Defence Minister A.K. Antony said on Monday that India was bolstering its military presence in the Northeast but the build-up was not aimed at China. He confirmed that the army was raising two mountain divisions there.
Speaking at DEFEXPO-2010, India’s biggest land and naval defence systems exhibition, Antony said, “There seems to be some misunderstanding. The move is not against China. It is part of the government’s overall policy to strengthen the army’s presence in the Northeast. India is not a war-mongering nation.”
He said the forces were being modernised to enhance India’s deterrent capability.
On China’s absence at the Expo, he said, “We had invited China for Aero India last year but it did a no show. Moreover, we’ve never received invitations from China for such events.” More than 650 firms from 33 countries are taking part in the four-day exhibition.
Asked to comment on tardy pace of military acquisitions, Antony said changes were being made in the defence procurement policy to cut down delays. He said, “But remember this is taxpayer’s money. Every penny has to be spent judiciously. We cannot compromise transparency for the sake of speed.”
Asked why the Centre had cleared the VVIP helicopter deal but scuttled acquisition of mid-air refuellers for the Indian Air Force, he said, “We had sent the refueller proposal to the finance ministry thrice. They said they would not support it. As for the helicopters, the IAF and Special Protection Group were involved… the deal was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security in view of the changed security scenario.”
Antony said the defence ministry was putting finishing touches on a production policy that would give impetus to India’s domestic defence industry.
The policy highlights India’s quest to achieve self-reliance in defence production by developing indigenous capabilities. It also reflects a new sense of urgency to meet indigenisation targets.
India is expected to spend around $30 billion (Rs 1,35,000 crore) on arms imports over the next five years.