April 9, 2013

Antony warns Army against threats from China, Pakistan

India's deep unease over China's growing military might and assertiveness as well as intransigence about the boundary dispute resonated at a military brass conclave on Monday, with defence minister AK Antony also underlining the threat posed by the expansive nexus forged between Beijing and Islamabad.

China's approach to India on the long-standing boundary dispute and other issues, even after the recent leadership change in Beijing, "is not likely to change" in the foreseeable future. Consequently, the Indian armed forces need to "constantly develop" their capabilities to achieve "minimum credible deterrence" against China, said Antony.

The minister, addressing the closed-door Army commanders' conference, did point out the government was trying to resolve issues with China in a "peaceful" manner, and also cited the new bilateral boundary management mechanism as "a positive development".

But Antony also stressed it was crucial to modernize the armed forces to counter China's "military assertiveness", including its massive development of military infrastructure along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) as well as in other neighbouring countries, like the Gilgit-Baltistan areas of Pakistan, said MoD sources.

India has belatedly taken some steps to strategically counter China but much more needs to be done at a rapid clip. While IAF is now progressively basing Sukhoi-30MKI fighters in the north-east and the Navy is bolstering force-levels on the eastern seaboard, the Army's Rs 81,000-crore plan to raise a new mountain strike corps with associated structures is yet to take off.

Holding that the recent Chinese takeover of Pakistan's strategically-located Gwadar port near the Iranian border has further strengthened the economic and security linkages between the two countries, Antony promised all government support to the armed forces for "the necessary measures" needed to tackle "any emerging threats".

Pakistan, he said, poses "a unique threat" due to its rapidly growing nuclear arsenal, military modernization with the help of China and the US, and its continuing support to a large number of terrorist groups undertaking "proxy war" in Jammu and Kashmir.

While India "welcomes" the forthcoming elections in Pakistan — to be held on May 11 — it is unlikely its "anti-India stance" and its "obsession" with J&K will ever abate. With the terror infrastructure in both Pakistan and PoK still very much intact, India will need to maintain its policy of deterrence against its western neighbour.

Moreover, with Afghanistan headed for instability after the US withdrawal next year, Pakistan's continuing support to the Taliban and inroads into the country is a source of worry. India needs to be prepared to deal with "any spillover effect" as well, added Antony. 
Times of India

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