P.S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt has emphasised that there is no cause for "any kind of an alarm" along the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC). The situation "is as normal as it can be."

Speaking to The Hindu here a few days ago, after his participation in the latest round of India-Singapore Defence Policy Dialogue, Mr. Dutt said: "All the time, confidence-building measures (CBMs) are happening [in New Delhi's ties with Beijing]." New Delhi was looking forward to Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to India later this year. And "whatever way the CBMs can be progressed will be progressed."

Citing the "healthy interaction" between the local commanders of India and China along the LAC, Mr. Dutt drew attention to the ongoing bilateral engagement in a number of fields. He said: "We are quite at home and so they are" as a result of the current exchanges.

With the economies of India, China, and Russia growing, there would be "enough space" for the three to cooperate.

Disputing the impression that India was no longer a priority partner for Russia in the defence sector, Mr. Dutt said the Russian aircraft carrier, Gorshkov, now being "refurbished" for India, would be delivered next year. On defence supplies from the United States, he said a "fast track" was being laid.

The ceasefire along the India-Pakistan Line of Control "is holding" by and large. "There are ups and downs in the levels of infiltration which goes on."

Sub-group

As for military ties with South-East Asia, Mr. Dutt said India and Singapore might set up a sub-group, under the existing framework of Defence Policy Dialogue, to look at enhancing cooperation. It was now agreed to, in principle, to explore avenues of co-production as also research and development.

Malaysia had expressed a desire to send its Air Force pilots to India for training on Sukhoi category of warplanes. "India has very good strength in training. Many countries are interested [in tapping this] sophisticated training."

Mr. Dutt visited Vietnam to explore new defence-related linkages.