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INTERNATIONAL

Ukrainian Plane Likely Brought Down By Iranian Missile

Iran authorities say they won’t allow Boeing or U.S. aviation officials access to the black boxes.

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TEHRAN (Iran): A Ukrainian airplane which crashed in ran, killing all 176 people aboard, was likely brought down by an Iranian missile. On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada had intelligence from multiple sources indicating that a Ukrainian airliner which crashed outside Tehran was mistakenly shot down by Iran.

“We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence, that indicates the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” he said. “This may well have been unintentional.”

“We know this may have been unintentional. Canadians have questions, and they deserve answers,” Trudeau told reporters. Trudeau’s comments came as images posted on social media increasingly pointed to a catastrophic mistake by Tehran’s air defense batteries bringing the down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 in flames on Wednesday. Citing information from allies as well as Canada’s own intelligence, Justin Trudeau said the plane appeared to have been hit by an Iranian surface-to-air (SAM) missile.


Earlier Thursday, a U.S. official not authorized to speak publicly had confirmed to USA media that a missile appeared to be the likely cause of the plane crash.

The confirmation came after reports on social media appeared to show the guidance section of a SA-15 Gauntlet short-range, surface-to-air missile having landed in a garden near the crash site. London-based global information firm IHS Markit said it could not confirm the authenticity of the photos but “assesses them to be credible.”

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers.Iran’s attack was retaliation after the killing of one of its top officials, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. drone strike that has drawn a mixed reaction from U.S. and world leaders.



President Trump said Thursday he found the plane crash suspicious and that “somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.”

Canada’s theory was swiftly backed up by other Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said mounting evidence supported an Iranian missile strike, which “may well have been unintentional”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that there was now “a body of information” that the Ukrainian Boeing 747 that crashed in Iran was brought down by an Iranian missile. “There is now a body of information that the flight was shot down by an Iranian Surface to Air Missile. This may well have been unintentional,” Johnson said in a statement on the air disaster in which four British passengers died.

Even the US government believes Iran shot down the plane by mistake, three U.S. officials told Reuters. The data showed the plane was airborne for two minutes after departing Tehran when the heat signatures of two surface-to-air missiles were detected, one of the officials told Reuters.

But, Iran has asked Canada to share any information it has regarding the Ukrainian airliner crash after Candian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his country has intelligence from several sources to prove that Tehran has shot down the aeroplane.


“[Iran] asks the Canadian prime minister and any other government to share information on this incident they possess to the committee in charge of investigating the incident in Iran,” Sputnik quoted a statement by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi. Mousavi added that Iran had invited Ukrainian experts as well as representatives of the Boeing company to join the investigation into causes of the crash.

The Boeing 737 jet with 176 people on board including 63 Canadians crashed minutes after taking off from Tehran on Wednesday morning. Eighty-two Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians died in the crash, which took place between the cities of Parand and Shahriar. There were also 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals among the victims.

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INTERNATIONAL

India And Nepal PMs Jointly Inaugurate Integrated Check Post At Jogbani-Biratnagar

This is the second ICP on the Nepal border. The first was built at the Raxaul-Birgunj border in 2018.

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NEW DELHI/KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Oli this morning jointly inaugurated the second Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Jogbani-Biratnagar tomorrow. The ICP is built with Indian assistance to facilitate trade and people’s movement across the India-Nepal border.

This is the second ICP on the Nepal border. The first was built at the Raxaul-Birgunj border in 2018.

PM Modi said, the issue of better connectivity becomes more important if it concerns India-Nepal as the relations are not simply of neighbours but because history and geography have connected the nations through culture, nature, families, language, development and many more threads.


The Prime Minister said that the Government of India is committed to developing better transportation facilities with all the friendly nations and to further develop relations in areas like trade, culture and education.

He said that India is working on cross connectivity projects Road, Rail and Transmission lines in Nepal.

He added that Integrated Check Posts at major border places between India and Nepal are facilitating mutual trade and movement in a big way.



Both Prime Ministers also witnessed the remarkable progress in Government of India assisted post-earthquake housing reconstruction projects in Nepal.

Referring to 2015 Earthquake in Nepal, PM Modi said, India played the role of the first responder in relief and rescue operations and now it is standing shoulder to shoulder with the neighbour for the reconstruction.

