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'Extra regional' powers in Indian Ocean Region area of concern: Jaitley

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday asked the Indian Navy to remain prepared to deal with any security challenge and identified expanding presence of "extra regional" powers in the Indian Ocean Region as an area of concern, seen as a reference to China's growing assertiveness.

In an address at the annual Naval Commanders' conference, he also referred to the prevailing situation at India's western border and its linkage to the internal security besides the emerging security situation in the sub-continent.

On the Navy's modernisation plan, he said due impetus is being given to it through appropriate defence procurement policies to address critical capability shortfalls and induct ship-borne Multi Role Helicopters (MRH), conventional submarines and mine counter measure vessels (MCMVs).

He also indicated that the ambitious strategic partnership model for defence indigenisation will be finalised soon.

Touching upon a range of issues relating to India's maritime security, Jaitley urged the commanders to be prepared at all times, saying "preparedness is the best deterrent."

He spoke about the prevailing and emerging security situation in the sub- continent as also the expanding presence of the extra regional powers in Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the Navy said in a statement.

He, however, did not elaborate on the "extra regional powers" but it is seen as an oblique reference to growing Chinese activities in the IOR.

Top naval commanders will brainstorm over the next four days about India's maritime security challenges, modernisation of the Navy and other critical issues concerning the force.

Acknowledging various crucial requirements of the Navy, the defence minister assured the commanders that the Government is working on all issues very positively and is going to increase the resources to it.

He also lauded the efforts of the Navy in indigenisation and urged the commanders to focus on enhancing domestic expertise.

Jaitley also complimented the Navy for its professionalism and deep commitment towards protecting the maritime interests of the country, including the huge maritime boundary, as also meeting a large number of international obligations in line with the country's defence diplomacy requirements, said the statement.

Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre and senior functionaries of the Defence Ministry were also present at the conference.

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