India today made it clear that it would insist on proper authentication by Pakistan of the troop positions in Siachen before any disengagement is undertaken and cautioned against expecting any “dramatic” result from the next round of talks in June on the vexed issue.
Defence Minister A K Antony asserted in the Rajya Sabha that India stood by its stand on authentication and had neither hardened or softened the position.
“Some people have said we are hardening our position (on Siachen),some say we have softened the position. We have neither hardened nor softened our position. We are standing where we were,” he said,replying to a debate on the functioning of the Defence Ministry.
While informing the House that the 13th round of Defence Secretary-level talks on Siachen will take place in the second week of next month,Antony said during the last round Pakistan had refused to authenticate the troop positions of the two countries but India insisted on it.
“Don’t expect dramatic results (from the next round of talks. It is a complicated issue,” he said.
Making it clear that India was keen on authentication and had “not changed the position”,he said,”it is the national position,not government position. We took the position after considered decision.”
Siachen,the world’s highest militarised zone,has been a long-pending dispute between India and Pakistan as the border is not clearly demarcated in the glaciated region.
India raising offensive Corps: Antony
India is raising an offensive Corps and taking other steps to gear up its preparedness along China border to meet the challenges,Defence Minister A K Antony said as he pitched for a substantial hike in defence budget to meet this changing threat perception.
Terming the growing military ties between Pakistan and China as a “cause of worry”,he said the armed forces have been issued a new directive to change their strategy to meet the challenges.
“Now we have given a new directive to our armed forces to meet the new challenges in context of the new threat perception faced by the country,” he said.
Antony said,”After analysis of the threat perception,we have found that the picture is problematic. We will need to have a second look at the defence budget….
“We have been given Rs 1.93 lakh crore this year but as per the estimated requirement of the armed forces,we would want Rs 2.39 lakh crore. We want Rs 45,716 crore more. I have asked the Government to provide us more money.”
The Minister was replying to a discussion on the performance of his Ministry in the Rajya Sabha.
On steps taken by the Government to strengthen defence capabilities,Antony said,”Under 12th Defence Plan,we have sent a proposal to Finance Ministry to raise an offensive Corps with two special divisions and it is in final stages.
The force-level has been increased substantially.”
He said the Government had earlier approved raising of two mountain divisions along with a Special Forces battalion,an artillery brigade and an armoured regiment for deployment in the northeast sector.
On the military infrastructure build up by China along its boundary with India,the Defence Minister said,”We have a two-fold approach in this regard under which the Government was holding dialogue with them and on the other hand it was increasing its defence capabilities in the border areas.
“If China can strengthen its capabilities in Tibet,then we can also build capabilities in Sikkim and Arunchal Pradesh.”
Observing that the country was living in a “volatile and dangerous” neighbourhood,Antony said,”No one can predict the situation that is going to happen here tomorrow. What will be the situation in Afghanistan,no one can predict or tell that.
We cannot predict the political future of some of our neighbouring countries.”
On Gen Singh’s letter to the Prime Minister highlighting the shortages of ammunition and obsolete air defence equipment,Antony said Army Chiefs writing to the Prime Minister was not a new thing as this had happened during the time of first Prime Minister also.
“I am not saying this as a justification. We have to make every effort to do away with shortage of certain types of ammunition and shortage of officers,” he said.
Antony admitted that the Government has “failed” to procure a new artillery howitzer for the Army after over 25 years but said it was in final stages of doing so before the Singapore Technologies was blacklisted “for being engaged in corrupt practices”.
He said the Government will now discuss the Saraswat Committee report on Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH) procurement in the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) for discussing the deviations in the trial procedures.
The Defence Minister said the procurement of air defence guns and ammunition has also been hit due to similar reasons.
“After all these issues were raised,we have held two- three rounds of meetings with the armed forces. We have found solution to most of the issues that have been raised,” he said.
Antony said of the 142 types of ammunition used by the Army,113 were being produced by the Ordnance Factories and 29 were procured from foreign sources.
“I am sure we will find solutions to all the problems with cooperation from our PSUs,DRDO and the private sector and provide armed forces all their requirements,” he said.
On the shortage of fighter aircraft in the Air Force (IAF),Antony said the MiG 21s and the MiG 27s have been in service for the last 30-40 years.
“But I can assure you that things will change in the near future as we move on to induct more Sukhoi-30s,multi-role combat aircraft,the fifth generation fighters from Russia and the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) which is set to Final Operational Clearance (FOC) this year,” he said.
Antony said one of the issues facing the country was the large-scale import of arms which was “not good” and the Government was working towards replacing the foreign vendors with indigenous production.
“I hope that in years to come,we would be able to replace foreign vendors from our country,” he said.
Commenting on the performance of his Ministry,Antony said it has been spending almost 100 per cent of allocated money and “gone are the days of surrendering funds for revenue and capital expenditure by the Government.”