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Army chief receives keys of Arjun tank

Chennai, August 7
India’s defence capabilities received a major boost as the indigenously designed and manufactured armoured war vehicle, Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun, rolled out of the heavy vehicle factory here today.

There was a thunderous applause as India’s Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, handed over the keys of five tanks to the Chief of Army Staff, General N.C. Vij.

Mr Mukherjee stressed on India’s defence preparedness during peace times and hinted that the former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had let its guards down because of which Kargil took place.

He said, “What we did today is to demonstrate before the whole world that we are prepared. Defence preparedness is more important and tested during peace and there is no room for complacency.”

Referring to the Lahore peace initiative of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he said, “When we were talking peace and shaking hands we did not realise that behind the velvet gloves of that hand was a knife to stab us and we all know what happened a few years ago.”

He said he had apprehensions about rolling out MBT Arjun a day after peace talks with Pakistan on Siachen as it might send different signals to the international community.

“We should not hesitate to talk peace but we should be ready and prepared, ‘ he added.

The Defence Minister said India had no territorial ambitions but was equally determined and vigilant not to cede even an inch of land to those who threatened us.

He said India had been the worst victim of crossborder terrorism and around 70,000 security men had laid down their lives combating it.

Mr Mukherjee said his appeal on the issue of terrorism in the United Nations General Assembly in 1995, when he led a delegation as External Affairs Minister, went unheeded.

Referring to the 9/11 attack in the USA, he said, “Only when a few years back in September something happened in a country, the entire world stirred and sat up. If we wanted to get rid of this menace it has to be looked into holistically and international community has to help.”

He urged the Indian industry to come forward and invest in defence research and development and asked it to discharge its responsibilities to the nation.

General Vij, in his short speech, hoped that 124 MBT Arjun ordered by the Indian Army would be ready by mid-2007.

He said, “These five tanks will be put to an accelerated trial and once they are over orders will be forthcoming. If the MBT Arjun proves it battle worthiness it will be one of the best in the world.”

MBT Arjun is equipped with an accurate and fast target — acquisition capability during day and night and can destroy all possible enemy armour at maximum battle ranges.

Other than its main armament, which can defeat any contemporary armour used in tanks, it also has two machine guns – one for ground role and another for anti-aircraft role.

The tank can be operated in the mountainous region and can also wade through a depth of water up to 2.15 metres.
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