Monday, March 02, 2009

Indian Airforce on stand-by, ready to help Bangladesh

Photo AP/Pavel Rahman: Bangladeshi cultural activists participate in a candlelit vigil to mourn the death of army officers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sunday, March 1, 2009

RAHUL SINGH

WITH BANGLADESH caught in a bloody turmoil after the two-day mutiny by a disgruntled border security force last week, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been put on standby to render assistance to the neighbouring country, if required.

The IAF’s transport bases, equipped with IL-76 heavy-lift and AN-32 medium-lift aircraft, have been asked to stay prepared for any commitment to Bangladesh whose fragile civilian government is coming to terms with the rebellion by the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR).

A senior IAF official, who refused to be identified, told HT on Sunday the force was ready to provide logistics as well as humanitarian help.

“We follow some drills whenever there is any instability or calamity in neighbourhood. Bangladesh returned to democratic rule barely two months ago,” a source in the air headquarters said.

The IAF had flown relief supplies to Bangladesh in November 2007, under Operation Sahayta, after a devastating cyclone tore through the country’s western coast leaving thousands dead and millions homeless.

In a stand-by scenario, the air force prioritises its commitments to make sure that assets are available at any given time for speedy deployment. The focus was on conserving assets to deal with any eventuality, said another official. It could also entail curbing leave temporarily to ensure availability of air crews.

The IAF’s transport base at Jorhat in Assam is the closest to Bangladesh. It is also one of the biggest transport bases of the force.

The mutinous guards went on a shooting spree at BDR’s officer corps at an annual meeting where troops were supposed to discuss grievances with the seniors. The rebels wanted among other things better pay, change in the command and control structure and permission to be part of lucrative UN peacekeeping missions. #

First published in the Hindustan Times, New Delhi, March 02, 2009

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