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FILE - Pakistani Air Force F-16 fighter jets fly in formation during a military parade to mark Pakistan National Day, in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 23, 2019. VOA

Pakistan’s agreement with the United States does not prevent it from using F-16 fighter jets in a conflict with India, and Indian claims of shooting down a Pakistani aircraft in a recent dogfight between the two nations is untrue, according to an influential U.S.-based publication.

Foreign Policy magazine quoted two senior U.S. defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation as saying American personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing. It did not identify the officers. The personnel were invited by Pakistan to count its F-16 planes after the incident.


“The findings directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force officials, who said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman managed to shoot down a Pakistani F-16 before his own [MiG21] plane was downed by a Pakistani missile,” said the report published Thursday.

The Indian pilot took a missile hit during the Feb. 27 aerial battle over the disputed Kashmir region and ejected safely into Pakistani territory. He was captured by Pakistani troops and freed two days later, effectively bringing the two countries back from the brink of another full-scale war. The two nations previously have fought four wars, in 1947, 1965, 1971 and a limited conflict in 1999.

FILE – Indians dance as they wait to welcome Indian fighter pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at India Pakistan border at Wagah, 28 kilometers (17.5 miles) from Amritsar, India, March 1, 2019. VOA

The magazine noted “the count, conducted by U.S. authorities on the ground in Pakistan, sheds doubt on New Delhi’s version of events, suggesting that Indian authorities may have misled the international community about what happened that day.”

There was no Indian or U.S. official reaction to the report.

The Pakistan military has consistently maintained it did not lose any aircraft and instead asserts the dogfight destroyed two Indian fighter jets — claims New Delhi rejected.

A military spokesman Friday hailed the findings by Foreign Policy, saying the “truth always prevails.”

“Time for India to speak truth about false claims & actual losses on their side including the second aircraft shot down by Pakistan,” tweeted Major-General Asif Ghafoor.

The dogfight occurred a day after Indian jets crossed deep into Pakistan territory and allegedly destroyed the suspected training camp of an anti-India militant group. Pakistani officials rejected Indian claims of hitting any camp or killing a large number of militants before undertaking the retaliatory military action the following day.


FILE – Pakistani soldiers stand next to what Pakistan says is the wreckage of an Indian fighter jet shot down in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir at Somani area in Bhimbar district near the Line of Control, Feb. 27, 2019. VOA

Foreign media reports from the site, backed by satellite images, also contradicted Indian claims the Feb. 26 counterterrorism cross-border strike had damaged any structure or killed militant casualties.

“When the incident occurred, India asked the U.S. government to investigate whether Pakistan’s use of the F-16 against India violated the terms of the foreign military sale agreements,” according to Foreign Policy magazine.

However, “the agreement did not involve any terms limiting the use of the F-16s,” the magazine quoted the second U.S. defense official as saying.

“It would be incredibly naive for us to believe that we could sell some type of equipment to Pakistan that they would not intend to use in a fight,” the official said.

General Ghafoor tweeted a picture Friday of what he said were four unused Indian missiles mounted on the downed MiG-2 to support assertions that no Pakistani aircraft got hit in the dogfight.

“All 4 missile seeker heads recovered intact from the wreckage & held. Pakistan and its professional armed forces staying humble by not drum beating. We have more truth on this to share,” Ghafoor said.

The reported revelations are seen as a fresh blow to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, heading into an election next week that observers anticipate will be a tight contest.


FILE – A salesman watches Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing to the nation, on TV screens inside a showroom in Mumbai, India, March 27, 2019. VOA

Indian media and opposition politicians have been demanding that Modi offer proof to support claims the airstrikes hit terrorists in Pakistan’s Balokot region. They insist the Indian leader orchestrated the military action merely to achieve political gains ahead of the polls.

“Another blow delivered to India,” observed Michael Kugelman of the Washington-based Wilson Center in a series of tweets. “There could be some deleterious political implications there, just days before the election.”

