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*GUEST EDITORIAL* Time to Bring Home America’s Arunachal Missing in Action

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Editor’s Note:  usindiamonitor only very recently came across this purely humanitarian issue of bringing home the remains of MIA American pilots who crashed in India.  While the views here are those of the author and Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action, we stand strongly in support of this cause and encourage action by every reader regardless of where you are.  Obama’s pending visit to India brings fanfare-focused media attention but this is a real issue that deserves more exposure.  These Americans who fought alongside the Chinese cannot be recovered now due to China’s stubborn stance and the inaction of US and Indian governments.

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irwin zaetz (1)

1st Lt. Irwin Zaetz (Burlington, Vermont), navigator of the B-24 bomber “Hot as Hell”

For many years (at least since 2004), the US Government has known, and has stated publicly, that the mortal remains of over 400 US airmen still lie unrecovered at their World War II crash sites in northeast India, primarily in Arunachal Pradesh.   These aircraft crashed while flying back and forth between Assam and South China, in support of the Chinese war effort against Japan. In the years immediately after the war, the US military made efforts to locate these crash sites, so as to recover and repatriate  these airmen’s mortal remains to the US for proper burial, but failed.

Starting early in the 21st century, however, an independent American investigator, Mr. Clayton Kuhles, became the first (and so far only) person to locate and document many of these crash sites, trekking to them personally and submitting their GPS coordinates to the US Defense Department.  The families of these airmen (including my own) eventually became aware of Mr. Kuhles’ discoveries and pressed the Defense Department, which has a specialized agency for recovering US war dead around the world, to investigate these crash sites.   For many months, that agency (known as JPAC) showed no interest at all in investigating Mr. Kuhles’ reports.   But after considerable family lobbying and media attention, JPAC finally started negotiating with the Indian Ministry of Defence and reached an agreement with the Government of India (GoI) in early 2008 to permit recoveries to proceed.

Fam

Maj. Robert W. Fensler (Tulelake, California), commander of the 425th Bomb Squadron and acting pilot of the B-24 bomber “Pregnant Swan”, with his wife and daughter

The GoI permitted one crash site – the site of my uncle’s B-24 crash in the Upper Siang district – to be investigated, but after only a few weeks of investigation, abruptly stopped the operation.   Since then the GoI has not permitted any of the 20 crash sites discovered by Clayton Kuhles in Arunachal to be investigated for human remains:  this amounts to a virtual moratorium and a repudiation of Indian Government obligations under the Geneva Conventions, its pledged bilateral commitments to the US, and India’s own heritage of respect for the dead (especially respect for war dead).

What could possibly be the reason for this very hurtful moratorium, which has inflicted major damage on the humanitarian relationship between the US and India by convincing the families of these airmen and their supporters around the world  that the Government of India cannot be trusted to live up to its promises ?   The reason is the Indian Government’s fear of antagonizing China, which claims that Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory.  Knowing of the Chinese Government’s past public denunciations of remains recovery operations as part of a US-India plan to contain China, the Government of India fears antagonizing China over an issue that the Government of India attaches very little importance to, and to which the US Government regrettably attaches very little importance as well.

pvt joseph i natvik

Pvt Joseph I. Natvik (Madison, Wisconsin), flight engineer of C-109 tanker 44-49628

The Government of the People’s Republic of China claims that the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is actually the Chinese region of South Tibet, and therefore part of the Chinese Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). South Tibet, in the view of the Chinese Government, consists of large parts of China’s Lhoka (Shannan) and Nyingchi Prefectures. The parts of Lhoka Prefecture that are located in South Tibet are parts of Lhunze County and Cona County.  The part of Cona County located in South Tibet includes West Kameng District of Arunachal, where the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary is located.  The parts of Nyingchi Prefecture that are located in South Tibet are parts of Medog County and Zayu (Chayu) County.

Despite the Indian Government’s loud verbal denials of China’s claim, the Indian Government’s refusal to permit US remains recovery teams to investigate crash sites in Arunachal Pradesh undermines those denials by amounting to tacit recognition by the Indian Government of the validity of China’s claim: actions, after all, speak louder than words.

