A major avalanche struck an Indian Army post in the Northern Siachen Glacier area on February 3, 2016. The army post that bore its brunt was manned by one junior commissioned officer (JCO) and nine soldiers. The 10 soldiers from the Madras Regiment were deployed at the section-level post at an altitude of 19,600 feet on the Northern Glacier when the freak accident took place. The rescue operation, with specialised teams and Cheetah, Dhruv and Mi-17 helicopters of the Army and IAF deployed from Siachen base camp as well as Leh and Thoise, was launched as swiftly as possible. But all ten soldiers who were hit by a massive avalanche at Siachen were declared dead by the Army. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi mourned the demise of the soldiers and offered condolences to their families.
The Northern Glacier has some of the mbst treacherous terrain in the forbidding heights of the region, which go up to almost 22,000 feet at the famous Bana post held by the Indian troops. Over 900 Indian soldiers have died in the region since April 1984 when India’s ‘Operation Meghdoot’ preempted Pakistan’s ‘Operation Ababeel’ to occupy the heights by a whisker. Around three-fourths of the casualties have been caused by the severe climatic conditions, with temperatures sometimes even dipping to minus 60 degree Celsius. India has stopped haemorrhaging at the glacial heights like it used to in earlier years with better infrastructure and logistics in place. The erstwhile firing duels along the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (the un-delineated stretch between the last-marked grid reference point NJ-9842 on the Line of Control and the Karakoram Pass) in the region have also become negligible after the ceasefire with Pakistan in 2003. But avalanches, “white-outs”, blizzards and accidents continue to take a toll, with soldiers also having to constantly battle high-altitude pulmonary oedema, cerebral oedema, hypothermia, hypoxia and frostbite. Around 3,000 Indian soldiers are deployed in the northern, central and southern glaciers in the region. India has been steadfast that Pakistan needs to provide ironclad guarantees and foolproof authentication of troop positions before any disengagement and final demilitarisation of the icy heights. This is bas’ed on the Indian Army’s position that if Pakistani troops occupy the heighfs vacated by it, dislodging them would be virtually impossible. Indian soldiers deployed on the Saltoro Ridge effectively prevent Pakistan from the west and China from the east joining up through the Karakoram Pass to threaten Ladakh. China, as it is, is expanding its footprint in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
India, France Sign
14 Agreements, Including
36 Rafale Aircraft Deal
India and France on January 25, 2016 inked 14 Agreements/MoUs in Delhi. The agreements, including an MoU on the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft were signed during the State Visit of President Mr. Francois Flollande of France to India from January 24 to 26, 2016. Mr. Hollande was the Chief Guest at the 67th India’s Republic Day celebrations. PM Mr. Modi said at a joint
|French President Mr. Francois Flollande with Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi on ]anuary 24, 2016. Mr. Flollande was the Chief Guest at India’s 67th Pxpuhlic Day celebrations.|
press event with Mr. Flollande that leaving out financial aspect, India and France had signed Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets. The French President termed the signing of the IGA as a decisive step. The two countries were in negotiations for 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly away conditions since the announcement for the deal was made by PM Mr. Modi in April 2015 during his visit to France. French President Mr. Francois Hollande and Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi oversaw the signing of a preliminary pact on the Rafale deal.
All the deals signed were worth an estimated $15 billion. In addition, French companies will invest $10 billion in India over the next five years. The deals spanned several sectors, including aviation, nuclear energy, space, urban development and railways, and many checked in under the Modi government’s campaigns such as Smart Cities and Make in India. Another key agreement inked was in railways, with Alstom signing a preliminary pact with Indian Railways to produce 800 electric locomotives in Madhepura in Bihar. Indian Railways and French railway company Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer (SNCF) signed another agreement to conduct a joint feasibility study for the development of the Ludhiana and Ambala stations. Nuclear energy was another focus area. According to a joint statement released at the end of the Modi-Hollande talks, the two leaders encouraged their industrial companies to conclude techno-commercial negotiations by the end of 2016 for the construction of six nuclear power reactor units at Jaitapur. Besides this, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed three pacts with its French counterpart Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, including one for hosting the French Argos-4 payload on board India’s Oceansat-3 satellite.
The two countries also signed a series of preliminary pacts on the development of Chandigarh, Nagpur and Puducherry as “smart cities”, besides another clutch of pacts on urban development, water, waste treatment and solar energy. This was besides the big push given to Mr. Modi’s Make in India programme with the Airbus Group signing a pact with Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd. for the manufacture of helicopters. Apart from defence cooperation, the talks between the two leaders primarily focusecjj on ways to boost counterterrorism cooperation in the aftermath of attack in Paris in November 2015 and Pathankot terror strikes in January 2016. The two countries, in a joint statement, reiterated their call for Pakistan to bring to justice their perpetrators and the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which also caused the death of two French citizens, and to ensure that such attacks do not recur in the future. The two sides resolved to step up their joint effort to counter violent extremism and radicalisation, disrupt recruitment, terrorist movements and flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters, stop sources of terrorist financing, dismantle terrorist infrastructure and prevent supply of arms to terrorists. France reaffirmed its strong and long-standing support for India’s candidacy to the international export-control regimes, particularly to the NSG and welcomed