Punjab Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa on Sunday said politicisation of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev should be avoided and any controversy at this stage could put a spanner in the preparations. The senior Congress leader asserted that the State government was committed to celebrate the occasion in full tandem with the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) under the aegis of the Akal Takht (highest temporal seat of Sikhs). “The politicisation of the occasion as sacred and pious as the 550th ‘Parkash Purab’ of Guru Nanak Dev should be avoided at all costs as the occasion is fast approaching and any controversy at this stage could put a spanner in the preparations,” Mr. Randhawa said in a statement here. But the recent development in which SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal went with the delegation of the Shiromani Akali Dal , led by its chief Sukhbir Singh Badal to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi “smacked of politicising” the sacred occasion, he alleged. The Congress leader said it would have been better had the invitations been extended jointly on behalf of the Punjab government and the SGPC as the State government is duly-elected by the people . ‘Need for coordination’He also said the coordination between the SGPC and the State government was the need of the hour as it would send all the positive signals concerning the celebrations. On July 1, the SAD delegation had invited Mr. Modi to attend a function to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on November 12 at Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab.
New Zealand have named uncapped left-arm spinner Luke Woodcock in their 15-man squad for next month’s cricket World Cup.Woodcock made his New Zealand debut in a Twenty20 international against Pakistan last month but has yet to represent his country at one-day or Test level.”Luke Woodcock has worked hard for his chance after forging an impressive record with Wellington over a number of years,” selection panel convener Mark Greatbatch said.”He has a good head on his shoulders and his selection provides the option of playing three spinners which could be useful in the subcontinent.”Young fast bowler Hamish Bennett, who suffered a groin strain on his test debut against India last November, was recalled along with veteran all-rounder Jacob Oram.Brendon McCullum was the only specialist wicketkeeper named Wednesday in the New Zealand squad. Batsman Jamie How would provide backup at the tournament and Peter McGlashan was on standby.”We’ve taken a bit of a punt there, but at the end of the day we thought a third spinner was more important in the subcontinent,” Greatbatch said.”Jamie How’s a good athlete. He kept in a World Cup game a few years ago and at the end of the day it’s about catching a ball. He was keen to do it. The schedule allows us to get someone over if we need to.”Greatbatch said Bennett had earned his recall after overcoming his injury and showing strong domestic form”Hamish made a good start to his one-day career and deserves the opportunity now that he is fully fit,” he said.advertisement”He’s back, running in fast and hitting the deck hard. He impressed us in Bangladesh and the way he bowls – with the angle he creates back into the right-handers – we think he’ll be useful.”Greatbatch said Oram had convinced the selectors of his fitness, though his career has been plagued by injuries.”He is getting stronger each game, I saw him throwing himself around a couple of rounds ago, looking nimble and bowling his overs. We have missed him over the last year,” Greatbatch said.”You look at his numbers, he is impressive on the world stage. He is experienced and it could be a good stage for his batting to come right in the lower end of the order.”In order to be competitive at the World Cup, New Zealand will have to break a streak of 11-straight losses in one-day internationals, the second-longest in its history after a 13-man losing run in the mid-1990s.New Zealand squad: Daniel Vettori (captain), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock.
OTTAWA – The head of the Royal Canadian Air Force has refuted suggestions, including from more than a dozen of his predecessors, that the Trudeau government is needlessly dragging its feet on new fighter jets.Lt.-Gen. Mike Hood instead said the Liberals are taking “a prudent amount of time,” as choosing Canada’s next fighter is a big decision — especially since it will likely be in use for decades.“Fighter operations, there is a lot to chew on,” Hood said in an interview with The Canadian Press.“The timelines the government and the minister have articulated will let them be absolutely sure that they’re making the right choice for a final fighter that will probably be flying when I’m going to the grave.”The Liberals’ new defence policy includes a promise to replace Canada’s 76 aging CF-18s with 88 new warplanes, which is an increase from the 65 previously promised by the Harper Conservatives.The policy estimates the new fighters will cost between $15 billion and $19 billion, up from the $9 billion previously budgeted by the Tories.The Liberals say the extra fighter jets are required to meet a new policy, adopted in September, that increased the number of warplanes that must always be ready for operations.But fighter-jet companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which make the F-35 and Super Hornet, respectively, won’t be asked to submit formal bids until next year at the earliest.That is despite many defence experts, including 13 retired Air Force commanders in February, saying a competition to replace the CF-18 fleet can and should be launched immediately.They say doing so would negate the need for 18 “interim” Super Hornets, which would save taxpayer dollars and keep from diverting personnel and resources away from other areas of the Air Force.But Hood played down those concerns, saying that he’ll have no trouble operating an interim fighter fleet if “I’m given the resources and the priority that I need.”That doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges in growing the size of Canada’s fighter fleet, he admitted, notably in terms of having enough pilots and technicians to fly and fix the new jets.The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that while airlines are currently on a hiring binge, Hood said, the Air Force can’t ramp up the number of pilots it puts through flight school each year.“We brought in a pilot-training system in the early 2000s that had a maximum capacity to deliver about 115 pilots a year. With attrition going up, I’d probably want to produce 140 this year, but I can’t.”However, Hood is hoping planned changes to the training regime and new initiatives such as recruiting potential technicians directly out of community college will help grow his ranks.At the same time, the military is looking at ways to improve working conditions across the board to keep experienced personnel in uniform and not lose them.The plan to grow the number of fighter jets is only one area in which the Air Force is slated to grow in the coming years, with new armed drones, search-and-rescue aircraft and other equipment having also been promised.Hood said that represents a significant and welcome turn of events after the service was dramatically weakened by years of cuts.“When General (Rick) Hillier talked about the ‘Decade of Darkness,’” Hood said, “the lion’s share of that was done on the back of the Air Force in the ’90s.”— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.