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India’s Modi faces criticism, mockery over radar comments

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding his finger skywards after having voted in India's marathon election in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, 23 April 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding his finger skywards after having voted in India's marathon election in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, 23 April 2019. Reuters/Amit Dave

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is campaigning for re-election in polls that end next week, faced mockery and criticism on Monday for saying he ordered air strikes on Pakistan because cloudy skies would stop the detection of Indian jets.

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Radar technology detects aircraft, even in cloudy conditions.

But Modi claimed in an interview aired on Sunday that he had ordered airstrikes on Pakistan back in February on the basis that cloud cover would stop radars from detecting Indian fighter jets.

“I said there is so much cloud and rain,” Modi said as he explained the bombing of what India claims was a training camp for an armed group in Pakistan.

“[I thought] the clouds can benefit us too. We can escape the radar,” Modi explained. “Ultimately I said there are clouds, let’s go.”

Modi has been using the airstrikes, in the wake of a deadly attack in the disputed Kashmir region, to bolster his strongman image as he seeks re-election.

His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) posted the comments on Twitter but quickly deleted them as newspapers quoted experts rubbishing the claims, with the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper ridiculing the prime minister for his “shock and awe” disclosure.

Opposition parties also sounded off on the gaffe, including National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.

“Pakistani radar doesn’t penetrate clouds,” he sarcastically tweeted. “This is an important piece of tactical information that will be critical when planning future strikes.”

Others went beyond humour to question Modi’s fitness for leadership.

Sitaram Yechury, leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said Modi’s words were “truly shameful” because they “insult our Air Force as being ignorant and unprofessional”.

“It seems no one clarified for the PM how radars work,” responded Salman Soz of the opposition Congress party.

“If that is the case, it is a very serious national security issue. No laughing matter!”

The BJT deleted the tweet, but senior party leader Prakash Javadekar offered a defence of Modi’s comments.

“Modi did not reveal anything he was not supposed to reveal,” he told the Press Trust of India news agency.

Digital camera email attachments in the 1980s

Twitter also had fun with Modi’s claim, during the same interview, that he sent images taken with digital cameras as email attachments before the technology to do so existed.

“I am likely the first person to use digital camera in India in 1987 or 88. Only a few people had emails then,” Modi said.

Except that the first email attachment was sent by researcher Nathaniel Borenstein in 1992.

“Even if he did have an email id in 1988 when the rest of the world didn’t, who was he sending emails to? ET?” asked Divya Spandana of the Congress party.

The last day of voting is set for 19 May, with results expected four days later.

(with wires)

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