New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Warning that developments in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and China's strategic rivalry with India and Japan will have security implications for Asia, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Tuesday said that these threats and future challenges cannot be appreciated by other nations from outside the region.
Inaugurating the unified commanders conference of the army, navy and the air force here, Antony also stressed that modernisation of the armed forces remained the top most priority of the government and called for putting in place a mechanism to fast-track procurement of modern equipment and upgrading infrastructure.
'Any development in the Af-Pak region will have strategic and security implications for India. We need to keep a close watch on the situation in the region,' he told the top commanders, noting that the latest events in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region clearly indicated that the threats from the region had not yet subsided.
His reference to the region comes in the wake of a series of terror attacks carried out by the Taliban on Western diplomatic missions in and around Kabul a week ago.
'China's rise as an economic and military power and its assertive policies have implications for India. China's strategic rivalry with India and Japan would definitely affect the Asian security environment.
'All these developments pose challenges to all the wings of the defence forces. In the Indian context, these challenges cannot be felt in the same measures by other countries,' he said.
Referring to internal security scenario in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir, Antony said the situation in the border states had improved over the past few years.
'However, the coming summer months (in Jammu and Kashmir) will prove to be a real test for an even more realistic assessment. We have to remain vigilant and active and cannot afford to drop our guard,' he added.
Regarding the joint Andaman and Nicobar Command of the three services, Antony said, 'we are strengthening and revitalising the formation and are working on force accretion and upgrading the infrastructure to help it in fulfilling its operational task'.
He also asked the commanders to address the entire spectrum of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare capability.
Emphasising on modernisation of the armed forces and hastening the process of weapons and equipment buying, Antony said this, however, cannot be done at the cost of a set of core values such as 'transparency, probity and accountability.'
He urged all commanders to ensure that these principles are adopted and followed in letter and spirit.
'We have a collective responsibility to ensure that every single rupee is spent meaningfully and judiciously and wasteful expenditure is eliminated,' he added.
Noting that the government was constantly fine-tuning the defence procurement procedure to cut down delays in procurement process, Antony asked the services to 'put their best foot forward' by having a well-defined approach to procurement, based on clear and objective general staff qualitative requirements (GSQRs).
'There is also a need to ensure that procedures are strictly adhered to and the services ensure the timely meeting of technical parameters,' he said.
'The government is reviewing the current levels of delegation of financial powers to cut down on unnecessary delays and we have also revised the offset policy to facilitate its easy discharge by the original equipment manufacturers,' he said.
Regarding a nationwide, secure and dedicated optical fibre network, to be implemented by the ministry of communication and information technology, in lieu of vacating of a part of spectrum held by the defence services, Antony said the approval of cabinet committee on infrastructure for budgetary grants for the project is awaited.
He said, the 'defence band' and the 'defence interest zone' have been mutually agreed upon by the ministry of defence and communication to meet the spectrum requirement for strategic communication of defence forces and this would be promulgated soon.
Describing cyber-crimes as 'another dimension' in the security architecture, Antony said the defence services 'need to be fully aware of the implications and put in place security systems and standard operating procedures to counter such threats.'
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