Situation in Af-Pak region is cause for concern, he tells Army Commanders' conference

A day after the deadly multiple-attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan, Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Monday flagged the situation in the region and asked the top brass of the Army to be on the vigil.

Inaugurating the annual Army Commanders' conference here, Mr. Antony described the situation in the Af-Pak region as a “continuing cause for concern.” He asked the Army to take all appropriate steps keeping in view the developments in Afghanistan.

He reiterated India's commitment to provide support and assistance to help Afghanistan evolve as a stable country that was strengthened by pluralism and was free from external interference.

“Balancing the imperatives of engaging globally with other powers and maintaining autonomy in decision-making is one of the most important challenges of our times,” a Defence Ministry spokesman said

Referring to the sharp increase in defence spending by China to modernise it armed forces, the Minister said India would continue to bolster infrastructure and strengthen its capabilities along the Sino-Indian border. “However our efforts are focused on safeguarding our security interests and are not dictated by what other nations are doing. Several of the proposals of the Army are under implementation. Some others are expected to be cleared in the days ahead. We will provide all the support to modernise and enhance our defence capabilities to successfully meet any challenge,” he said.

Besides laying stress on developing border roads in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East region for swifter transportation of men and material, India has activated advanced landing grounds in these parts to enable quick movement by transport aircraft. In addition, the government has sanctioned a plan to raise two mountain divisions. Efforts are on to procure ultra-light field guns that can be carried across mountains by helicopters.

Describing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir as stable, Mr. Antony said this was a direct consequence of the untiring efforts of the security forces. He, however, said the peace process was extremely fragile and the armed forces needed to operate with maximum restraint and control without dropping their guard. The statement assumes significance as there is a clamour once again to remove the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

On modernisation plans for the armed forces, he said the government's endeavour was to move forward in a systematic manner. Procedures would be improved and fine-tuned whenever and wherever necessary to ensure that the Army met its modernisation goals within an acceptable timeframe.

Chief of the Army Staff General V.K. Singh said regional situation needed to be monitored closely and the force should be operationally prepared at all times.

While observing that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East region had improved, he underscored the need to maintain utmost vigil during the summer months ahead.

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