets in Washington, a media report said. 

An official declaration, contained in a notice to Congress, came on Friday despite Trump's assertion this month that his June 12 historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended Pyongyang's nuclear weapons threat, reports The Washington Post.

Harsh economic restrictions will continue for one year under the declaration Trump signed Friday.

The paperwork keeps in place restrictions first imposed a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

The ban on the transfer of any American assets by North Korea's leaders or its ruling party has been extended or expanded several times by former President Barack Obama and Trump himself in response to North Korean missile tests and other actions.

"The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula (and_ the actions and policies of the government of North Korea... Continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the US," Trump wrote in the declaration.

Friday's development comes in contrast to a tweet on June 13 where Trump said: "Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office... There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

The move follows as the US and South Korea cancelled two more training exercises on Friday, reports the BBC.

The Pentagon said the goal was to support diplomatic negotiations.

Suspected Chinese Lasers Target U.S. Aircraft Over Pacific

Lasers have been used to target US aerial operations in the Pacific, with 20 incidents recorded since September 2017, according to a US military official.

The military spokeswoman, who requested not to be named, told CNN on Friday that lasers had been flashed at US aircraft, and that the sources of these flashes are suspected to be Chinese. (Reuters)

Lasers have been used to target US aerial operations in the Pacific, with 20 incidents recorded since September 2017, according to a US military official.

The military spokeswoman, who requested not to be named, told CNN on Friday that lasers had been flashed at US aircraft, and that the sources of these flashes are suspected to be Chinese.

The latest incident occurred within the last two weeks, the official said.

None of the incidents have resulted in any medical complaints or injuries, the spokeswoman said.

The attacks appear similar to incidents that occurred in the East African country of Djibouti earlier in the year, when US military airmen were injured by lasers which the US military said originated from a nearby Chinese military base.

At a regular press briefing Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “According to what we have learned from the relevant authorities, the accusations in the relevant reports by US media are totally groundless and purely fabricated.”

The latest round of suspected laser attacks have all occurred in and around the East China Sea, which is home to disputed island chains, including the Senkaku, claimed by both Japan and China, where they are known as the Diaoyu.

The area’s waters are near heavy-traffic shipping lanes, and are used regularly by both Japanese and Chinese military and civilian ships, as well as a semi-autonomous “maritime militia” which defends China’s territorial interests in the region.

Aviation Week & Space Technology, an industry publication, quoted a spokeswoman for the US Marines who said that the attacks had originated “from a range of different sources, both ashore and from fishing vessels.”

The official CNN spoke to would not confirm that the lasers used in the Pacific were military- or commercial-grade, but even off-the-shelf laser pointers can cause a hazard to pilots.

Aiming a laser beam at an aircraft in the US is a federal crime.

Former Despot Musharraf Now Out of Party, Politics And Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's former military ruler and dictator Pervez Musharraf has resigned from his political party, an indication he has no immediate plans to return home or support his party's bid in the upcoming July elections.

Earlier this week, Pakistan's elections oversight body rejected Musharraf's candidacy for a chance to run for a seat in parliament. In his absence, the small All Pakistan Muslim League party has had Mohammad Amjad as acting president.

Musharraf seized power in 1999 by ousting former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government. In 2008, he was forced to quit after the party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto came into power.

He was declared a fugitive in 2013 and since then has been living in self-exile in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, to avoid arrest on criminal charges.

French Air Force Retires Mirage 2000N Fighter Aircraft

The Mirage 2000N will be withdrawn from service in favour of the transition to the "all Rafale" of the Air Force's nuclear deterrent force during the summer of 2018.

The Air Force will pay a last tribute to the Mirage 2000N during the day of commemoration of its withdrawal of service on Thursday at the base of Istres-Le Tubé (Bouches-du-Rhone).

Following their retirement, the Mirage 2000N will join the air base of Châteaudun (Eure-et-Loir) to be stored there. "The Air Force is interested in the cells of these aircraft that will be used to other Mirage 2000 fleet such as the Mirage 2000C or Mirage 2000D," commander of the squadron 2/4 ‘La Fayette’, Lieutenant Colonel Geoffroy was quoted as saying by Usinenouvelle Wednesday.

The transition to the "All Rafale" began in 2015. The aircraft will remain operational until its withdrawal from service within few months, said Geoffroy.

It is from 1988 that the Mirage 2000N gradually replaced the Mirage IIIE and Mirage IV designed by Dassault Aviation and the Jaguar SEPECAT (joint venture between Dassault Aviation and British Aerospace).

The retirement of this plane also rings the dissolution of the 2/4 La Fayette fighter squadron in Istres. In the coming months, the 160 mechanics, pilots and navigators still present in the Bouches-du-Rhône will be transferred to other French military bases to be trained at the Rafale, Geoffroy said.