Out of India’s commitment to build 50 thousand houses in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts, 45 thousand houses have already been completed.

In his address, Prime Minister of Nepal K P Sharma Oli thanked India for its efforts. He said, a stable and majority government in both countries is an opportune moment and his government remains committed to working closely with the Government of India.

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INTERNATIONAL

Soleimani’s Killing And The Redefining Of US-Iran Rivalry

Events of the past 18 months underline that the US and Iran are heading towards greater confrontation.

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Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), was killed in an American drone strike at Baghdad Airport on January 03, 2020. General Soleimani was a senior and popular military figure in Iran.

He was the architect of Iran’s military expansion in West Asia (or the Middle East) through the creation and sustenance of armed militias that acted as Iranian proxies.

Through Hezbollah, for example, Tehran has been able to exert significant influence in Lebanese politics. Likewise, the Quds Force was behind the creation of Hashd al-Shabbi or Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF) in Iraq, which was not only instrumental in defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) but also played a key role in establishing Tehran as an invincible political and military force in Baghdad.

In Syria too, the Quds Force was actively involved in arming and training Shiite militias, who fought along with Hezbollah to defeat ISIS and the Syrian opposition.


The IRGC is also credited with aiding and supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hamas as well as Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories posing grave security threats to Saudi Arabia and Israel, two key regional allies of the United States (US).

Through these proxies, Iran was able to challenge the US military dominance in various theatres in West Asia.

While the US and Iran have been at loggerheads for over four decades, tensions have sharply risen under the Donald Trump Administration. Trump was a vocal critic of Iranian policies and its nuclear programme even before his election in November 2016.

In May 2018, he withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and P5+1 (representing five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran. Since then, the situation in the Persian Gulf has been on the boil with several tit-for-tat actions raising the chances of a direct military confrontation.



In June 2019, the US and Iran were on the verge of war after Iran shot down an unarmed US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. At the time, President Trump had remarked that the US decided to desist from military action only at the last minute considering the disproportionate casualty Iran would have suffered.

In a series of tweets on June 21, Trump said “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night” and decided to stop only “10 minutes before the strike” after getting to know that nearly 150 Iranians will die in the process which would not be “proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

The situation again came to a head in September 2019 after the drone attacks on Aramco oil processing facilities in Khurais and Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia. Though Yemen’s Houthi rebels had claimed responsibility for the attacks, both the US and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for targeting the Saudi oil installations.

Again, President Trump had tweeted that the US is “locked and loaded” and that it will “work something out” with Saudi Arabia to device an appropriate response.

Trump had then authorised the use of the US emergency oil reserves to ensure stable global supplies and issued new economic sanctions against Iranian financial agencies.

The current escalation is largely a result of the simmering situation in Iraq since October 2019. Iraq has witnessed a series of protests against corruption, ineffective governance and economic hardships as well as Iranian and American meddling in government and politics. The protestors had on more than one occasion targeted the Iranian consulates in different Iraqi cities including Najaf and Basra.


Reports suggest that over 500 Iraqis have lost their lives due to action taken by police and PMF against the protestors in 2019.

To counter popular discontent against Iran, Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militia, had organised a protest in Baghdad which culminated in the attack and arson at the US Embassy on December 31.

The US blamed General Soleimani of authorising the attack on its embassy. It also revealed that the decision to eliminate Soleimani was taken in order to neutralise an imminent attack on the US interests that he was planning.

The statement issued by the US Department of Defence noted that Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region” and that “this strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

For his part, Trump stated that “General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more” and that he “should have been taken out [killed] many years ago!”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo too said that “There was an attack that was imminent that could have killed dozens or hundreds of Americans. We found an opportunity and we delivered … we took him off the battlefield.”

Soleimani’s killing has evoked angry reactions from Tehran and Baghdad. Many senior Iranian and Iraqi leaders have condemned the American strike and have called for avenging Soleimani’s death.

While announcing three-day mourning, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the General was martyred in the service of Iran and Muslims and that “harsh revenge awaits those criminals who have tainted their filthy hands with his blood.”

Khamenei also called an extraordinary meeting of the Supreme National Security Council to review the situation after the US strike. The outpouring of public angst against the US action on the streets of Tehran, Mashhad and Ahvaz during Soleimani’s funeral procession indicated the popular sentiment prevailing in Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that “The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”


On January 08, Iran attacked important US military bases in Iraq. Khamenei termed the attack as a “slap in the face” of the US. Zarif, however, was more circumspect when he tweeted that Iran took the action in “self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter” and that “we do not seek escalation or war.”

