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India, Australia to Begin Talks in March on Nuclear Pact, Trade Enhancement

India and Australia on Monday moved towards further cementing their strategic partnership as they agreed to begin negotiations here in March on a nuclear pact besides broadening trade and economic relations.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Australian counterpart Bob Carr, after 90-minute bilateral talks, agreed to hold the first round of negotiations on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in March in Delhi.



India and Australia on Monday moved towards further cementing their strategic partnership as they agreed to begin negotiations here in March on a nuclear pact besides broadening trade and economic relations.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Australian counterpart Bob Carr, after 90-minute bilateral talks, agreed to hold the first round of negotiations on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in March in Delhi.

“We shall be commencing negotiations on a Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement in March 2013,” Khurshid said. “India is a key part of Australia’s future,” Carr said announcing the first round of talks for the nuclear cooperation agreement would be held in Delhi in March.

Khurshid said the External Affairs Ministries of both the countries would conduct the talks.

The agreement would enable the export of uranium from Australia to India, Carr said.

Australia has about 40 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves. Khurshid said India would also host a meeting of the Joint Commission of Commerce Ministers, which would give impetus to trade relations between the two countries.

The bilateral trade is at present 21 billion Australian dollars.

“Our trade negotiators have been engaged in broadening understanding towards a mutually beneficial Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA),” he said.

During the parleys, it was decided that Defence Minister A K Antony would visit Australia sometime in March for further discussions on cooperation in defence and security sectors.

This would be the first ever visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Australia.

On timeframe for concluding negotiations on nuclear pact, Khurshid said the sense of urgency and committment between the two countries on the issue was “very clear”.

“When we speak on a matter of such high import, to actually put an artificial deadline and say we must complete it within this period would not be appropriate. Obviously, a sense of urgency and purpose would be there and hopefully we would move quite swiftly,” he said.

“I think these are very important negotiations. Of course, we have done negotiations with other countries successfully on this. So, there is a backdrop available and there are models available,” he said.

Khurshid underscored the significant contributions made by Australia in nuclear energy sector and non-proliferation.

Australia had agreed to start negotiations on a civil nuclear deal with India during the October visit of Prime Minister Julia Gillard to New Delhi.

In December 2011, Gillard’s Labour Party had overturned its long-standing ban on exporting uranium to India.

The country did not sell uranium to India because it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Khurshid said the cooperation between India and Australia in water resources sector has expanded and the Water Technology Partnership would take concrete shape at the next Joint Working Group in April 2013.

He said negotiations for the Transfer of Sentenced Persons would also commence soon.

Khurshid said India was pleased with the cooperation in the education sector, which has been expanded by the inclusion of specific programmes on vocational skills and establishment of such centres in New Delhi.

He said the two governments have also been cooperating in addressing the needs of the student community both in terms of curriculum quality as well as safety issues.

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Army Foils Attack on J&K Air Force Station



An attempt by two-three militants to attack a Water Pump House outside Air Force Station at Awantipora in Pulwama District was foiled by alert guards on February 20.

“2-3 (militants) fired and lobbed a grenade at the Air Force Water Pump House Malangpora located outside Air Force Station Awantipora at around 1730 hours today [February 20]. The fire was effectively retaliated by alert sentries,” a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

“The (militants) fled. There is no loss of life or property (in the incident),” the spokesman said, adding searches have been launched to trace the attackers. “The search operation is underway,” the spokesman said.

A Police officer said that Army and Police cordoned off area but militants managed to escape. “No arrests were made so far,” the officer said.

Police and 55 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) of Army cordoned off Narbal village of Pulwama District after reports about the presence of militants in the village on February 20 evening.

As the Security Forces (SFs) laid the cordon, people of the village came out and pelted stones at the SFs who fired in the air to disperse them. They also fired tear smoke to disperse the protesters. The cordon was, however, on when last reports came in.

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Avani Chaturvedi Creates History for the Indian Air Force



Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi becomes the first Indian woman to fly fighter aircraft MiG-21 Bison solo.

