New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) Describing the security situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as a 'continuing cause of concern', Defence Minister A.K. Antony Monday called upon the top brass of the Indian Army to be vigilant and take steps keeping in view the latest terror attacks by the Taliban in Kabul.
Addressing the biannual army commanders' conference here, Antony said India remains steadfast in its commitment to provide support and assistance to Afghanistan so that it evolves into a stable country, strengthened by pluralism and free from external interference.
Taliban militants Sunday mounted a synchronised attack at key establishments in Kabul. The assault ended after 18 hours Monday when all but one attacker were killed.
Antony called upon the defence forces and all other security agencies to remain prepared to tackle the entire range of security challenges.
'Balancing the imperatives of engaging globally with other powers and maintaining autonomy in decision-making, is one of the most important challenges of our times,' he said.
Referring to sharp increase in the defence spending by China for the modernisation of its armed forces, Antony said: 'On our part, we will continue to bolster our infrastructure and strengthen our capabilities along the border areas.'
'However, our efforts are focused on safeguarding our security interests and not dictated by what other nations are doing,' he said.
'Several of the proposals of the army are under implementation. Some others are expected to be cleared in the days ahead. We will provide all the support to modernise and enhance our defence capabilities to successfully meet any challenge,' he added.
Describing the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir as stable, Antony said it was 'a direct consequence' of the 'untiring' efforts of the forces.
He, however, said the peace process 'is extremely fragile' and the armed forces need to operate with maximum restraint and control without dropping their guard.
Turning to modernisation of the armed forces, an issue raised by Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh in his March 12 letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Antony said the government's endeavour has been to provide the desired impetus to arming the forces in a systematic manner.
He assured the forces that the government would continue to improve and fine-tune procedures 'whenever and wherever necessary' to ensure that the army meets its modernisation goals in an acceptable time frame.
Antony observed that the acquisition of critical technologies from foreign countries would no doubt get subjected to various technology denial regimes and post-procurement dependencies.
'There is clearly an urgent need,' he said, 'to achieve self-reliance in the field of critical defence equipment.'
'This can be made possible only with the continuous cooperation of the armed forces, the scientists and other participants in the defence industry,' he added.
Calling for strengthening cooperation in operational, training and administrative facets among the three services and the defence ministry, the defence minister said: 'The various security challenges before our armed forces require a concerted effort by all the wings of our armed forces.'
'No single service can achieve the national goals all by itself.'
The defence minister also strongly urged the army commanders to adhere to the highest standards of personal behaviour and professional probity in their day-to-day dealings.
'I wish to emphasise that any act of corruption will not be condoned and we will take the strictest possible action against any wrongdoer,' he said.
His remarks against graft come against the backdrop of the army chief blowing the whistle on a retired officer offering him a Rs.14 crore bribe to clear an order for 600 military trucks, termed as 'sub-standard'.
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