Emphasising that the overall situation in India's "immediate neighbourhood has worsened", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday cautioned the armed forces "to be equipped to deal with all threat scenarios", especially non-traditional threats.
"The overall situation in our immediate neighbourhood has worsened. The armed forces must be fully equipped to deal with all threat scenarios. Our troops should be trained to fight anywhere, anytime and under any conditions. Their ability to deal with non-traditional threats must receive greater attention," Manmohan Singh said at the combined commanders' conference, a daylong meeting of commanders of the three defence services.
Though not specifically referring to the rising terror attacks in Pakistan and the growing Taliban threat in Afghanistan, the prime minister said the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai confirmed the worst fears about the lethal dimensions of terrorism and non-traditional threats to the country's security.
"There are both state and non-state actors involved in the business of terrorism. India is a democracy and an open society and is, therefore, sometimes highly vulnerable. We have, therefore, to improve our defensive mechanisms against all forms of terrorism, asymmetric warfare and aggravated militancy," he said.
"We need to be prepared to face onslaughts of this kind, but we should avoid knee-jerk reactions."
Detailing the moves taken to shore up intelligence and the security machinery as well as ensure coordination between the Centre and state governments, Manmohan Singh said there could be no room for complacency.
"Although there has been no major terrorist attack in India since then, there are regular intelligence reports of imminent attacks in the country. This is a matter of deep concern, and there is no room for complacency. The terrorist attack on our embassy in Kabul on Oct 8 is yet another grim reminder of the forces we are pitted against."
At least 17 people were killed and 76 injured, some seriously, when a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives near the Indian embassy in Kabul in the second such terror attack since July 2008. Three personnel of Indian paramilitary force guarding the premises were injured.
The prime minister pointed out there was a revival of interest on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues and said India welcomed this move because it was a pioneer in the campaign for a nuclear weapons free world.
"We, however, have to ensure that discriminatory standards and approaches are not perpetuated. As a responsible nuclear weapon state, we wish to see nuclear disarmament that is global, non-discriminatory and universal in nature. We are ready to negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty which is multilateral, non-discriminatory and verifiable," he said.
"To meet these different challenges we must be strong internally. We cannot rely on others to solve our problems for us. This requires a well thought national response and judicious policy prescriptions. It also means creative and constructive engagement with the outside world based on enlightened self-interest, and autonomy in the processes of decision making."
At the senior defence commanders' conference, attended also by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna along with the chiefs of the three defence services, the prime minister gave his commitment to the modernisation of the armed forces and ensuring their military superiority and technological edge.
"The modernization plan should have a long term perspective, and be formulated in an integrated manner involving all the three services. Despite the progress that has been made towards jointness and synergy in various operational, training and administrative aspects between the services, there are a number of areas of congruence that need to be strengthened further," he said
"The availability of critical technologies from foreign countries is still subject to various technology denial regimes. It is therefore vital that we achieve maximum self-reliance in the critical areas of defence technology."