US mulls using Indian soil to launch drones on terror infrastructure in Afghan-Pak region

News Network
September 15, 2021

New Delhi, Sept 15: After its recent withdrawal from the Afghanistan, the United States has hinted that it has been in talks with the government of India for using airfields in India as “staging areas” for carrying out aerial surveillance and launching attacks on terrorists in Pak-Afghan region.

President Joe Biden’s administration is “deeply engaged” with New Delhi, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said, testifying before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives – the lower house of the American Congress.

He was responding to Republican Party’s Representative Mark E Green, who asked if the Biden Administration had reached out to New Delhi for using “over-the-horizon” capabilities from “staging areas” in north-west India for neutralising potential threats to the United States in and around Afghanistan, in view of the collusion between the Taliban and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.

 “We are deeply engaged with India across the board,” Blinken replied to Green.

He, however, did not share the details of the discussion between the two governments on the US launching drones from India for keeping watch on terrorist infrastructures in Afghanistan.

“With regard to any specifics about over-the-horizon capabilities and the plans we put in place or continue to put in place, I would rather take that up in a different setting,” Blinken replied to Green.

The Taliban of late returned to power in Afghanistan through a swift military campaign across the country taking advantage of the withdrawal of the US troops.

Biden and other senior officials of his administration in Washington DC repeatedly stated over the past few weeks that the US had sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to neutralise the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda – the objectives, which had been achieved over the past two decades.

Though terrorism continued to remain a threat and spread around the world, the US no longer required to deploy a large number of soldiers overseas to combat the menace as it had now developed the “over-the-horizon” capabilities of carrying out aerial surveillance and launch drones to eliminate such threats, they argued, justifying the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

But what may limit the US' capabilities of launching drone attacks on the terrorists and terror infrastructures in the region is the fact that some of the airbases it had earlier used for the purpose are no longer available to it after its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The nearest airbases the US can use are in Qatar, Kuwait and other countries in the Gulf and far away from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region where the targets may be located – a fact Green pointed out while asking Blinken about the Biden Administration’s discussion with New Delhi.

New Delhi did not officially make any comment on Green’s query or the reply given by Blinken.

The Commander of the US Special Operations Command, General Richard D Clarke, had visited New Delhi in July and held a meeting with the Indian Army chief Gen M M Naravane.

Admiral John C Aquilino, Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, also visited New Delhi and held a meeting with Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, just about 10 days after the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan.

India is a “major defence partner” of the US and the two nations had inked a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016, creating a framework to support each other's aircraft, ships and personnel with logistics, fuel and spares.

They also signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018 and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) in 2020 to enable the exchange of geospatial information between the two countries. 

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News Network
October 17,2021

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An elderly woman could be seen running from one person to another screaming through the rain swept roads in this high range hamlet, located at the foothills of Western Ghats mountain ranges, on Sunday morning. "I have lost everything...everything in my life...where should I go?...who will give me a shelter?" the woman, clad in a tattered saree, asked aloud crying and running here and there.

The unexpected torrential rain, which pounded the village on Saturday, washed away every penny of her life time earnings and made her homeless all of a sudden. 

At least 15 people have been killed in Kerala as heavy rain triggered landslides in Idukki and Kottayam districts. Lord Ayyappa devotees have been asked to avoid visiting Sabarimala Temple today and tomorrow. The rescue ops are underway.

"I begged our Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sir to give me two cents of land to construct a 'koora' (hut). I have nowhere to go. My daughters' houses are also submerged. Now I am going to the church to see whether I will get a place there," she told the journalists gathered at the place.

It was the story of many hapless families in Koottickal, located in Kottayam district of Kerala which suffered severe destruction and human casualty due to a series of landslips triggered by heavy rains yesterday.

When the extreme rains showed a slight dip this morning, a large number of people in this village could be seen as displaced and became the inmates of the rehabilitation campus. Many elderly villagers said it was for the first time in their decades-old life that they were seeing and experiencing such severe rainfall. A local shop owner here pointed to his new car, which can be seen as destroyed and partially hanging with its back wheels stuck on a broken wall in his house compound.

"It was my new car parked in front of the house. I was not at home when the flood water suddenly gushed inside the house compound Saturday afternoon. My wife and children somehow managed to run to the neighbour's house," the middle-aged man said. He turned a bit emotional showing the 'mundu' (dhoti) which he was wearing, saying that it was borrowed from the neighbour. Only life was saved and everything else was lost, he said adding that not even in the 2018 floods had he faced such a terrible situation.