After initial speculations about casualties, it became clear that the missile attack did not lead to any American or Iraqi loss of life. President Trump stated that “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”

Their statements seem to underline that both parties wish to avoid a full-blown war at the moment.

However, this does not indicate the cessation of hostilities. Both the US and Iran have the ability to indulge in covert activities to harm each other’s interest. Tehran can use its proxies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to mount attacks against the US military personnel and installations in the region.

Kataib Hezbollah (KH) and other Shiite militias can start insurgency within Iraq to harass the US forces there, especially since their deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis too perished in the attack that killed Soleimani.

The KH has launched rockets targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad and the al-Balad airbase nearby, housing the US Air Force personnel, though this also did not lead to any casualty.

In the long term, Iran might push for the complete ouster of the American military from both Iraq and Syria. On January 05, the Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution calling “to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason.”

Iran, however, will be cautious in choosing an all-out war given its vulnerabilities against the US military might.

Soleimani’s killing is the culmination of a series of events that began with the US withdrawal from JCPOA and re-imposition of unilateral sanctions on Iran. The US and Iran have been engaged in an intense geopolitical rivalry, but so far both had largely acted through proxies and regional allies. Iran is the only regional power that resists American military dominance in West Asia (or the Middle East).

The incidents of the past year and a half underline that the US and Iran are heading towards greater confrontation, and General Soleimani’s killing is the clearest indication so far.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Originally published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.inhere.

Md. Muddassir Quamar

Md. Muddassir Quamar is Associate Fellow in IDSA, New Delhi. He holds a PhD in Middle East studies from JNU. His doctoral thesis examined social developments in Saudi Arabia between 1991 and 2010 within a conceptual framework of Islamic modernism.

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DIALOGUE FOR CHANGE

NRC Good For India-Bangladesh Relations

With the Indo-Bangla ties on an upswing, this is the right time to deal with the issue of illegal migration.

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The India–Bangladesh relationship is probably going through its best phase. It is one of the few success stories in India’s diplomatic notebook in an otherwise troubled neighbourhood. Both sides have managed to sort out a number of contentious issues. Prominent among them has been the land boundary and the maritime boundary dispute. Both the issues were sorted out to the satisfaction of Bangladesh where India ignored significant losses of territory to nurture the bilateral relationship.

This Indian investment in its relationship with its eastern neighbour has shown result and both sides are now enjoying a period of unparalleled bonhomie, peace and friendship.

However, fears are being expressed that India’s implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), first in the state of Assam and subsequently in the whole country could rock the boat.


While there is no doubt that the implementation of NRC is a complicated issue, but if properly implemented it would make the India-Bangladesh relationship more sustainable.

Even as the bilateral relations are on a strong footing, an oft-expressed fear is that the upsurge in the relationship is regime-specific.

While there is bipartisan support on the Indian side to maintain a friendly relationship with Bangladesh, the same cannot be said about the Bangladeshi side where the political opposition at the first opportunity is likely to take steps that could derail the relationship.

The opposition in Bangladesh has tried its best to convince its interlocutors in India that their attitude has changed. However, it remains to be seen whether it is so.



Generally, it has been pointed out that the Teesta water dispute is the only remaining dispute between India and Bangladesh and its solution would make the bilateral relationship smooth. What is conveniently forgotten is the long-standing issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh.

A report of the Group of Ministers on National Security, submitted in 2001, estimated that post-1971 approximately 12 million Bangladeshis have illegally migrated into various states of northeast India.

However, this number is expected to be much larger if one includes illegal Bangladeshi population residing in other parts of India. Moreover, the Bangladeshis have been illegally coming to India even after 2001.

While it is important for India is to take note of issues that concern Bangladesh, it is equally important for Bangladesh to be sensitive about issues that impact Indian interests. The issue of illegal migration is one such issue. This is something which the Bangladesh Government has to deal with sooner than later in the interest of better bilateral relations. This is necessary to make the government-to-government relationship between the two countries more sustainable.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no desire in Bangladesh to solve this issue to mutual satisfaction. In the past, successive governments in Bangladesh have denied the very existence of this problem. One of the country’s top diplomats had once even said that if Bangladeshis would have to illegally immigrate, they would rather swim to Italy than walk into India. The total denial of such a phenomenon only hardens sentiments in India over the issue.

