NEW DELHI, September 2; Defence Minister A. K. Antony on Monday said that India was trying to have “more understanding” with China while simultaneously strengthening its capabilities on the disputed border.
“India and China have an unsettled border. Talks are going on to find an amicable solution to the long pending dispute. We are trying to have more understanding with them. Confidence building measures are also being undertaken,” Mr. Antony said in New Delhi.
He was speaking to journalists at the formal induction ceremony of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lift transport aircraft into the Indian Air Force. The squadron will be based at the Hindan air force station on the outskirts of the national Capital.
He said that until confusion (about demarcation of border) was cleared, there was a possibility of troops from both sides venturing into each other’s territory perceiving it to be theirs. The Minister added that like China, India too was “strengthening its capabilities on the border.”
“The other side (China) has already done this and we are continuously strengthening our capabilities in the border areas. We are taking these two steps together of strengthening capabilities and dialogue,” Mr. Antony said.
He said the Indian army and security forces were handling the situation effectively and that a joint military exercise between India and China would take place soon.
His comments came after a series of Chinese incursions into the Indian territory over the past few months. Chinese troops had pitched tents in Ladakh sector in April and withdrew only after three weeks following flag meetings and diplomatic intervention. In Chumar sector of Ladakh too, Indian and Chinese troops came “face-to-face” in an incident in June when the Chinese soldiers had taken away a surveillance camera, which they later returned.
Asked if India was moving towards the US as several military aircraft were being procured from there, the Minister said, “We are not tilting towards anyone. We have strategic partnership with many countries including the US. But one thing we are very particular [about] …we will not be party to any military bloc.”
He said that India was also procuring military hardware from countries like Russia, France, Israel and the U.K. Asked about reports that India was planning to provide facilities for the US air force at the Thiruvananthapuram air base, he said there was “no such proposal.”
With the induction of the Globemaster heavy lift aircraft, the IAF will get a boost in its capability to swiftly move troops and tanks to battle fronts.
The C-17 Globemaster III aircraft has been procured from the US under a deal estimated to be worth about Rs 20,000 crore. Speaking on the occasion, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said the plane would be operated from the advanced landing grounds in the northeastern states as well as from high altitude bases in the North and Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The C-17, with a capability to ferry around 150 fully geared troops, will replace the Russian IL-76 as the biggest aircraft in the IAF inventory till now. The IAF has placed orders with the US for ten C-17 aircraft and three of them have already been delivered. The US is scheduled to complete the delivery of all the 10 planes by the end of next year.
“A realistic appraisal of the geopolitical environment brings forth a complex security paradigm. Located in a geo-strategically important region, our nation faces multi-faceted challenges to its security. India’s unique topography also makes our operational environment extremely challenging,” the IAF chief said.
Air Chief Marshal Browne said that a comprehensive assessment of future scenarios and identification of key aerospace capabilities required in the 21st century has resulted in the formulation of a detailed modernisation roadmap with new acquisitions, upgrades and training reviews for the IAF.
He said the C-17 Globemaster-III has been specifically selected to provide a major boost to IAF’s strategic airlift capability as the C-17 fleet will provide tremendous flexibility in terms of operational response options in any future campaign and bolster India’s ability to assist its neighbours and friends in the Indian Ocean Region.