Indian Punjab Government reaches out to Centre Government and farmers, proposes longer pause on Protest

DELHI, Feb. 5, 2021:Wary of the protracted farmers’ agitation in the capital and the Republic Day incident at Red Fort, the Punjab government has stepped up efforts to reach out to the Centre to work towards an early resolution, sources told. Some top state officials have been camping in Delhi and are in constant touch with both the protesting farmers and the Centre. There were concerns in the state government that after the Nishan Sahib was hoisted at Red Fort,the agitation would fizzle out and farmers would return empty-handed. “Everybody here knows that if farmers come back without getting anything after these weeks and months of protests, anger will mount in the state. That would be a perfect breeding ground for resentment and we cannot afford that,” said a top state government functionary.

That’s why, sources said, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh invoked Operation Blue Star at the all-party meeting this week and warned that Pakistan could “exploit” the situation to foment trouble. “Thanks to Rakesh Tikait, the agitation has got a new lease of life. If another Red Fort-like incident happens, it will be difficult for the leaders to sustain the agitation. Wisdom lies in taking it to a logical conclusion and save Punjab from any after-effects,” said a source who is aware of discussions between the state and the Centre. He said the state is trying to impress upon the Centre to repeal the laws but the Centre is “willing to do anything other than repeal.” So one option the state has proposed is to put the laws on hold for three years instead of the earlier offer of 18 months.

“The farmers leaders had not agreed then. But now we are working on both the farmers as well as the Centre to make sure that the agitation is called off soon. If we can get the laws on hold until 2024 which means the next elections we can then work on the farmers to back down. After the Republic Day incident,we all have learnt our lessons. We will have to agree on something,” said the source. “The Centre also acknowledges that if there is trouble in Punjab, that could have a spill-over effect across the country,” said the source. Asked what was the time frame the state was looking at, the source said: “It should not take long.” Sources said the Punjab CMO has briefed its officials as well as farm unions that talks with the Centre should continue.“The communication channel should not break. There may not be any solution but meetings should continue.,” said the source.

Those aware of these talks say the farmers’ reservation against suspension of laws was that there was “huge pressure” from people back home. “Farmer leaders feel that if they come back with anything less than a repeal, people, who have been supporting the agitation will feel let down,” said the source. He added that public support to the agitation has been strong. After the Red Fort incident, village panchayats are working to keep the agitation going.“Funds are being made available. Panchayats have bought new tractors to ensure that supporters reach Delhi and the numbers don’t dwindle.”

MEA: India, China have maintained communication links at ground level

NEW DELHI, Jan 9, 2021: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday said that India and China have maintained communication links at the ground level to avoid any misunderstandings, even as the two sides are waiting for the next round of senior commander-level talks with respect to the military standoff in eastern Ladakh. During the weekly briefing, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the last round of diplomatic talks at the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination took place on December 18 “and the two sides have agreed to hold the next round of senior commanders meeting, and they are in constant communication through diplomatic and military channels…”

Srivastava said, “In the meantime, both sides have maintained communication at the ground level to avoid any misunderstandings and misjudgements, even as discussions continue for achieving complete disengagement in all friction areas in accordance with existing bilateral agreements to restore peace and tranquillity.” When asked about the 39 Indian sailors stranded in China, Srivastava said the Indian Ambassador in China “has again personally taken up this issue with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, and had requested for early approval of crew exchange”. He said that in Delhi, the MEA is in regular contact with the Chinese embassy.

He said, “Chinese authorities have detailed steps, which they have outlined, to ensure smooth movement of new crew to China to affect this crew change and steps have to be complied to by the concerned shipping companies.” Regarding “exploring alternative modes of crew change for sea”, Srivastava said the possibility has also been taken up by Chinese authorities and they have “indicated that the details for these options are being worked out”. By Express News Service

Eye on East Ladakh, IAF Tweaks Rafale’s Terrain-Hugging Deep-Strike Missile

LADAKH, Dec 17, 2020:: Faced with the prospect of an adversary on both western and eastern fronts, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has got the French manufacturer to re-calibrate the software of Rafale fighter jet’s SCALP long-range air-launched cruise missile to ensure that the subsonic weapon hits targets up to 4,000 metres above sea level. The subsonic missile with a range in excess of 300 kilometres and a 450-kilogramme warhead is part of the weapon suite on Rafale Omni-role fighter of the IAF. In simple terms, it means that the IAF’s Rafale can demolish targets located in mountains and high plateaus at 4,000 metres instead of the previous calibration of 2,000 metres. The tweaking of the software has been done by the missile manufacturer MBDA in consultation with the top brass of IAF.

While the next batch of three Rafale fighters are expected to arrive after 2021 Republic Day, there are plans that the aircraft will be refuelled mid-air by India’s close ally UAE air force using Airbus 330 multi-role transport tankers as they fly towards Ambala air base. As of now, seven Rafales are being used for training IAF pilots in France. The complete fleet of 36 aircraft is scheduled to reach India by the end of 2021. One squadron of this potent fighter will be based at Ambala, the other at Hasimara airbase, which is perched on the Siliguri corridor. Storm Shadow / SCALP can operate in extreme conditions and offers IAF a highly flexible, deep-strike capability based around a sophisticated mission planning system. ( Photo courtesy: MBDA )

Rafale carries a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile Meteor with a range of more than 100 kilometres, the potent SCALP or storm shadow cruise missile and the Hammer precision-guided ammunition. The SCALP missile is used to target command, control, communications, air bases, ports, power stations, ammunition storage depots, surface ships, submarines and other strategic high-value targets. Although both China and Pakistan have developed air-launched cruise missiles, the SCALP is a unique weapon that has a fire-and-forget mechanism.

Once launched from the fighter, the cruise missile drops to a terrain-hugging role between 100 to 130 feet from the ground to avoid detection by the enemy radars and jamming systems. Before approaching the target, the missile again goes up to a maximum height of 6,000 metres and then drops perpendicularly on the high-value target. The primary charge first penetrates the target, the secondary charge then blows it to smithereens. With IAF having to defend on both the fronts and mountainous terrain on either side, airpower will have a very significant role to play in the worst-case scenario. The infantry, apart from the airborne special forces, will be used to defend both the Line of Control (LoC) and the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The SCALP’s range will be crucial to degrade enemy’s fight power.