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FAMILIES AND SUPPORTERS OF AMERICA’S
ARUNACHAL MISSING IN ACTION
Gary Zaetz, Founder and Chairman
124 Long Shadow Lane
Cary, North Carolina 27518
United States of America
(919) 851-2242
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Posted on January 21, 2015, in History, Politics/Diplomacy, Security and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Our organization’s deepest gratitude goes to the following 36 retired and active service Indian military officers for their support of the mission of Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action:
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    Gen. J. J. Singh, Indian Army (Retd), former Governor of Arunachal Pradesh and former Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) of the Indian Army. On 26 January 2008, Gen. Singh sent to Gary Zaetz, nephew of Arunachal MIA 1st Lt. Irwin Zaetz (USAAF) and Founder of Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal MIAs, a letter in which he wrote: “For this great humanitarian initiative to search, locate, identify, recover and repatriate the remains of the crews of air and land warriors who perished in crashes in Arunachal Pradesh, my unstinted support will be readily available.”
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    Air Marshal Muthumanickam Matheswaran (Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India), Indian Air Force (Retd). A former Deputy Chief of the Integrated Defense Staff (DCIDS), Air Marshal Matheswaran served in the Indian Air Force for 39 years, and is currently an advisor to the Chairman of Hindustan Aernonautics Ltd.
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    Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (New Delhi area, India), PVSM, AVSM, SM (Retd), Former Director General Of Military Operations, Indian Army. On January 20, 2015, Lt. Gen. Bhatia wrote: “Dear Mr Gary Zaetz, Thank you indeed for your mail. I do appreciate the humanitarian initiative which you lead as also the various challenges associated with this mission. As a former Director General of Military Operations of the Indian Army I am aware of some of the initiatives as also the many challenges. I support the “Cause” and assure you that I on my part will work towards gainfully contributing to the effort. Wishing you the very best in all your endeavours. Warm Regards, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd)”
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    Lt. Gen. Prakash C. Katoch (Gurgaon, Haryana, India), Indian Army (Retd); Special Forces veteran; former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army; Council Member, United Service Institution of India; former Indian Defence Attache in Japan and the Republic of Korea; recipient of the PVSM Medal (awarded “in recognition to peacetime service of the most exceptional order”), UYSM Medal (for “Wartime Distinguished Service”), AVSM Medal (for “distinguished service of an exceptional order”), and the SC Medal (“for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice while not engaged in direct action with the enemy”)
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    Lt. Gen. J. F. R. Jacob (Delhi, India), Indian Army (Retd); Chief of Staff (CoS) of the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War; former Governor of the states of Goa and Punjab; former security advisor to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); awarded Commendation of Merit and PVSM Medal; World War II veteran of British Indian Army; author of the books Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation and An Odyssey in War and Peace: An Autobiography of Lt. Gen. J. F. R. Jacob.
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    Maj. Gen. P S Paul (Indian Army, Ret’d). Maj. Gen Paul served 38 years in the Indian Army. He “commanded a Rashtriya Riflers Battalion in intense counter insurgency operations with distinction. Commanded a brigade on the Sino Indian border, was Mumbai Sub Area Commander, Brigadier Operation Logistics at Command HQ, General Officer Commanding an Infantry Division on the Western borders, and was the Additional Director General Infantry at Integrated HQ of MoD (Army).” On Jan. 20, 2015, he wrote: “Thank you Gary for this privilege.”
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    Maj Gen BK Sharma, AVSM, SM** (Indian Army, Retd)(New Delhi, India), Deputy Director (Research) and Head of CS3 at the United Services Institute (USI). He is PSC, HC, NDC, MPhil (Twice), PGDM and is pursuing PhD in Geopolitics in Central Asia. His Command and Staff assignments include, Senior Faculty Member at NDC, New Delhi, Command of a Mountain Division, BGS of a Corps, Principal Director Net Assessment, Defence Attaché in Central Asia and UN Military Observer in Central America.
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    Indian Navy Rear Admiral (Ret’d) Dr. Sanatan Kulshrestha, Ph.D. His biographical summary states that “His naval career spanned over three decades in the Naval Armament Quality Organisation in the Indian Navy from 1975 to 2011, and his last duty assignment was as the Director General of Naval Armament Inspection (DGNAI) at the Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence (Navy).” Rear Admiral Kulshrestha is a Senior Fellow of New Westminster College.
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    Maj. Gen.(Ret’d) Dhruv C. Katoch (Gurgaon, Haryana, India), Director of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) and a 36-year veteran of the Indian Army,
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    Brig. Rahul K. Bhonsle (New Delhi, India), Indian Army (Retd), Director of Security-Risks.com; Vice-President, Center for Advance Regional Studies; author of the books Countering Transnational Terrorism (2011), Beyond Bin Laden: Global Terrorism Scenarios (2011), and India’s National Security: The Asymmetrical Challenges (2006).
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    Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal (New Delhi, India), Indian Army (Retd), Adjunct Fellow with the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, DC ; Director and CEO of Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi, India; served as Deputy Assistant Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff at HQ Integrated Defence Staff, New Delhi and as Director MO-5 in the Directorate General of Military Operations at Army Headquarters (dealing with threat, strategy and force structure); author of the book Indian Army: Vision 2020 (2008). Brig. Kanwal has informed us that he “personally urged the previous NSA [National Security Advisor] to allow access to suspected crash sites.”
