India alert and ready for any situation in Doklam, says Nirmala Sitharaman
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said that the country was “alert and ready” for any situation that may arise in Doklam along the Sikkim border, where Indian and Chinese forces were locked into a bitter military standoff for over two months last year.
Attending an event at Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat’s residence in Dehradun, which was organised to greet the candidates selected in National Defence Academy and Indian Military Academy, Sitharaman answered a question on China’s intervention in Doklam and Arunachal Pradesh. “India is ready to face any situation. We will maintain our territory and integrity at all cost.”
Her comments come a day after India’s envoy to China Gautam Bambawale confirmed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the neighbouring country to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in June during which there will “definitely” be a bilateral meeting between Modi and President Xi Jinping.
The SCO, a China-dominated security grouping, is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO. The SCO summit is due to be held in the Chinese city of Qingdao from June 9-10.
Responding to the recent debates on lack of funds for modernisation and strengthening of the armed forces, the minister said, “Today, many talks are doing the rounds in the public about the preparedness of our armed forces. I want to clarify that there is no laxity in the preparedness and modernisation of our forces. The government has given all powers to the vice chiefs of the three services (army, navy and air force).”
The minister added that the government has given them a free hand in exercising emergency powers to purchase whatever ammunition is required to strengthen the preparedness.
“As the defence minister, I want to assure the young cadets that our government is committed to modernise the defence forces. You should be proud to be now part of a world-class force,” Sitharaman said.
Recently, the parliamentary committee on defence submitted a series of reports in Parliament, including one where the army flagged a financial crunch preventing it from purchasing new equipment and modernising itself. The army had told the committee the financial crisis was crippling its combat capabilities. On talks over constituting a unified command, she said the project is being worked upon. “It is already implemented in Andaman and Nicobar.”