Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made clear that New Delhi and Beijing can tread the path of friendship without being suspicious of each other. Bullish about India’s blossoming relationship with China, the Prime Minister said, "We have made good beginning in addressing the border dispute and in creating mutual trust in a peaceful bilateral relationship."
Kind words, however, did not flow easily when the PM did a quick appraisal of ties with Pakistan at the annual Combined Commanders’ Conference, attended by the defence minister, home minister, the three service chiefs and the top brass of the armed forces on Wednesday.
He had changed his lexicon and the tone was also different. Ahead of the Indo-Pak secretary level talks scheduled next month, Singh said, "We have put Pakistan on notice that any democratic government of India would find it difficult to continue on the present path of addressing all outstanding issues unless Pakistan clearly dealt with the issue of terrorism." He emphasised that the anti-terror institutional mechanism would be a test of Pakistan’s intentions and capabilities to implement assurances given since January 2004.
To power the modernisation programmes of the three services, he advocated "optimal blend of developing and producing indigenously and sourcing from elsewhere." Singh, however, did not forget to mention that transparency in procurement was desirable from the viewpoint of good governance and national security. "Reports critical of such processes can demoralise the services, if they are untrue, and must be directly addressed if true," he said.
He said requirements of energy security would necessitate strengthening the naval defence capability. "Equally important is high quality air power so that we can strike with speed and accuracy." He also emphasised the need to upgrade the capabilities of the armed forces - which have traditionally been geared towards conventional threats - to tackle terrorists, who were becoming increasingly sophisticated in their operations. Touching upon the issue of inter-services synergy, he said the three services should work together to ensure maximum impact in action.
The prime minister underlined the need for rapid development of infrastructure in the border areas as it has major implications not only for internal security but also as a force multiplier when it came to external security. Offering the political perspective on threats and opportunities associated with Bangladesh
Singh said the economic pull of the Indian market on Bangladeshi migrants offered opportunities to India’s enemies, who sought to incite terrorism. He, however, added that the overarching imperative for the two countries was to find a pattern of cooperative engagement. Singh said human development and political stability in the region were in India’s strategic interest.