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    Brig. Pradeep Sharma (Chandigarh, India), Indian Army (Retd), Director at Seethamma Corporation.
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    Capt. Devindra Sethi (Noida, India), Indian Navy (Retd). Columnist at The Diplomat.
    .
    Captain Prabha Kant Misra, Indian Navy. Capt. Misra has been in the Indian Navy from July 1983 to the present time, serving as a naval aircraft navigator, second-in-command of India’s largest naval air squadron, and Commander Operations of a Naval Air Base,. He sent us this message: “Dear Mr. Gary, You can count on my support for this humanitarian cause. All the best. Capt PK Misra ”
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    Commander Sansor Chand Sharma (Kandi, India), Indian Navy (Retd); President of the Ex-Servicemen Association in the Kandi area.
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    Col (Ret’d, Indian Army) N. N. Bhatia. Col. Bhatia participated in the 1965, 1971 wars and CI Ops in Mizoram, J&K, Nagaland & Punjab; was Senior Intelligence Staff at AHQ interacting with three services, various Ministries, Military / Defence Attaches in India & abroad; and commanded Bn (900 all ranks). As Chief Instructor of the Assam Rifles Training Centre, Col. Bhatia was responsible for administration, training & development of all ranks.
    Col. (Ret’d, Indian Army) Yogesh Sharma (Pune, Maharashtra, India), Colonel Commandant, Regiment of Artillery
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    Col (Ret’d, Indian Army) Manoj Channan. Col. Channan served his country’s army for 26 years, as General Staff Officer I (Policy) Army Training Command, Shimla; Second in Command Armored Regiment (Jammu & Kashmir Operation Prakaram and Rakshak) Establishing a Counter Terrorist School at Bhaderwah (Bhalra) J&K; General Staff Officer II, Military Intelligence Directorate, Army HQ (Operation Vijay); Brigade Major Assam Rifles, Manipur, (Operation Hifazat); Staff Captain Administration Independent Armoured Brigade; and Operation Pawan (Indian Peace Keeping Force, Sri Lanka).
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    Col. (Ret’d, Indian Army) Siddhartha Bose (Raipur Area, India), served 34 years in the Indian Army.
    . ),
    Col. Jatinder Grewal (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), Indian Army (Retd): “No problems in addition of my name as a supporter of your organization to bring home the the remains of MIA WWII heroes, being a veteran from the Indian Army, I fully understand the importance of it.”
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    Col. Rajive Kohli (New Delhi, India), Ph.D., Indian Army (Retd), 1975-97; Consultant, Disaster Management and Security; Director, Amity University: “It will be a privilege to associate with this noble cause and contribute in whatever is possible by me. Thanks and best wishes. Rajive.”
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    Col. (Ret’d) Ajai Shukla (New Delhi, India), Indian Army. Consulting Editor (Strategic Affairs) at the Business Standard; columnist on strategic affairs, defense, and diplomacy. (“This is really a no-brainer. There is absolutely no reason — humanitarian, logistical or strategic — for New Delhi do deny this permission to America. Low-hanging fruit for taking forward friendly relations.”)
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    Col. (Ret’d) Dharam Raj Singh (Lucknow area , India). Director of Tactical Security and Allied Services, Indian Ministry of Defence.
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    Col. Jatinder Pal Singh Suri (Faridabad, India), Indian Army (Retd), Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering
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    Col. Jasbir Singh, Indian Army (Retd), wounded combat veteran
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    Col. Narender Singh (Pune, India), Indian Army (Retd)
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    Col. Jagjit Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), Indian Army (Ret’d)
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    Col. (Ret’d) Arun Sharma (Gurgaon, India). Indian Army service 1983-2004; served with UN peacekeeping force and as a military observer; currently director of infrastructure for electronics manufacturing company.
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    Col. (Indian Army, Ret’d) Shyam Mohan Bharadwaj (Jaipur, India). 22-year veteran of Indian Army; Commanding Officer of Indian Army Engineering Regiment; Corps of Engineers.
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    Col. (Indian Army, Ret’d) Hemraj Parmar (Noida, India), former Director Healthcare, Indian Army; currently regional head of operations of International Oncology Services Private Limited.
    .
    Col. (Indian Army) Sanjay Sangwan (Delhi, India), Operations, Training, and General Management
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    Air Commodore (Ret’d) Ashminder Singh Bahal (Secunderabad,Telangana, India), Indian Air Force. Former Deputy Commandant, College of Air Warfare, Indian Air Force; former Deputy Director General, National Cadet Corps
    .
    Lt. Col. Darshan Dhillon (Ludhiana, Punjab, India), Indian Army (Retd); Managing Director of ZAD Security Services and Consultancy
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    Lt. Col. Narendra Divekar (Bangalore, India), Indian Army (Retd); pilot, Global Vectra Helicorp.
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    Maj. (Indian Army, Retd) Pawan Mehra (Pune, Maharashtra, India). Served in 3rd Battalion Rashtriya Rifles. Chief Security Officer with National Highway Authority of India.
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    Maj. (Indian Army, Ret’d) Pavan Nair (Pune, Maharashtra, India). Served in Corps of Engineers, including a deployment to Antarctica.
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    Group Captain Arvind Srivastava (New Delhi, India), Indian Air Force

