Underlining that terror camps operating across the border continue to be a cause for concern, Defence Minister A.K. Antony asserted on Sunday that the country was safe in the hands of armed forces.
“I like to assure the nation that our country and every inch of it is safe in the hands of the armed forces, which can deal with any kind of threat,” the Minister said, addressing journalists after witnessing the Indian Air Force fire power demonstration named ‘Vayu Shakti-2010.”
The demonstration mounted by the IAF at the Pokhran ranges in the Thar desert, barely 100 km from Pakistan, was intended to convey to the people of the country the strike capability of the IAF, the Minister said .
President Pratibha Patil, the three services chiefs, defence attaches of various countries, top brass of the IAF and members from the prestigious National Defence College, including those from foreign countries, witnessed the first-ever day-and-night fire power demonstration of its kind.
“It is not aimed at any country and no signal to be sent to anybody,” he said in response to a question whether the demonstration by the striker aircraft and helicopter gunships against mock terrorist camps and other support structures was intended to send a message across the western border.
The Minister said that at the last count some 42 terror camps were known to be operating in Pakistan and that New Delhi had been asking Islamabad to dismantle them. At the same time, he said, the armed forces remain on guard.
Mr. Antony said India once again conveyed its concern to Pakistan at last week’s meeting of Foreign Secretaries. “We did not expect a miracle [at the talks], it is a beginning, we have expressed our concern about terror camps.”
Asked about the allocation of defence budget that rose by slightly under four per cent as compared to last year, the Minister disagreed with reports of his being unhappy with it.
Mr. Antony said the Finance Minister had a ‘very difficult’ task which he performed well and had said on the floor of the House that more funds would be made available for defence when required.
The display began with a MiG29 that appeared to be glided noiselessly across at supersonic speed and that greeted the assembly with a thunderous boom. And then the show rolled on amid fading sunlight, into dust and then eight precision bombing under in night.
Mock targets ranging from enemy command centre, radar, communications tower, marshalling yard, fuel dumps and runway destroying tactics were employed. For the first time commandos of the three services – Special Forces of the Army, Marine Commandos of the Indian Navy and Garud commandos of the IAF – para dropped to showcase the coordination against mock terror/enemy targets. As the full moon rose, the assembly was treated to a spectacle of flares spewing out of the transport aircraft aimed at deflecting enemy missiles even as the frontline fighters delivered lethal bombs to neutralise targets with the unmanned aerial vehicles.