NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India will introduce an advanced fighter jet it is building with Russia in 2018, a move that will bring sophistication to its air power but could also spark unease among neighbours China and Pakistan.
New Delhi has watched warily as China has made rapid strides in defence, worried that Beijing’s long-term strategy for the region could involve encircling India.
NEW DELHI, April 23 (Reuters) – India will introduce an advanced fighter jet it is building with Russia in 2018, a move that will bring sophistication to its air power but could also spark unease among neighbours China and Pakistan.
New Delhi has watched warily as China has made rapid strides in defence, worried that Beijing’s long-term strategy for the region could involve encircling India. Indian military commanders have stressed greater firepower as a counter-measure, particularly for the air force. The fifth generation fighter aircraft joint project with Russia is part of that strategy.
"The fifth generation aircraft would possess technologies which would provide it (India) the edge over adversaries in future air warfare," P.V. Naik, the Chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF), said in a written statement sent to Reuters.
"China is rapidly modernising its air force … On our part, the IAF is reviewing its tactics regularly to increase its combat potential," Naik said.
India’s plans to bolster its air force include upgrading more than 50 airbases along the Chinese and Pakistan border, he said.
Traditionally, any move by India to acquire new weaponry has been met with similar moves by Pakistan, putting already fragile regional security under further strain.
The fifth-generation fighters, billed as a competitor to the U.S. F-22 Raptor, can fool sophisticated radars and will be able to take off from short airstrips and remain in the air for longer than the current fighters, air force officials say.
India’s air force says it has more than 800 active combat aircraft but is dwarfed by China’s, which has more than 2,000 fighter aircraft.
Arms procurement is a painfully slow process in India because of red tape and charges of corruption in winning tenders.
India plans to procure at least 200 of the fifth-generation fighters, each valued at $100 million, in a deal which analysts say is watched with unease by neighbours Pakistan and China.
India is looking to spend more than $50 billion over the next five years to modernise its largely Soviet-era weapons systems.
The governments of Russia and India have already signed the deal for the advanced jet, although the two companies that will build them have not. Officials say that is just a formality and will be completed this year.
Production of the stealth jet fighter is a 50-50 joint venture between Russia and India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which will build a mission computer, cockpit displays and other navigation systems.
India is also buying 126 multi-role fighters and will pare down the number of bidders for the $11 billion deal by June or July, Naik said [ID:nSGE61H074]. That contract is one of the world’s biggest arms deals.
(Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Paul Tait)
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India sought to reassure foreign participants that it will provide foolproof security for the Commonwealth Games this year as the United States issued a new travel alert for New Delhi on Wednesday.
Threats to sporting events were underscored last week when bombs went off outside a packed cricket stadium in south India, stirring fears the country may not be able to secure multi-city events involving tens of thousands of players and spectators.
NEW DELHI, April 18 (Reuters) – A severe heat wave sweeping India, with temperatures of almost 44 C (111 F), the highest in 52 years, has killed at least 80 people this month, officials said on Sunday.
The scorching weather, which officials say would continue over northern, northwestern and central India in the next 48 hours, also may have some impact on wheat production, exporters and flour-mill associations said.
New Delhi recorded a maximum temperature of 43.7 degrees Celsius on Saturday, presaging a hot summer in the next two months in the nation’s capital and other parts of northern and eastern India.
The highest temperature in the past 24 hours was 47 C at Ganganagar city, in Rajasthan state.
Summer temperatures have been 4-6 degrees Celsius above normal over most parts of northern and central India since March, weather officials said.
In the eastern state of Orissa, authorities have decided to shut down schools from next Tuesday, advancing the annual summer holiday.
Authorities said they were investigating reports of 53 deaths from various parts of the state.
"District collectors have been asked to investigate and submit reports on other deaths," Bhimsen Gochhayat, a government official, said.
Other deaths were reported from northern state of Uttar Pradesh and central Madhya Pradesh states.
India is expected to produce about 82 million tonnes of wheat in 2009/10, but there could be a shortage of 1-1.5 million tonnes due to the heatwave, said Veena Sharma, Secretary General of the Roller Flour Millers Federation of India.
"Most of the harvesting is over, but there definitely will be a slight shortage of 1-1.5 million tonnes due to the extreme weather conditions," she told Reuters.