The cross-border counterterrorism airstrike has been a top campaigning issue during Modi’s election rallies, underscoring that he’s tough on national security, especially with regard to Pakistan if BJP returns to power.

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Indian officials said the air raid had struck a camp allegedly linked to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group, which reportedly had claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 suicide car bombing in Kashmir’s Pulwama district that killed more than 40 Indian security personnel. Islamabad had denied any role in the violence and offered New Delhi cooperation to investigate it and bring perpetrators to justice. (VOA)


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Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Char Dham Yatra resumed on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

As weather cleared up in Uttarakhand, Char Dham Yatra restored on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

According to sources, road leading to Badrinath has been repaired and helicopter service has also resumed.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Dungi village and met families of people who were missing after the landslip incident, and consoled them.

Dhami assured them of all possible assistance. Two people from the village are still reported to be missing.

Pilgrims were seen leaving from Rishikesh Char Dham Bus terminal and Haridwar bus station for the pilgrimage since morning.

As per the state government, various departments -- Devasthanam Board, police are assisting the pilgrims.

Police Chowki Yatra Bus Terminal, Rishikesh, was announcing passenger-information via loudspeaker.

Free RT-PCR tests of pilgrims were being conducted at Rishikesh bus terminal.

Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board's media in-charge Dr Harish Gaur said pilgrimage was on in Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, while for Kedarnath, helicopter service was also available.

Though the weather was cold in all dhams, thankfully there was no rain, he added.

Portals of the temple in Badrinath will close on November 20, Gangotri on November 5, while that of Kedarnath and Yamunotri on November 6.

Uttarakhand floods, triggered by a major downpour from October 17 to 19, have claimed 65 lives so far, 3,500 people have been rescued while 16,000 evacuated to safety.

Seventeen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), seven teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 15 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and 5,000 police personnel have been engaged in rescue and relief operations.

The state has already been provided with Rs 250 crore Disaster Fund which is being used for relief works.

To prevent spread of the diseases, the Central and state governments have decided to send medical teams to the affected areas.

Snapped power lines will be restored at the earliest, the government assured.

The state government said that as soon as alert for heavy rainfall was issued, the Incident Response System was activated at state and district levels, and pilgrims were halted at safer places. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Uttarakhand, India, Char Dham Yatra, PushkarDhami, Rishikesh.


Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.

Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.

The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.

When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.

"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.

"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.

Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.

On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.

Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.

Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.

The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.


Photo by Wikimedia Commons

India-England test series will now be played next year from July 1 at Edgbaston Stadium

The series decider for the Test series between England and India will now be played at Edgbaston from July 1 next year, said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday. India is currently leading the series 2-1 before the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled hours before the start due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in the tourists' camp.

"The fifth match of the LV= Insurance Test Series between England Men and India Men has been rescheduled and will now take place in July 2022. The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp," said an ECB statement.

"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," added the statement.

ECB also said that due to the rescheduled Test, the white-ball series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned. The T20I series will begin on July 7 at Ageas Bowl with Edgbaston and Trent Bridge hosting the second and third matches respectively on July 9 and 10. It will be followed by the ODI series starting on July 12 at The Oval followed by Lord's and Old Trafford hosting the second and third ODI on July 14 and 17 respectively.

"Ticket holders do not have to take any action as all tickets will remain valid for the equivalent rearranged matchday at their host venue. Host venues will communicate the new fixture details to ticket purchasers and the options available to them, including the timeframe for requesting a refund if they are not able to attend the new match day," further said the statement.

"We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far. I'm very grateful to all the venues involved for the cooperation they've shown in allowing us to reschedule this match. I'd also like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding to allow these changes to be possible," said Tom Harrison, the CEO of the ECB.

"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance. We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."

"I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale. The BCCI recognizes and respects the traditional form of the game and is also mindful of its role and obligations towards fellow Board Members. In the last two months, both BCCI and the ECB have been engaged in discussions and our efforts were aimed at finding a suitable window. I thank the ECB for their understanding and patience in finding an amicable solution," said BCCI Secretary Jay Shah. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Britain, BCCI, Test Match, Cricket.