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Pak must stop supporting terrorism: Antony

The Indian defence minister said that even though infiltration is down, Pak must stop supporting terrorism if peace is to return to J&K.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2006 15:08 IST

Even though infiltration is down, Pakistan must stop supporting terrorism if peace is to return to Jammu and Kashmir, Defence Minister AK Antony said on Saturday.

He also maintained there would no delays in the way of the armed forces procuring the "most modern" equipment.

The government was also working toward improving the living and working conditions of soldiers posted in difficult areas, as also addressing the psychological problems of the troops in the wake of a large number of suicides, he said.

Antony was addressing a press conference here, his first since assuming office, on the sidelines of a function to observe Vijay Diwas, an annual celebration of the largest surrender in history after World War II.

It was on December 16, 1971 that 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered as the Indian Army marched into Dhaka, capital of the erstwhile East Pakistan, to herald the birth of the independent nation of Bangladesh.

Earlier, Antony and the three service chiefs laid wreaths at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the eternal flame to the unknown soldier that burns at the India Gate memorial here, to honour all those soldiers who laid down their lives in various operations since World War I.

Speaking about Kashmir at the press conference, Antony said: "Of late, infiltration is down but there is no room for complacency.

Pakistan is giving support (to terror groups) and unless Pakistan takes a decision to stop this, we have to be on the alert.

Kashmir had earlier in the week made his maiden visit to Kashmir for a first-hand look at conditions there.

"The army is alert. Our brave soldiers are risking their lives in difficult conditions. Seeing the dedication and sacrifices of the soldiers, I am convinced that they need better facilities. We are working towards this," the minister maintained.

Asked about some long-pending defence purchases, Antony refused to commit himself to a time-frame but said the armed forces would get the "most modern equipment to enable them meet the challenges".

According to him, the new procedures put in place for defence purchases "would ensure reforms with transparency, but this does not mean there will be delays" in procurements.

Asked about specifics, Antony said the Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) had formally cleared an Indian Air Force (IAF) proposal to purchase additional Sukhoi Su-30 combat jets but was yet to take a decision on its proposal for buying 126 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) to replace its ageing fleet of MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighters.

Apart from the MRCAs, another big-ticket deal that has been long pending is the Indian Army's proposal to purchase some 400 130mm howitzers.

Speaking about the psychological problems of soldiers, he attributed these largely to the replacement of the joint family with the nuclear family and the consequent collapse of the support system that once existed in the villages.

"We have appointed a committee under the DIPR (Defence Institute of Psychological Research) and asked them to come up with remedial measures in two months.

The government is concerned and will take effective measures to deal with this but there is no need to panic," the minister maintained.

Speaking about India's engagement with is neighbours, he said the country hoped to improve military ties with Myanmar, while "non-lethal" training was being provided to the Sri Lankan military.

"Defence cooperation with Myanmar is increasing. We want more closer cooperation," Antony maintained, adding that "in a major sense", no military equipment was being provided to the country.