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India?s air bases just a Google away

The move could have serious security ramifications, writes MA Singh.Has the portal cocked a snook at Indian Govt?
None | By Man Aman Singh Chhina, Chandigarh
UPDATED ON MAR 29, 2006 10:10 AM IST

In a move that could have serious security ramifications, Google has gone ahead and put up satellite images of important air bases across north India on its website

The high-resolution satellite images include those of airfields in Chandigarh, Ambala, Amritsar, Avantipura (J&K), Srinagar and Leh. In several of the images, various types of aircraft can be clearly seen parked in the airfields.

What could probably be more alarming to the defence forces — particularly the Indian Air Force — is the fact that while the website carries images of Pakistani air bases in Sargodha and Lahore too, these are grainy in comparison to the crystal clarity of the Indian images.

The Pakistani images are of such inferior quality that even their contours aren’t clearly visible. Only the Rawalpindi airfield, also home to an international airport, is clearly visible and various military aircraft can be seen parked on the tarmac.

In the case of Chandigarh, an IL-76 transport aircraft is seen parked in the airfield along with several AN-32 transport planes and an MI-26 helicopter. Many AN-32 aircraft are also be seen lined up at another end.

According to IAF officers, the detailed images could help enemy forces get clues to the number of aircraft in serviceable condition by the manner in which they’re parked. The headquarters of the Army's Western Command in Chandimandir is also clearly visible.

This isn't the first time Google has posted such sensitive images. Some months back, it had put up images of Indian ships and naval assets under construction, provoking a response from President APJ Abdul Kalam, who’d termed it a serious matter. 

Other countries too, like Australia and Thailand, had objected to Google's use of photographs of sensitive installations.

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