Indian gov't gives nod to Indo-US joint air exercises
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
New Delhi, Nov 5, IRNA
Notwithstanding the Left's opposition, the government decided to go ahead with the biggest-ever joint fighter exercises between the IAF and US Air Force planned to be held in Kalaikunda airbase in West Bengal and US military aircraft have started arriving for these maneuvres.
Announcing the decision to go ahead with the exercises starting November 7 after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters, "I am happy to say everything has been sorted out."
His announcement followed discussions with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattachadrya and central CPI(M) leaders over plans of the Left parties to hold demonstrations against the exercises across the state. During the discussions, a request was made to the West Bengal government to make necessary security arrangements so that the exercises could take place.
Maintaining that the exercises were routine, Mukherjee said they had been held over the last four to five years and there was nothing new.
Late last night a meeting of the CCS was held, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with the Ministers of Defence, External Affairs and Finance participating along with Air Chief S.P.
Tyagi, Army Chief J.J. Singh, National Security Adviser M.K.
Narayanan and Cabinet Secretary B.K. Chaturvedi.
The meeting was held in the wake of reports of attempts by Left parties to disrupt the movement of IAF and USAF aircraft.
The parties, including the CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc, issued a joint statement yesterday opposing the air exercise.
"The deepening military collaboration (between India and US) does not augur well for India's strategic interests and independent foreign policy," the statement said.
Although activists of the CPI(M) staged protests outside Calcutta airport, US military aircraft including F-16 fighters, Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) and other planes have begun arriving for the exercises.
The US Air Force is, for the first time, bringing its AWACS aircraft and KC-130 air-to-air refuelers for the exercises.
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