Antony warns of threat from Pakistani Taliban (Lead)

June 25th, 2009 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) Holding that the Taliban in Pakistan posed a “real threat” to India, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Thursday that since terrorists were still operating from the other side, India could not afford to lower its guard along the western border, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The Taliban are a threat to world peace, our region and a real threat to India,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the two-day Unified Commanders Conference he inaugurated here.

Better coordination and strengthening the war fighting capabilities of the army, the navy and the air force are high on the agenda of the conference, being held on the theme “Victory through Jointness”.

Antony also expressed concern over the situation in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is still in turmoil and it is a matter of great concern to us. We are emphasizing and trying to convince the Pakistan government that they have to take strict action against anti-India elements operating in Pakistan. Only then can both countries move forward and improve our relations,” he maintained.

Given this, the minister said India could not afford to lower its guard along its western border, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Of late, there is a decline in infiltration along the border. But we cannot say it is an improvement, since terrorists are still operating from the other side. For the time being, it has declined. But there is no question of lowering our guard as even now, since terrorist outfits are working there, it is a real threat from there.”

“India cannot lower its guard at the border, especially in Jammu and Kashmir. We have to be very vigilant and careful,” Antony contended.

Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor had said last week that the question of troop reductions in Kashmir - a demand made by successive state governments - would be “tackled” after studying infiltration trends and the manner in which the ongoing Amarnath Yatra was conducted.

Antony said he would discuss the security scenario in the South Asian region with visiting US National Security Advisor James Jones Friday.

“He is visiting me tomorrow. We will discuss the security situation in the (South Asian) region. When we discuss this, we cannot avoid (mention of) Afghanistan,” Antony said.

Jones’ visit is part of the ongoing effort to further strengthen the India-US bilateral partnership. The visit is at the invitation of his Indian counterpart M.K. Narayanan and follows his visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan to monitor implementation of US President Barack Obama’s new Af-Pak strategy for the region.

Asked about the progress made in creating a unified command for the armed forces, Antony said after initial resistance, the three services had realised that individually they could not tackle the threats from various quarters and would have to work together.

“There is a considerable progress made in the last eight years. Initially there was resistance from three services but now they have realised the necessity of jointness because in modern times, no one service can ensure the security of the nation and meet the challenges,” the defence minister said.

“So, things are moving very fast and this conference is a turning point,” Antony maintained.

Asked about the security steps taken in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, Antony said: “After the 26/11 terror attacks, many measures were immediately taken. The navy has been given the overall charge of coastal security.”

“It is closely working with all stakeholders like the home ministry, the petroleum ministry and port authorities,” he said.

Asked whether the increased price Russia has demanded for the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov would impact on bilateral ties, Antony said: “Discussions are going on for the Admiral Gorshkov and I cannot comment on the final outcome.”

“As far as our defence relations with Russia are concerned, they are very cordial. There is no doubt about that,” he added.

About plans to raise two mountain divisions for deployment along the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh, the defence minister said: “India is not against any country. We want to maintain friendly and cordial relations with all our neighbours.”

“But at the same time, it is our duty to increase capabilities of our armed forces and also to equip and provide them modern facilities and develop modern infrastructure to ensure our national security.”

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