India is relying on a bumper wheat crop to make up for a 14.2 percent drop in rice output, the major summer-sown food grain, marred by the worst monsoon in 37 years last year.
"The time it (wheat) normally takes to get ripe has been shortened and as a result the size of the grain could be smaller with a marginal effect on production," D.P. Singh, president of the All India Grain Exporters Association, said on Sunday.
Weather officials say with summer temperatures in India set to remain above average, there were hopes of heavy rains at the start of the monsoon season that will help early sowing of rice, soybeans and lentils. [ID:nSGE63D03Y]
A senior weather official said he was expecting temperatures to come down a bit next week, bringing some relief in hilly areas, which could experience light rain.
(Additional reporting by Jatindra Dash; Editing by Michael Roddy)
NEW DELHI, April 17 (Reuters) – India said on Saturday it was further tightening security before the October Commonwealth Games after the United States issued a warning to its citizens about possible militant attacks on hotels and markets in India.
New Delhi remains jittery about the threat of militant attacks. A blast in the western city of Pune killed 17 people in February, the first major militant strike since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
"The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups may be planning attacks in India," the U.S. Department of State said in the latest travel advice to its citizens.
Islamists militant groups from Pakistan have threatened to carry out attacks ahead of the October games and during the ongoing domestic cricket league involving foreign players from many countries, Indian security officials said.
"… hotels, markets, trains and other public places in India are especially attractive targets for terrorist groups," the advisory on its website says.
"Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness and capability to attack targets where U.S. citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit."
A senior Indian home (interior) ministry official said they were monitoring the security situation in the country following the latest U.S. alert.
"We have seen the advice. There are threats which we are aware of in any case, but am sure the U.S. government has got some independent information," the official, who did not wish to be identified told Reuters.
Last month, India said it was tightening security on its luxury trains frequented by foreign tourists following warnings about a possible militant strike.
Security in and around nuclear installations and oil facilities are also being increased, two days after police recovered and defused a powerful bomb on a train travelling to India’s capital, stirring fears about an attack [ID:nSGE63E0C1]
"Security is being tightened everywhere. We are very, very alert," Rakesh Maria, head of the Anti-Terrorist Squad said from Mumbai.
Britain also continued to urge its citizens to be careful during their stay in India, saying foreigners are targets by militants in a travel advisory.
Foreign tourists at two plush hotels and a Jewish centre were among the several targets attacked by 10 gunmen in last November’s militant strike on Mumbai, in which 166 people were killed. (Editing by Bill Tarrant )
The killing of 76 police by Maoist rebels earlier this month in central India did not come as a big surprise to experts who know most of the forces that are deployed in the dense jungles are hardly trained in jungle warfare.
Most of them undergo a short training course before engaging the rebels in inhospitable terrain is thrust upon their shoulders.
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s home minister offered to resign after Maoist insurgents killed 76 police this week, officials said on Friday, as New Delhi mobilized more security forces to flush out the rebels from their forest bases.
But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected his proposal to step down.
More than 1,000 Maoist fighters, armed with sophisticated weapons, ambushed 81 central police in a forested area of insurgency-hit central Chhattisgarh state on Tuesday, exposing a lack of intelligence and planning.
NEW DELHI, April 9 (Reuters) – India’s home minister said on Friday he took responsibility for the deaths of 76 police this week, as New Delhi mobilised more security forces to flush out the rebels from their forest bases.
More than 1,000 Maoist fighters, armed with sophisticated weapons, ambushed 81 central police in a forested area of insurgency-hit central Chhattisgarh state on Tuesday, exposing a lack of intelligence and planning. [ID:nSGE6350AE]
Since the attack, the government has come under criticism from opposition parties who say it has failed to tackle the insurgency. Pressure to do more could rise as India faces polls over the next two years in eight key states, including some Maoist-hit ones.
"I accept full responsibility for what happened in Dantewada (in Chhattisgarh)," minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said on Friday at a New Delhi ceremony to mark the deaths.
"I have been asked directly and indirectly, where does the buck stop for what happened," said Chidambaram, who was named home minister after the 2008 Mumbai attacks — in which 166 people were killed — to plug gaps in the security system.
"I have no hesitation in saying the buck stops at my desk."
