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At least PM not being blamed for Mecca stampede: Gadkari

New Delhi: Amid a continuing political slugfest over the beef issue, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari today said he is thankful that at least the recent stampede in Mecca has not been attributed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He also sought to dismiss the criticism that the Prime
Minister has kept silence on killing of a man on rumours of he
and his family having eaten beef.

"If he speaks, people ask why did he speak. If he does
not speak, people say why did he not speak... What can be
done," Gadkari said.

Replying to a number of queries on the beef controversy
at a press conference at Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC)
here, Gadkari said, "This is not a major political issue. A
section of media, a section of leadership takes interest in
it. This has been the history of the country.

"It is our history, since 1947, that there are riots on
small issues at some places. This is unfortunate. This should
not happen. It should be prevented. Law will take its own

"Some people... I will thank some of you that at least
what happened in Mecca and Medina, the stampede, has not been
attributed to Modi. Otherwise people can write that too

"These issues should not be politicised."

The senior BJP leader and the Minister for Road,
Transport, Highways and Shipping said there should be communal
harmony in the country.

"We want all round development taking everyone with us.
We will not discriminate against anybody. We will develop all,
provide education to all ... We will give equal right to all.
Law will take its course. Our government will try to prevent
such incidents. Those who are indulged in this will be
subjected to stringent action."

Gadkari also sought to dispel the notion that it is Modi
who takes all the decisions in the government.

"It (BJP) is not a family party or a party of mother and
son. It is also not a party of fatherson and is not property
of some one. It is not a party of Narendra Modi, or of Atal
Bihari Vajpayee or of Nitin Gadkari or of Amit Shah," he said.

"BJP is a democratic party. It is not good to speak much.
People attribute anything in the name of saffron. Every party
has all kinds of people. If Digvijay Singh says something, can
it be attributed to Sonia Gandhi? BJP does not discriminate on
the basis of caste or religion, neither it is opposed to
minorities," he said.

When told that he was able to speak only because of being
close to RSS, Gadkari said that the Prime Minister has given
"full freedom to all his ministers" and there is a difference
between "the image and the reality".

"Some people are still not able to digest that Modi is the
Prime Minister," he added.

'Segmented' approach to combat terrorism has failed: Prez

New Delhi: Warning that segmented approach by some countries to combat terrorism has failed, President Pranab Mukherjee has said that the scourge can be rolled back only through comprehensive, coordinated and international cooperation.

Ahead of his first historic visit to Jordan, Palestine
and Israel beginning on October 10, the President also said
India is concerned about the "spill over effects of
instability" in the Middle East Region, resulting in increased
terrorist activities across the world, including in South

Coming out strongly against countries which differentiate
between good and bad terrorists, Mukherjee said segmented and
partial approaches have not succeeded in countering terrorism.

"India condemns terrorism in all its forms and
manifestations...we believe terrorism should be dealt in a
comprehensive manner. Segmented and partial approaches as
adopted by some of the countries have been unsuccessful in
countering terrorism," the President, who will be embarking on
a sixday tour to the three countries, said.

Mukherjee said, "The reality of global expansion of
terrorism, including in Syria and Iraq and globalisation of
the supply chain of terrorism is a matter of great concern to

"India has faced terrorism for almost four decades,
largely sponsored from across our border. We are concerned
about the spill over effects of instability in the region
resulting in increased terrorist activities across the world,
including in South Asia," he said in an interview to 'Jordan

India has sought to challenge and repudiate the terrorist
narrative that global counterterrorism efforts are directed
against any particular religion or ethnic group.

Mukherjee said India is convinced that terrorism can be
rolled back only through "comprehensive, coordinated
international cooperation combined with a strengthened,
enforceable international legal regime."

India, he said, has adopted a comprehensive approach to
deal with the challenge of terrorism. He said several measures
have been initiated to prevent the spread of extremist
ideology, plug financing routes, build domestically a counter
narrative to radicalisation, strengthen laws to prosecute
terrorists and forge a network of international partnerships
for threat assessment and operational cooperation.

He said the global community needs to agree to a legal
framework for diminishing and eventually defeating the scourge
of terrorism.

"It will be our endeavour to see that our core concerns
are addressed during the fifth biennial review of the UN's
Global Counter Terrorism Strategy scheduled in the 70th
Session. It is essential to ensure that UN Counter Terrorism
Mechanisms function in an objective manner and there is strict
compliance by Member States with the UNSC Sanctions Regime,"
he said.

Asked about the West Asia crisis, especially the faltering
peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israel, Mukherjee
said India will continue to support initiatives at the UN for
an early realisation of a sovereign, independent, viable and
united state of Palestine.

"In line with our longstanding support to the Palestinian
cause, India will continue to support initiatives at the UN
for an early realisation of a sovereign, independent, viable
and united State of Palestine within secured and recognised
borders, side by side and at peace with Israel, with East
Jerusalem as its capital, as endorsed in the Arab Peace
Initiative, Quartet Roadmap and relevant UN resolutions," he

Calling his visit to these countries as "historic",
Mukherjee said India has always held strong and close
relations with this region. "My visit will reinforce these
relations. India remains firm in its commitment towards the
Palestinian cause, even as we pursue good relations with the
state of Israel.

"We have called upon both sides to exercise restraint and
work towards a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian
issue. Apart from strong political support to the Palestinian
cause at international, regional and bilateral levels, we have
been providing budgetary, economic and developmental
assistance," the President said.

On the ISIS operations in the neighbourhood of Jordan,
Mukherjee said India was aware of the impact of the Syrian
crisis on Jordan's resources. "We appreciate and commend
Jordan, its leadership and its people for their compassion and
untiring efforts to mitigate the sufferings of the victims of
the ongoing strife in Syria," he said.

