posted on Sep, 5 2004 @ 05:30 AM
AFP[ SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 05, 2004 10:42:49 AM ]
NEW DELHI: Asserting that the country had credible nuclear deterrence in place, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said that specialised
forces were being raised to tackle nuclear threat in all its dimensions.
"Whatever is needed to safeguard the country and to ensure effective deterrence, in line with our nuclear doctrine of 'no first use', has been
done," Mukherjee said in an interview to PTI in New Delhi.
Maintaining that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had a definite time-frame on test-firing of the country's intermediate
range 3000-km surface-to-surface ballistic missile Agni-III, he said India was committed to 'no first use' of nuclear weapons and non-use of these
weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
The Defence Minister also said that India had reached an understanding with its neighbouring countries to share information on missile test-firing.
Asked if safeguards had been taken against selective nuclear strikes on forces and on civilians, the Defence Minister replied, "We are raising
specialised troops to tackle such threats."
In the wide-ranging interview, Mukherjee ruled out any scaling down of forces from the world's highest battlefield, Siachen Glacier, as well as from
insurgency-torn Jammu and Kashmir.
"Our presence in Siachen Glacier is limited. And, secondly, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is not yet conducive for thinning down of forces," he
The Defence Minister said a series of confidence building measures had been proposed to Pakistan, including opening up of the road from Srinagar to
Muzaffarabad in PoK.
"The proposal of (PDP Chief) Mehbooba Mufti to have weekly markets (haats) can also be considered. But the Pakistanis should agree," Mukherjee said.
On infiltration from across the Line of Control (LoC), he said figures available indicated that it had gone up in June-July which is the time when it
"There has been substantial increase in attempts (by militants) to cross the LoC, but we have frustrated most of these attempts. The fencing along
the LoC is proving quite effective," he said while indicating that the terrorist infrastructure on the other side of LoC had remained intact.
While pointing out that situation on the Sino-India border had considerably eased due to confidence building measures taken mutually, Mukherjee said
that similar softer border approach on the western side was still distant.
Ruling out perceptions that there had been any de-escalation in the military-level ties with the US after assumption of power by the UPA government,
the Defence Minister said mutual interaction was continuing at the "same level" with Washington offering fast-track sale of some of the weapons
platform, including anti-submarine P3C plus Orions for the Indian Navy.
Elaborating, he said the two sides were in the process of finalising the deal. Navy proposes to buy ten of these anti-submarine and maritime
reconnaissance aircraft to make up its depleted maritime aviation fleet.
On the danger of depletion of IAF's fighter strength due to phasing out of 300 MiG aircraft in the next three years, Mukherjee said that efforts were
on to ensure that the present level of IAF's strength was maintained.
"We intend to have a variety of aircraft including the upgraded Mirages for this purpose," he said, adding that the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief
Marshal S Krishnaswamy, had submitted a detailed long-term plan on this.
On defence ties with Israel, he said that it would continue and expand. "But at the same time, this will not be at the cost of India's traditional
relations with our West Asian friends," he said.
Regarding the situation in Manipur, the Defence Minister for the first time said a Bill to retain the regional character of the Assam Rifles would be
revived soon. He said a Bill had been introduced by the previous government which had lapsed due to Parliament being dissolved and it was proposed to
On the handing over of Kangla Fort to the Manipur government, Mukherjee said the process would be completed by December 31 this year after a
connecting road was built to link the Assam Rifles' Divisional Headquarters.
On the demand for revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, he said it had been reviewed by the state government and partially lifted from
"We (Centre) did not intervene and do not want to interfere," he said. "So we have expressed no opinion on this and not taken any conclusive
On whether India would go in for fresh military investments abroad on the lines of Indo-Russian Brahmos project, the Defence Minister said the thrust
of the present government was on indigenisation, especially in cutting-edge technology.
"In future deals, we propose to do bulk purchases of weapons platforms and then go for transfer of technology and indigenisation," he said.
On the criticism of the new government for dropping the idea of a three-year revolving non-lapsable defence modernisation fund, Mukherjee said the
country's previous experience with such funds had not been "encouraging".
Citing the example of such a fund for development of the Northeast by the erstwhile H D Deve Gowda government and then the NDA government, he said
though Rs 6,000 crore had been accumulated in the fund, the authorities had managed to spend only Rs 500 crore.
"What is the point in creating such a fund which is only notional?" he asked.
Though he said there had been a considerable step-up in this year's defence budget from Rs 66,000 to Rs 77,000 crore, most of this would go towards
already contracted expenditure. and a part for modernisation.
He said though there were no fund for fresh acquisitions, it could be made available through supplementary demands once weapons deals were finalised.