M A I N   N E W S

No incursion by China: Antony
Achinta Borah

Gangtok, December 1
Admitting that there were differences over international border, the government said today that the boundary with China was “by and large” peaceful and no “incursion” of Indian territory had taken place in the recent past.

“I don’t want to go into details. As far as Indian territories are concerned nothing has happened,” defence minister A.K. Antony told reporters here when asked about reports of incursion of Indian territories and removal of a few forward posts by China.

He said both the countries had differences on the perception of border, which New Delhi and Beijing were trying to settle through various mechanisms.

“They have their perception, we have our own,” he said.

The minister, who is visiting border areas of Sikkim for two days beginning today, said: “India has a long border with China. There have been some minor isolated incidents along the border that we have been trying to settle through diplomatic channels and flag meetings. But by and large, the border is peaceful.

“As far as unsettled border is concerned, India is trying to find a solution through negotiations as the high-level border meeting between the two countries on.”

Referring to the defence dialogue between India and China, which was held for the first time recently, he said one of the decisions of the talks was holding of joint defence exercise soon.

Regarding the Gorshkov deal, Antony said the government was trying to settle the issue of acquisition of the Russian aircraft carrier with the highest level in Moscow.

“There are some problems. We are trying to settle that at the highest level of the Russian government,” he said, when asked about reports that Russia was demanding more money.

Though the defence minister did not clarify the nature of the problem, cost escalation is one of the major hiccups facing the deal.

The Rs 7,000-crore deal was signed in January 2004. However, there were reports that Moscow was demanding more than a 100 million dollars extra and one more year to complete the project.

Antony said the $600-million deal to procure 197 light helicopters for the Army was not scrapped yet as he assured the defence forces that they would have the “most modern” arms and equipment soon.

“Negotiations on the helicopter deal from Eurocopter is still on,” he said. His remarks come in the wake of recent reports that the government might open new international tenders for the deal.

“There are delays in some projects, but we are trying to speed up the whole process of modernisation of armed forces,” he said.

“I can assure you that the Army, Navy and the Air Force will get most modern equipment in a few years from now,” the minister said.

Asked about the alleged passport scam, which rocked the Army, Antony said a thorough probe was going on and whoever was found guilty would not be spared. Antony said the government had been trying to ameliorate the problems of the armed forces personnel through various measures, including enhancement of salaries, improvement in living and service conditions, better arms and ammunitions, etc.

“The last Pay Commission has not done justice to the armed forces personnel. We are now trying to get a better deal from the Sixth Pay Commission,” he said.

Asked about reports of alleged removal of a Buddha statute in the Tawang sector in Arunachal Pradesh, he said though such an incident indeed had taken place, there was no evidence that China had done it.

“We have checked again and again but there is no information that Chinese people had crossed over to Indian side on that particular day,” he said.

Earlier, the defence minister interacted with jawans posted here. He would visit some forward areas, including Nathu La, tomorrow. — PTI



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