India was trying to have “more understanding’’ with China while simultaneously strengthening its capabilities on the disputed border.
“India and China have an unsettled border. Talks are going on to find an amicable solution to the long pending dispute. We are trying to have more understanding with them. Confidence building measures are also being undertaken,’’ Mr. Antony told journalists at a ceremony of formal induction of Boeing C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lift transport aircraft into the Indian Air Force. A squadron will be based at the Hindan Air Force station on the outskirts of the National Capital.
Mr. Antony said that until confusion [about demarcation of border] was cleared, there was possibility of troops from both sides venturing into each other’s territory, perceiving it to be theirs. Like China, India too was “strengthening its capabilities on the border.’’
“The other side [China] has already done this and we are continuously strengthening our capabilities in the border areas. We are taking these two steps together of strengthening capabilities and dialogue.’’
The Indian Army and security forces were handling the situation effectively and that a joint military exercise between India and China would take place soon.
His comments came after a series of Chinese incursions into Indian territory over the past few months. Chinese troops pitched tents in Ladakh sector in April and withdrew only after three weeks following flag meetings and diplomatic intervention. In Chumar sector of Ladakh too, Indian and Chinese troops came “face-to-face’’ in an incident in June when Chinese soldiers took away a surveillance camera, which they later returned.
Asked if India was moving towards the U.S., as several military aircraft were being procured from there, he said: “We are not tilting towards anyone. We have strategic partnership with many countries, including the U.S. But one thing we are very particular [about] …we will not be party to any military bloc.’’
India was also procuring military hardware from countries such as Russia, France, Israel and the U.K. Asked about reports that India was planning to provide facilities for the U.S. Air Force at the Thiruvananthapuram air base, he said there was “no such proposal.’’
With the induction of the Globemaster aircraft, the IAF will get a boost to its capability to swiftly move troops and tanks to battle fronts. It has been procured under a deal estimated to be worth about Rs. 20,000 crore.
Speaking on the occasion, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said the plane would be operated from the advanced landing grounds in the North-east as well as from high altitude bases in the North and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The C-17, with a capability to ferry around 150 fully geared troops, would replace the Russian IL-76 as the biggest aircraft in the IAF inventory till now. The IAF has placed orders for 10 C-17 aircraft and three of them had been delivered. The U.S. was scheduled to complete the delivery of all the 10 planes by the end of next year.