He said India had been extending cash assistance of five
lakh US Dollars to the Jordanian government as part of the
pledge made during a conference on Syria held at Kuwait in
March this year. A similar amount was also paid last year to
the Jordan Response Fund.

The President said India wants to further strengthen
cooperation in the area of security and counter terrorism with
Jordan. "We share similar views and perceptions on regional
and international issues, including Syria and the Middle East
Peace Process.

"We strongly reject religious fundamentalism and
extremism as well as terrorism in all forms and
manifestations," he said.

On bilateral trade, the President said efforts will be
made to reach the trade target of USD 5 billion from the
current USD 2 billion by 2025.

"We invite major businesses from Jordan to avail of the
immense opportunities that are available in India under the
Government's 'Make in India' initiative," he said.

He said while India looks at Jordan as an important
partner as its strategic location can help Indian companies
target regional markets.

"It is true the trade volume has shifted in favour of
India since 2013. But, India remains a major importer of rock
phosphates, potash and finished fertilisers.

"We see Jordan as an important partner. Jordan's
strategic location can help Indian companies target regional
markets. We must expand our relations to new sectors of
cooperation," the President said.

Asserting that education and research are two other
areas of common interest, Mukherjee hoped that heads of
leading Indian universities and institutions part of his
delegation will be signing MoUs for cooperation and
collaboration with their Jordanian counterparts.

He said there are several agreements and MoUs in various
fields which will be signed during his visit to Jordan. "These
will strengthen the institutional framework for cooperation in
specific fields," the President said.

IAF plans to induct women in fighter aircraft stream: Raha

Hindon Air Base(UP): In a first for the Indian armed forces, IAF is planning combat role for women by inducting them as fighter aircraft pilots.

"We have women pilots flying transport aircraft and
helicopters. We are now planning to induct them into the
fighter stream to meet the aspirations of young women in
India," IAF Chief Arup Raha said here today addressing the air
warriors as the air force celebrated its 83rd anniversary.

Describing it as a "progressive step", Air Chief Marshal
Raha said he does not see any "incongruence" in women fighting
in a real combat scenario.

The IAF's proposal is with the Defence Ministry and once
cleared, it will take at least three years to have a fully
operational woman fighter plane pilot, he told reporters.

The plan to induct women into a fighting arm is a first
in the three services which were earlier not open to the idea
of women taking part in combat role.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had in May ruled out
recruiting women for combat operations in the armed forces due
to apprehensions about their safety but said they would be
encouraged to join other operational areas with their
inclusion being stepped up in phases.

Asked what steps would IAF take if a woman fighter pilot
is shot down across the border, he said they "need not
necessarily" go across.

"We have a lot of roles for fighter pilots or fighter
aircraft within the country, especially air defence, training,
qualified flying instructor. There are so many other tasks.
So, if the need arises, they will also do proper combat roles.
That is for the future to see. I don't see any incongruence in
women fighting it out in a real combat scenario," he said.

IAF currently has women in seven areas of administration,
logistics, meteorology, navigation, education, aeronautical
engineering mechanical and electrical and accounts.

The air force has over 1,300 women on its rolls of which
94 are pilots and 14 navigators.

Globally, many countries like the US, Israel and Pakistan
have women fighter pilots.

The move is also expected to help IAF overcome shortage of
officers in the fighter aircraft stream.

"We have a lot of women officers in the air force. If you
take the comparison of the three services, proportionately,
the Indian Air Force has the highest number of women
officers," Raha said.

"They are performing duties in all the branches, including
flying branch. We have about 110 of them flying helicopters
and transport (aircraft)," he said.

He said that unlike the army and navy, the air force
operates in a different environment.

"We operate from bases, so women have a good opportunity
to fly fighters," he said.

Raha said IAF has been taking up the case with the
government arguing that they would like to give opportunity to
young women to fly fighter planes.

"They are all capable. They have been doing well in every
field. So this is an aspiration of the young Indian women and
we would like go along with this because it is a progressive
step. We want to progress forward," he said.

The IAF Chief said that there are air forces in the world
which have women pilots in the fighter aircraft stream. "So
this is a considered decision," he said.

Asked for a timeline on induction of women fighter pilots,
he said it is their effort to see women flying fighters planes
"as soon as possible".

"We have spoken to the Ministry of Defence. Our case is in
the ministry. And I think it will be sanctioned. The faster
the approval comes, the faster we would be sucessful in
this endeavour. I think, within one year, we would be able to
give the opportunity to women and see them as fighter pilots,"
he said.

However, he said that figher pilot training takes long and
hence it will take at least three years for women fighter
plane pilots to become completely operational.

Replying to another query on physical fitness issues for
women, he said these can be overcome.

"I am sure they will prove themselves well even in this
profession," he said.

Parrikar had in Pune in May this year ruled out
recruitment of women for combat operations in the armed forces
due to apprehensions about their safety.

"No. Think of what can happen if a woman is taken as a
prisoner in combat operation," he had said, implying at
possible atrocities she might suffer if held captive by enemy

He had, however, said except for combat role, women will
be encouraged to join other operational areas of the armed

In March last year, Raha had said women are physically not
suited to fly fighter planes.

"As far as flying fighter planes is concerned, it is a
very challenging job. Women are by nature not physically
suited for flying fighter planes for long hours, especially
when they are pregnant or have other health problems," he had

IAF officials said besides physical issues, another
problem was that a huge investment is made while training a
fighter pilot which might go for a toss if a woman gets
married or has children.

India had showcased empowerment of women in all the three
services with allwomen contingents drawn from the army, air
force and navy marching down Rajpath on Republic Day this year
where US President Barack Obama was the Chief Guest.

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