Defence Minister A. K. Antony on Tuesday said India was raising an offensive Corps and taking steps to boost its preparedness along the border with China. Nobody should expect “dramatic” results from talks on Siachen with Pakistan, even as India continues to insist on proper authentication of Pakistan troop positions at the highest militarised zone, before any disengagement is undertaken there.
Expressing concern at growing military ties between Pakistan and China, Mr. Antony, while replying to a discussion on the performance of his Ministry in the Rajya Sabha, said the Indian armed forces have been issued a directive to change their strategy to meet the challenges presented by the two hostile nations.
“We have given a new directive to our armed forces to meet the new challenges, in the context of the new threat faced by the country. After analysis of the threat perception, we have found that the picture is problematic,” he said.
The Minister noted that India faced a “volatile and dangerous” neighbourhood. “No one can predict the situation that will prevail tomorrow. What will be the situation in Afghanistan — no one can predict. We cannot predict the political future of some of our neighbouring countries.”
On Siachen, Mr. Antony said: “Some people have said we are hardening our position; some say we have softened the position. We have neither hardened nor softened our position. We are standing where we were.”
The 13 round of Defence Secretary-level talks on Siachen would take place in June second week. “Don't expect dramatic results [from the next round of talks]… It is a complicated issue.”
Mr. Antony said the government was strengthening the defence capabilities. “Under the 12th Defence Plan, we have sent a proposal to the Finance Ministry to raise an offensive Corps with two special divisions, and it is in final stages. The force-level has been increased substantially. We had earlier approved raising of two mountain divisions, along with a Special Forces battalion, an artillery brigade and an armoured regiment for deployment in the northeast sector,” he said.
“If China can strengthen its capabilities in Tibet, then we can also build capabilities in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh,” the Minister asserted.
On defence expenditure, he said: “We will need to have a second look at the defence budget... We have been given Rs 1.93 lakh crore this year, but as per the estimated requirement of the armed forces, we would want Rs 2.39 lakh crore. We want Rs 45,716 crore more. I have asked the government to provide us more money.”
Mr. Antony pointed out that large-scale import of arms was another area of concern. The government was working towards replacing the foreign vendors with indigenous production.
“I hope that in the years to come, we would be able to replace foreign vendors in our country,” he added.
Referring to the delay in taking action on the alleged bribe offer to Army Chief General V. K. Singh, Mr. Antony said he had asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the matter as soon as the matter came into public domain. “That day [when Gen. Singh reported the matter to him] I didn't do anything... I accept that I didn't take action, I don't deny that. The Army Chief didn't want to pursue it then, so I didn't take action.”