Indian newspapers have carried front-page stories on the government’s failure to tackle the decades-old insurgency that began with a peasant’s movement in 1967 in the eastern state of West Bengal and has now spread to 22 out of 28 states.
"No water, food or medicines. Now, go fight ‘biggest threat’," The Times of India newspaper said, highlighting the challenges in training and equipping the police force.
The police killed in Tuesday’s ambush were not trained in jungle warfare before deployment in the Maoist stronghold in Chhattisgarh, officials said after a preliminary investigation.
Thousands of paramilitary troops have been scouring the jungles in east and central India, officials said.
The government says it will consider use of the air force to aid police in future offensives against the rebels, but has so far ruled out using the army.
India has hesitated to use the army to tackle counter-insurgency, experts say, because of sharp criticism after pressing it to root out a Sikh insurgency in 1984 in Punjab state.
The Maoists snatched weapons including light machine guns and mortars in this week’s surprise attack, and lost eight men, a rebel commander said in a statement to local media on Friday.
Besides raiding police bases for weapons, the rebels also buy them from Chinese smugglers and are in touch with other militant groups operating in India, including Kashmir and the northeast.
The estimated 20,000 Maoist combatants operate across a "red corridor" stretching from the Nepal border to West Bengal and through central India into the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. (Additional reporting by Sujeet Kumar; Editing by Rina Chandran and Jerry Norton)
NEW DELHI, April 7 (Reuters) – India’s government came under heavy pressure to mobilise more police and devise a better plan to fight rebel Maoists by involving the military on Wednesday, a day after the insurgents killed 76 police in a deadly attack.
The ambush by 1,000 Maoist fighters in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday exposed intelligence failure and lack of planning by the police who were trapped by the rebels in the forests of Bastar, officials and experts said.
The Maoists triggered blasts and fired from all directions.
A few survivors said they played dead to escape being shot as the rebels kicked wounded policemen and seized their weapons.
The attack in remote central India coincided with a visit to India by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, underscoring that while India plays a growing role on the global economic stage, much of the country is immersed in poverty and insurgency.
India’s main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said on Wednesday that the Congress party-led government must involve the military in the offensive against the rebels.
The main BJP spokesman, Prakash Javdekar, said "the government must now go to war against the rebels by involving the military."
"There is urgent need for more coordination between the military, security forces and other state agencies, which is missing now," he added.
Failure to tackle the Maoist insurgency quickly could hurt the Congress party’s prospects in eight state elections — including polls in Maoist-hit West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand — lined up over the next two years, some experts said. [ID:nSGE6350AE]
"Security and Maoists will be major issues during elections and it could get worse if they continue to target central forces," said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, head of the Centre for Policy Research.
"NATION UNDER SIEGE"
India’s newspapers carried big front page stories on the massacre in Bastar, with headlines saying the "Nation under siege" and "It’s war".
"As the one-sided battle in Chhattisgarh has shown all too glaringly, a military solution in tandem with state forces cannot be shelved," the Hindustan Times newspaper said in an editorial.
Home (Interior) Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said the government might consider using the air force for some operations but the police will continue to fight the insurgency.
"If this is a war, the state will fight back," he said, during a trip to Chhattisgarh on Wednesday.
Officials said they were redrawing their strategy and mobilising more troops against the rebels.
"More troops will go and troops will be reinforced and we will take the battle to the Maoist camps," U.K. Bansal, India’s Internal Security chief, told Reuters.
Tuesday’s attack has not affected mining operations in several of the mineral-rich states in central and east India, but mining officials said they were rattled by the killings.
The government has struggled to transport coal to power and steel companies due to regular attacks on railway lines by the Maoists, who started their insurgency in 1967.
Frequent strikes have hit production and shipment at firms such as India’s largest miner of iron ore, NMDC Ltd <NMDC.BO> and state-run National Aluminium Co Ltd <NALU.BO>.
The estimated 20,000 Maoist combatants operate across a "red corridor" stretching from the Nepal border to West Bengal and through central India into the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. (Additional reporting by Sujeet Kumar; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Jerry Norton)
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Maoist rebels killed at least 73 police after an ambush in central India on Tuesday, just the latest in a series of attacks on security personnel. [ID:nSGE63508Y].
The rebels, estimated around 20,000, hold sway over vast swathes of the countryside, many rich in metals and minerals.