'Assertive' china a worry, says Antony

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Old 14-Sep-2010
'Assertive' china a worry, says Antony

New Delhi September 14:

For once, the normally ultra-cautious defence minister A K Antony admitted China was becoming increasingly assertive.

The top military brass, in turn, asked the political leadership to factor China's ever-expanding transborder, cyber and space-warfare military capabilities into India's national security matrix.

Even as the military brass warned that China posed "serious challenges'', it was of the view that the political establishment should chalk out clear-cut national security objectives, which in turn would fashion the joint military strategy to meet any external threat.

Yes, Pakistan and its "proxy war'' in J&K, Afghanistan and the Pakistan-sponsored Taliban, Naxalism and coastal security, all figured during the annual combined commanders' conference on Monday, attended by PM Manmohan Singh, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, home minister P Chidambaram and national security adviser Shivshankar Menon, among others.

But China's massive build-up of military infrastructure along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, its strategic moves in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and rapid modernisation of the People's Liberation Army were red-flagged as worrisome during the conference. This comes in the backdrop of the increasing Chinese footprint in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, both in terms of projects as well as personnel.

The PM, on his part, said India needed to develop border infrastructure, for both land and sea, with "a sense of urgency'' because it was "an integral part'' of the country's defence preparedness. Antony was more direct. "We want to develop friendly relations with China... However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that China has been improving its military and physical infrastructure,'' said the defence minister.

"In fact, there has been an increasing assertiveness on the part of China. We are taking all necessary steps to upgrade our capabilities. We have never linked our capabilities to counter any particular nation,'' he added. All the three Service chiefs, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, Admiral Nirmal Verma and General V K Singh, too expressed concern on the China-front, which the armed forces consider more of "a long-term threat'' rather than Pakistan.

The IAF chief, for instance, talked about how his force had begun to base the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets in the North-East as well as upgrade several airstrips and helipads in the region. The Army, on its part, is raising two new specialised infantry mountain divisions (35,000 soldiers) and an artillery brigade for Arunachal Pradesh, even as Navy tries to counter the increasing Chinese presence in IOR. India, of course, also plans to test its most ambitious ballistic missile, the 5,000-km Agni-V, by early 2011 to bolster its deterrence posture against China.

Both the PM and Antony underlined the ongoing endeavour to modernise the Indian armed forces to tackle all exigencies. "When it comes to defence capability, we must be ahead of the technology curve,'' said the PM. "Defence modernisation, however, is a complex task. If it's to be effective, it must involve the full chain starting with updating our war-fighting doctrines to meet new threats to our security, preparation of appropriate staff quality requirements and creating a broad-based production and delivery infrastructure on the ground,'' he added.

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