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  2. Our organization, Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action, was hoping that the 2015 Republic Day summit would conclude with an announcement that MIA recoveries would shortly be permitted in Arunachal Pradesh. However, all that was stated was that the President and the Prime Minister “welcomed…India’s ongoing facilitation of U.S. Department of Defense humanitarian missions in India, including a mission in October and November 2014, to recover the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers who served in World War II.” The mission the statement referred took place in Assam, not Arunachal Pradesh, where most crash sites are located. This statement is totally inadequate. The Modi Government must announce immediately that there are no barriers whatsoever to the simultaneous startup of recoveries at the many documented US crash sites in Arunachal. The families of the men whose remains still lie unburied and neglected at these crash sites deserve nothing less.

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  3. My Dear Gary – I do hope the Modi Government picks up steam on this issue. The people have the right to gwt their loved ones back and those that fell for a nobel cause need deserve the respect due to them. I fully support your venture and stand by you all.

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    • Dear Col. JP Singh, sir: Thank you so much for your expression of solidarity with the campaign of more than 800 US and Indian citizens, including 60 senior retired Indian military officers, to persuade the Modi Government to immediately lift this unhumanitarian, un-Indian moratorium on the recovery of the remains of US war heroes of World War II from the territory of Arunachal Pradesh. Gary Zaetz, Founder and Chairman, Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action.