It is true that Bangladesh’s economy has seen unprecedented growth, which has been growing at a rate of almost eight per cent last few years. While this has helped in improving the living standards of people in some parts of Bangladesh, a large part of the country still remains poor. These poor people can’t afford the cost of illegally immigrating to Italy. Ironically, only the relatively better-off people are trying to illegally immigrate to Europe. Most of the poor ones simply walk into India. This was clearly highlighted when some illegal migrants were recently deported from Karnataka.


Illegal immigration from Bangladesh, comprising both Hindus and Muslims, is an important issue from the national security perspective of India.

A large number of Bangladeshi immigrants are illegally living in India. Hindus are said to have migrated after facing religious persecution, whereas most of the Muslim migrants are termed as economic migrants.

The issue was further complicated sometime back when the Rohingya refugees originally from Myanmar started infiltrating into India through Bangladesh. It was suspected that the Bangladeshi authorities were consciously pushing these refugees into India. Some observers feel that Bangladesh probably hoped that the presence of Rohingyas in India would force India to take Bangladesh’s side against Myanmar. Moreover, Dhaka could also get rid of the thousands of Rohingyas living on its territory.

That minorities face violence and religious persecution in Muslim-majority countries in India’s neighbourhood like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, is well known. They are often dispossessed of their land and property and on many occasions even forced to convert. Their womenfolk are abducted and married off after converting them. Unfortunately, no international condemnation is expressed on these issues.

According to a Dhaka University professor Abul Barakat, from 1964 to 2013, around 11.3 million Hindus left Bangladesh due to religious persecution and discrimination.

This means on an average, 632 Hindus left Bangladesh each day and 230,612 annually.

This exodus mostly took place during the time of military governments after independence. The properties of the Hindus were taken away during the Pakistan regime describing them as enemy properties and the same were treated by the government after independence as vested property. These two measures have made 60 per cent of the Hindus landless in Bangladesh.

Though the present Sheikh Hasina Government has been trying to reassure the Bangladeshi Hindus, it has not been able to dispel the sense of fear prevalent among the Hindu minority population, which is being subjected to various types of discrimination at the societal level, generating in them the impulse for migration.

The Indian Government has clarified that the issue of NRC and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA are internal to India. The CAA is intended to provide expeditious consideration of Indian citizenship to the persecuted minorities – those who entered into India on or before December 31, 2014 – from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan. It does not affect the existing avenues which are available to the other communities to seek citizenship. Nor does it seek to strip anybody of citizenship.

According to the Indian Home Ministry, nearly 4,000 people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have been given Indian citizenship in the past six years. This includes as many as 2,830 people from Pakistan, 912 from Afghanistan and 172 from Bangladesh. Out of this number, close to 600 people are Muslims who have been given Indian citizenship.7 Such migrants will continue to get Indian citizenship if they fulfil eligibility conditions.

As the India-Bangladesh relationship is currently strong and trust levels on both sides are high, this is the right time to deal with the issue of illegal migration.

Bangladesh has already documented its citizens and maintains a biometric record of them. The National Identity Registration Wing (NIDW) was created within the Bangladesh Election Commission for that purpose. The country has now also distributed machine-readable smart national identity (NID) cards among 10 crore citizens, replacing the earlier paper-laminated cards. India too is justified in undertaking a similar exercise. This will help India get a grip on the problem.


Once the documentation of citizens is done in India, both sides can share their database. This will help manage the problem in a much more amicable manner.

The Bangladeshis often claim that their citizens are killed on the border by the Indian paramilitary forces. The documentation of citizens on both sides will also help in handling this contentious issue.

The issue of illegal migration in the India-Bangladesh relationship cannot be swept under the carpet. It will continue to be a stumbling block in the sustenance of a stable relationship. It will be better if both sides look at the issue dispassionately especially when the trust levels are high.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Originally published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.inhere.

Dr Anand Kumar

Dr Anand Kumar is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi. His areas of specialization at IDSA are Counter-terrorism, South Asian politics, Bangladesh, Maldives, Proliferation of Small Arms and Low-intensity conflicts.

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