India is a not a warmongering country and does not foster any extraterritorial ambitions, Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said.
Interacting with the media on the sidelines of a Coast Guard investiture ceremony here on Saturday, Mr. Antony said the country strengthened its forces to safeguard its territorial integrity. “It is a deterrent action,” he added.
Asked why there were strong reactions from Pakistan over Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor’s reported statement that India was ready to battle both China and Pakistan simultaneously, Mr. Antony said: “I don’t know why [there is] this overreaction. India is not a warmongering country. We have no extraterritorial ambition.”
On insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, he said the situation “had not worsened” compared to last year’s. “Still, a large number of terrorists are waiting along the border to infiltrate into Kashmir. It is a matter of concern,” he said.
Mr. Antony castigated the Pakistan government “for not doing much” to crack down on terror outfits operating on its soil despite repeated requests from the Indian government. “Most of the terror outfits are still active in Pakistan… [But] we are taking all precautions,” he added.
Asked about the measures taken by the Centre to free the 11 Indians who formed part of the crew of two merchant ships hijacked by Somali pirates recently, Mr. Antony said that despite 40 or so navies carrying out anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, “unfortunately, occasionally piracy still takes place.” He called for more coordinated action to thwart piracy.
No Maritime Security Adviser for now
Mr. Antony said that the post of Maritime Security Adviser (MSA), who would coordinate between agencies with a stake in coastal security, would not be created now.
“The government takes decisions after considering given situations. At the moment, the Cabinet Committee on Security thought [it would be] better to continue with the present set up,” he said.
The Defence Ministry, in the wake of 26/11, had proposed the setting up of a Maritime Security Advisory Board with a three-star Admiral as MSA on the lines of a recommendation made by a post-Kargil Group of Ministers on Border Management. Mr. Antony in October last maintained that the appointment would soon take place and that he was “personally monitoring” it.
He said the vulnerability of India’s coast from inimical agencies not only posed fresh challenges for security but was also detrimental to India’s economic growth.
Commending the Coast Guard for swiftly growing into a formidable force by increasing its fleet of surface and air units to counter emerging maritime threats, Mr. Antony said the government provided complete support in its radical expansion.
“The process of acquisition of 20 fast patrol crafts, 41 interceptor boats, 12 coastal surveillance aircraft and seven offshore patrol vehicles is well under way. We have set up one more Coast Guard Regional Headquarters at Gandhinagar to oversee the Gujarat coast. Recently, the government has cleared the opening of four Coast Guard air enclaves -- in Kochi, Goa, New Mangalore and Vizag. The procedure to install a chain of 46 static radars across nine coastal stations across the country is nearly complete,” he said.
Mr. Antony, while maintaining that synergy in joint operations had been attained by various agencies responsible for coastal security, called upon the stakeholders in maritime security to work in consonance with one other.