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  4. Significantly, this recent edition of SPAN neglects to point out that the humanitarian dimension of the US-India relationship is in dire need of repair – the Modi Government continues the unjustified and unhumanitarian moratorium on US crash site recoveries in Arunachal that it inherited from the previous Manmohan Singh Government., to the great dismay of hundreds of US families who only desire to have their rights – to have the mortal remains of their loved ones returned for proper burial – finally respected by the Indian Government. http://span.state.gov/node/8913

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  5. The Government of India just announced that Shri Arun Singh, India’s Ambassador to France, will be the new Indian Ambassador to the United States. In 2011, while Shri Singh was serving as Deputy Chief of Mission in the Indian Embassy in Washington, we sent a letter to Shri Singh respectfully requesting that the Governmen of India lift its moratorium on recovering the mortal remains of US World War II war dead in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. To our great disappointment, Shri Singh ignored our letter. Gary Zaetz, Founder and Chairman, Famlies and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action
    https://www.facebook.com/arunachalmissinginaction

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  6. Some are erroneously claiming that ultimate responsibility for the fact that American MIAs still lie unrecovered in Arunachal lies with the Chinese Government in Beijing, not with the Modi Government in New Delhi. That claim is baseless, rooted in a serious distortion of the facts.
    .
    While it is certainly true that the Chinese Government has hypocritically expressed opposition to the recovery of US airmen in Arunachal Pradesh, while simultaneously honoring the achievements of these same airmen on monuments at various locations in China, those who claim that China is ultimately responsible have either forgotten or intentionally overlooked the CRUCIAL FACT that it is the Indian Government, as de facto administrator of Arunachal Pradesh, that has the AUTHORITY to DECIDE whether crash site recoveries proceed, NOT the Chinese Government. The Chinese Govenment can protest all it wants, it can threaten all it wants, but it is up to the National Government in New Delhi to decide whether it will adamantly stand up to Chinese threats, and do what it has promised to do, or whether it will cowardly submit to China’s threats. The Indian Government has the POWER and AUTHORITY to stand up to Chinese criticism of these recovery operations. Tragically, out of lack of will or fear, it has chosen not to, obsequiously kowtowing to China’s demands.
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    So, ultimately, the blame lies with New Delhi not Beijing: New Delhi just has not had the courage to stand up to Chinese complaints.
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    Those who claim that Beijing bears more responsibility for this situation than New Delhi are desperately trying to shift blame from New Delhi to Beijing, in a transparent effort to absolve New Delhi of its clear responsiblity for this violation of international humanitarian legality.

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  7. Any suspension by the Indian Government of its cruel, heartless, and totally illegitimate moratorium on US MIA recovery operations in Arunachal Pradesh MUST be accompanied by the following for Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action to consider it acceptable: 1. A public apology from Prime Minister Modi for India’s gross violations of International Humanitarian Law provisions governing the recovery of war dead, and for its breach of faith with the US Government, the American people, and the families of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action. 2. A public commitment by the Government of India that (a) all currently documented crash sites in Arunachal Pradesh will be recovered in 3 years time, (b) a major effort will be made by the Indian Government to locate not-yet-documented crash sites in Arunachal Pradesh, and (c) there will be no suspension of recovery activity, except in the cases of major natural disaster or an international armed conflict to which India is a party….Gary Zaetz, Founder and Chairman, Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action

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  8. Reading the title of this article, I for one would sure like to know how the Obama-Modi “equation” has benefited the families of America’s war dead still unrecovered in India. (http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/world/obama-modi-equation-good-thing-for-india-us-ties/192745.html) Since Modi took over back in 2014, those families have seen only one of the 15 documented crash sites in Arunachal Pradesh investigated for crew remains, and that investigation turned into a glaring fiasco, with at most two crew member remains recovered out of a crew of eight, and large areas of the crash site left uninvestigated, by the US Government’s own admission. That the recovery operation’s premature termination was due to Indian Government pressure, and not any so-called “terrain instability”, is undeniable. Not only that, but the Modi Government has:
    1. refused to offer an apology for the nearly six years of denying these families their rights, guaranteed under international law, to bury their loved ones.
    2. refused to even ANNOUNCE the resumption of recoveries.
    3. refused to make any public commitment to allowing any further recoveries, beyond the one at the “Hot as Hell (II)” crash site.
    This so-called Obama-Modi “equation” is a sham, jointly engineered by the Obama and Modi Governments to fool each country’s citizenry.

    Gary Zaetz
    Chairman
    Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action

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