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IAF slams Chinese protest to PM's Arunachal visit

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IAF vice Chief Air Marshal P K Barbora. A FIle Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Air Force has said it does not "fear" the Chinese military and that the neighbour should not have any problem with upgrading of airstrips in the North-East.

IAF vice Chief Air Marshal P K Barbora said when India does not object to China's military activities in Tibet, the latter too "should have nothing" against Indians developing their military capabilities in the North-East.

"Early this year, President Pratibha Patil, who is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, visited Arunachal Pradesh. China had no objections then. Why should they protest when the Prime Minister visits the frontier state now?" Barbora said at a press conference here.

He said Chinese reactions to the Prime Minister's visit to the border state should be "read between the lines," as democratic elections were taking place in the state.

"IAF does not fear. We (India) have not said anything against their military activities in Tibet. They (China) should have nothing when we build defence capabilities in our areas (in the North-East)," he said.

The IAF vice chief was replying to questions if the Air Force feared adverse Chinese reaction to it upgrading six Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh for operating heavier transport aircraft.

Pointing out that China claims Arunachal Pradesh to be a disputed territory but India does not accept it, Barbora said the IAF mandate was to improve the ALGs, helipads and also the IAF air bases in the border state.

The plan to improve Air Force infrastructure in the states bordering China was taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the IAF reopened the Daulat Beg Oldi landing strip in Ladakh region last year.

"We are upgrading airbases and reopening airstrips in South India too, which traditionally has had lesser number of Air Force infrastructure for long," he added.

"IAF responsibility is also to ferry civilians in inaccessible areas of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh and tourists visiting those areas, apart from transporting army troops and paramilitary personnel for deployment," he said.

He also said that the IAF was acquiring more 'Akash' medium range Surface-to-Air missile squadrons for deployment in the North-East, apart from the Sukhois it would base at Tezpur and other air bases there.

"We have two squadrons of Akash at present. We are asking for more squadrons for the North-East to upgrade our air defence capabilities. It is a good missile and we have also asked for some improvements in it," Barbora said.

However, he clarified IAF's infrastructure and capabilities plan was not adversary-specific, but capability-specific.

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