The situation was not different in Kokkayar, a hilly hamlet in Idukki district as well, which also witnessed a series of landslips and human casualties on Saturday in incessant rains. A shocked Rajamma, a woman villager, was yet to believe that a four-member family including children, who were seen engaged in some construction activities near her home on the foothills of the hill, swept away by floodwaters in front of her eyes.

The elderly woman said she advised the family to move away from the place when water was seen coming down from the hilltops on a small scale. "But, they continued their work. Suddenly a portion of the hill, where they were standing, caved in... huge boulders started rolling down accompanied by a massive flood of water... I do not remember anything else," the teary-eyed woman said.

George, a middle-aged man engaged in rescue operations, said it was everything fine and calm in the village till 11 PM on Saturday. "But, the situation worsened after that. Around 10 big bridges and the same number of wooden bridges were washed away and the village became isolated soon," he added.

The Army, NDRF, police and the Fire Force along with the locals began rescue operations on Sunday morning at Koottickal and Kokkayar panchayats where over a dozen people are listed to be missing due to numerous landslides accompanied by heavy downpour since Saturday.

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News Network
October 15,2021

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Bengaluru, Oct 15: Veteran Kannada actor and performer Professor G K Govinda Rao passed away due to age-related illness in Hubballi at 4.45 am on Friday.

Govinda Rao is survived by two daughters.

The 84-year-old acted in several Kannada films including 'Shastri', 'Mithile Sita', 'Grahana' and appeared in lead roles in the Kannada TV serials Maha Parva and Malgudi Days.

G.K.Govinda Rao has participated in several social movements and has openly criticized certain "divisive" political parties and supported Congress party during the 2014 General elections.

He opposed superstitions practiced in society like Made Made Snana and gave lectures to create awareness against prevailing superstitions.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai condoled the death of the actor, saying that with his death, "the country has lost a great thinker".

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News Network
October 24,2021

Bengaluru, Oct 24: Vice-Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, flag officer commanding-in-chief, Southern Naval Command, said here on Saturday that India had begun thinking of separating East Pakistan from West Pakistan from 1965 though it actually happened in 1971.

Chawla’s remarks came at a conclave at Air Force Station Yelahanka celebrating the golden jubilee of the 1971 India-Pakistan war victory.

Quoting “declassified” documents that he said were enough to show this, Chawla said: “The thinking started actively after the 1965 war, of how to separate East Pakistan from West. The principal reason was ISI’s interference in northeast insurgencies, particularly arming and training of Naga rebels in the Chittagong hill tracts. We used those lessons when we trained the Mukthi Bahini.”

However, he said, India was weak then as Congress had split and Indira Gandhi had barely held on to become prime minister. “She was called ‘Goongi Gudia’ by the opposition, which didn’t expect her to last long,” he said, adding that in Pakistan Yahya Khan had taken over from Tikka Khan in 1969.

 “He (Yahya) actually started this whole story by dissolving the “one unit geopolitical programme” of 1954, by which entire Pakistan was considered one wing to offset the population superiority of East Pakistan, and called for elections in 1970,” Chawla said.

Pointing out that the 1970 elections were the first one-person, one-vote elections in Pakistan, he said Indira Gandhi called for elections one-and-a-half years ahead of the scheduled February 1971 polls.

“Yahya was very firmly entrenched and Gandhi was on a weak wicket. It suddenly changed in December 1970 when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won 160 seats in East Pakistan and Bhutto only 81 in West Pakistan. Rahman was the natural successor to the prime ministership,” he said.

Stating that the thinking in 1965 was nascent, Chawla inferred that the January 30, 1971 hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft to Lahore by Kashmiri separatists may have been a trigger.

“The government of India stopped overflight facilities, preventing them from rearming in East Pakistan. They had to fly over Colombo, which was difficult and expensive. Also, Rahman winning elections and not being allowed to be PM started unravelling the whole plot. In March, once Rahman declared independence, India entered the war in April 1971,” Chawla said.

He added that the comprehensive Indian response included clandestine operations to sabotage shipping in East Pakistan. “It was not just inter-service collaboration, it was the entire government approach under astute leadership. On March 7, Indira Gandhi won a landslide victory that strengthened her position. Several things fell into place and she came to be called the ‘Durga of India’,” he said.

“While we go over individual battles, the most important thing is the immutable principles of war, which almost perfectly followed in 1971. Whether this is being done today or not is for us to judge, but the adversaries are different. Warfare is different and technology has changed everything. We need to look ahead and remember that adversaries, the geopolitical situation, and technology are evolving at an ever faster pace," he said.

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