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Strengthen military, look for new allies to tackle Pak, China: Army Chief

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NEW DELHI (PTI): The armed forces are not getting their due share of resources, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said Thursday, pitching for increased defence spending to enhance India's strategic clout.

Amid mounting tensions with Pakistan and China, Rawat insisted on the country looking for new friends and allies to deal with neighbours along the western and northern borders, apparently referring to the two nations.

Pitching for investing more in strengthening India's armed forces, Rawat, addressing a defence think tank, spoke of China to drive home the point that India's true potential will be realised only when both economic growth and might of the military go hand-in-hand.

"While we are developing our economy, the military is not getting its due share. I think here we need to draw a lesson from China," he said, adding military and economic growth should be "conjoint" as they are two tenets of national power.

India's defence budget for 2017-18 was Rs 2.74 lakh crore which is 1.63 per cent of GDP. China's military spending for 2017 has been pegged at US$ 152 billion, which is close to around three per cent of the country's GDP and three times higher than that of India's defence budget.

There has been a feeling among security experts and the defence establishment that the modernisation of armed forces is taking place at a very slow pace and that the government has not been allocating adequate funds for it.

Talking about the evolving security situation in the region, Gen Rawat said India must have close ties with countries like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan considering the security matrix. He said such a policy will recreate the outreach India had before partition.

The Army Chief said such a strategy will not only create a two-pronged dilemma for India's western neighbour Pakistan, but also help in tackling issues with the other difficult northern neighbour China.

"We have to start looking at how do we carry out counter-encirclement for our future adversaries. Developing alliances, developing friends to overcome the (current) deficiency is important. That must be part of our strategic thought process," he said.

The Army Chief said that time has come for India to have a say in all major issues at the United Nations and the country must work hard to attain permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

"We must create alliances and friends also so that we find a rightful place at the UNSC. Time has come for India to have a say in all that happens in UN," he said.

Referring to India's security challenges, Gen Rawat said the drafts of national military strategy and national security strategy were ready to deal with pressing issues coherently.

"We should be able to identify our own national military strategy. We do not have a national military strategy as of now. Directorate General of Perspective Planning has been tasked to come out with it.

"We are also coming out with the national security strategy which will be given to the government. Both the draft documents are ready and hopefully we will be releasing them very soon," he said after unveiling 'Strategic Yearbook 2017' at the United Service Institution, a national security and defence think tank.

Holding that a strong military is essential for India's forward march, he said the general thinking among people is that expenditure on defence "is a burden" on the economy.

He said a "very strong military" is key to economic development.

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