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Old September 18th, 2001, 01:14 PM
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Thumbs up US at war: India Identifies Air Bases For USA

NEW DELHI: Even though no military plans have been firmed up by the US for retaliatory strikes, India has identified three air bases, one each in Jammu & Kashmir (Avantipur), Punjab (Adampur) and Gujarat (Jamnagar), in addition to unspecified port facilities in the western seaboard, as part of its offer for operational support to the US.

A security official told The Times of India that the offer has been conveyed to the US after it was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security last Thursday.

The CCS approval came after consultations with the three Service Chiefs who unanimously agreed on the need to support the US action. According to the official, "The chiefs felt that the Americans had joined our war against terrorism and we must naturally be the first to offer them help." He said that Jaswant Singh’s articulation of the government stand was motivated by a desire to ensure that Pakistan does not gain through an Indian default.

According to the official, India has already begun the "operational cooperation" by providing US officials with intelligence they have on Afghan camps and the Taliban. Over the years, the R&AW has gathered a wealth of detail on the Pakistani military assistance to the Taliban.

The official emphasised that the US has not yet indicated whether it wants to use the offer of military facilities. "We have detailed our specific offer which can then be factored into their planning," said the official. As part of this exercise, US ambassador Robert Blackwill met Navy Chief Admiral Sushil Kumar, who is the chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Army Chief Gen Padmanabhan Tuesday.

Military officials say that their understanding is that the Indian ports could be used for unloading Diego Garcia and Guam-based marine prepositioning ships that are loaded with ready-to-use equipment which will marry up with the Marine forces which will fly in from their stations in the US. They could also be used for "turning around" or replenishing ships that are involved in the operations.

According to the official, Indian air bases could be used by the US to provide depth to their deployment. Given the hostility they are bound to face in Pakistan, Indian facilities are also considered as being safer. But all this is hypothetical for the present since little is known about the manner in which the US will deal with the situation should the Taliban refuse to hand over Osama bin Laden.

25 warships in Arabian Gulf:

About 25 US, British and French warships are in the waters off Oman in
the Arabian Gulf ahead of a possible American military action on Afghanistan.

These warships are at present stationed 150 nautical miles south of the Pakistan port of Ormara, Pakistan daily Dawn reported on Tuesday.
-Loud and Proud Desi Opinions
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