Chaturvedi flew a MiG-21 bison in her first training solo sortie, in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

She completed the half-an-hour long solo flight in the Russian-origin jet in the skies over Jamnagar Air Base. “This is a major milestone in training of a fighter pilot and first time an Indian woman has flown a fighter aircraft solo. It demonstrates IAF’s enduring commitment to ‘Nari Shakti’,” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said.

It is pertinent to mention here that MiG-21 Bison has the highest landing and take-off speed in the world – 340 kmph.

She is one of the three in the first batch of female pilots, besides Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh, who were inducted in Indian Air Force fighter squadron on June 18, 2016.

Speaking to news agencies, Air Commodore Prashant Dixit said, “It is a unique achievement for Indian Air Force and the country.”

She is from Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh.  She completed her training at Hyderabad Air Force Academy. She did her schooling from Deoland, a small town in Shahdol district of Madhya Pradesh. Completing her Bachelors in Technology from Banasthali University, Rajasthan in 2014, she passed the Indian Air Force exam.

Chaturvedi is inspired by her brother who is in the Army.

She was declared as the first combat pilot along with two of her cohort, Mohana Singh, and Bhawana Kanth.

Mohana Singh and Bhawana have also completed training to fly a fighter plane and will soon fly fighter planes. All three were given training in January.s inducted into the Indian Air Force fighter squadron on June 18, 2016. They were formally commissioned by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Chaturvedi, who is posted to No. 23 Squadron (Panthers), is from the first batch of three women officers who were commissioned as fighter pilots in the IAF in June 2016. Till last week, she had undertaken flights in twin-seater training jets, accompanied by Qualified Flying Instructors of the IAF. After completing her basic flying training on a Pilatus aircraft at the Air Force Academy, Chaturvedi underwent six months of training on Kiran trainer jets at Hakimpet, which was followed by a year-long training stint on Hawk advanced trainer jets at Bidar Air Base.

Only selected countries, such as Britain, the United States, Israel, and Pakistan, have allowed women in the role of fighter pilots.

It was in October 2015 that the Government took the decision to open the fighter stream for women. Meanwhile, combat roles in the Army and the Navy are still off-limits for women, due to a combination of operational concerns and logistical constraints.

On December 16, 2017, two women from the second batch to enter the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force were commissioned after graduating from the Air Force Academy, Dundigul.

It was only in 1992 that the armed forces began recruiting women to streams, other than the Medical stream. Since 1993, women officers have been inducted into all branches and stream as Short Service Commissioned Officers except in the fighter stream. However, IAF has revised Short Service Commission scheme to induct women into the fighter stream on experimental basis for five years.

The IAF has already selected the next batch of three women trainee pilots for the fighter stream.


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India Test Fires Nuclear Capable Agni-II Missile



Representational Picture (PIB)

India on February 20 test-fired its medium range nuclear capable Agni-II missile with a strike range of 2,000 km from Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast.

The trial of the surface-to-surface missile was conducted from a mobile launcher at the Launch Complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR).

The Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) has already been inducted into the services and Tuesday’s test was carried out by the Army’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) with logistic support provided by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), they said.

The 20-mt-long Agni-II ballistic missile has a launch weight of 17 tonnes and can carry a payload of 1,000 kg over a distance of 2,000 km.

The state-of-the-art missile, already a part of the country’s arsenal of strategic deterrence, was launched as a training exercise by the armed forces, a DRDO scientist said. Agni-II, a two-stage missile, equipped with advanced high accuracy navigation system and guided by a unique command and control system was propelled by solid rocket propellant system, he said.

The entire trajectory of the trial was tracked by a battery of sophisticated radars, telemetry observation stations, electro-optic instruments and two naval ships located near the impact point in the down range area of the Bay of Bengal.

Agni-II was developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory along with other DRDO laboratories and integrated by the Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad.

The missile is part of the Agni series of missiles which includes the Agni-I with a 700 km range, Agni-III with a 3,000 km range, Agni-IV and Agni-V both having long-range capabilities.

The first prototype of the Agni-II missile was carried out on April 11, 1999, and the last launch was a user’s trial on May 4, 2017.

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