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India fully capable of defending itself: Antony

NEW DELHI (PTI): India has strengthened its military power since the 1962 Sino-Indian war and is now fully capable of defending itself, Defence Minister A K Antony has said.

"Infrastructure in the northeast is not up to our satisfaction but it has improved a lot as compared to the past...India of 2012 is not India of that period. We are now capable of defending every inch of our country," he told reporters on the sidelines of a Navy conference here on Thursday.

He was replying to a question on India vis-a-vis China 50 years after the 1962 war in which India had suffered a humiliating defeat.

Antony said earlier India had not focused on enhancing infrastructure in northeastern states but "now we have moved very fast. Now our infrastructure, assets and manpower have substantially improved compared to the past."

The Defence Minister said India will continue to build its infrastructure and provide best equipment to its armed forces while continuing to its dialogue with China on the border issue and maintaining cordial relations with it.

"On the one side, we are strengthening our capability in the border, on the other side, we have established a border management mechanism with China that is now functioning satisfactorily," he said.

On cyber security, Antony said though India is a "latecomer" in terms of putting up a mechanism in this regard, there was an overall coordination within the government and "we are confident of protecting our cyber assets."

"Even though we are a latecomer in putting a mechanism and network for strengthening our cyber security, now we are moving very fast," Antony said.

"Within the armed forces, they have a unified approach on the one side and each service is tasked to certain particular activities in area of cyber security. There is a coordinated effort and all agencies have to work together," he said.

On the issue of requirement of choppers in the Navy, the Defence Minister said, "There is some shortage (of helicopters) and they (Navy) are in the process of overcoming that also."

Earlier this week, three naval personnel were killed when their ageing Chetak helicopter crashed while landing at an air base in Goa. The Navy has recently issued a tender to replace its fleet of old choppers.

On the issue of help being provided to the families of the personnel killed in the crash, the Defence Minister said, "Whatever maximum possible help is permissible under the law would be provided to them. My sympathies are with their families."

On priority areas of the commanders' conferences, Antony said their main purpose is to strengthen overall operational readiness of the armed forces.

"For that we have to review our position, strength and weakness, not only strength, we have to review our weakness, find solutions and move forward," he said.

Addressing the naval commanders' conference, the Defence Minister underlined the role of the Navy in engaging countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

"Our government is pursuing a string of proactive engagements with countries in IOR to ensure peace and stability in the region, which is also related to our economic and wider security interest," Antony said.

"The Navy's overseas deployment in the South China Sea, East China Sea, Western Pacific Ocean, Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea for carrying out exercises with the navies of these regions not only shows our capabilities but will also go a long way in reassuring the Indian diaspora in these countries," he said.

He assured full support of the Indian Navy to all maritime neighbours for their security and economic prosperity.

India has been providing security to some of its maritime neighbours such as the Seychelles and the Maldives by providing them aircraft and other equipment.

Highlighting the fragile security environment in the region, Antony said, "Our own security interests require the Navy to respond to all challenges in quick time".

Dwelling upon various measures to enhance coastal security, he said setting up of 'Sagar Prahari Bal' and various other initiatives will strengthen the coastal security network.

"Recent installation of Coastal Radar Network Chains in Gujarat and Maharashtra and establishment of National Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence network (NC3I) would establish a real-time maritime domain awareness link between the Navy and the Coast Guard," he observed.


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