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PM echoes US fears over safety of nukes in neighbourhood
Tribune News Service

Pak says J&K not integral part of India

Pakistan on Tuesday claimed that Jammu and Kashmir has never been an “integral part” of India and sought a UN-led plebiscite to determine the will of the Kashmiri people, evoking an angry rebuttal by India that termed the remarks as “unwarranted”.

New Delhi, October 11
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today echoed the fears being expressed internationally over the safety of nuclear arsenal in India’s neighbourhood. Without naming Pakistan, the Prime Minister, while addressing the top military commanders of the three forces here, said, “Nuclear proliferation and nuclear safety are serious threats in our neighbourhood.”

What the PM said was in line with the thinking of the US and its NATO allies. In the recent past, especially in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, US military officials have reportedly testified before the Congress about the security - or the lack of it - of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The threat posed by “loose nukes” - nuclear weapons or materials outside the government control - has also been discussed.

As per estimates of international watch agencies, there are some 115 nuclear-tipped weapons in Pakistan. In the past, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had warned that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists due to the prevailing instability in that country.

The PM went on to buttress his arguments saying the international strategic and political environment had changed and India’s future internal and external policies should factor in the deteriorated conditions. Highlighting multiple challenges faced by the country, he said the task of coordinated response to global problems had become more difficult as major powers were “pre-occupied” and India must strengthen its capabilities and “stand on our own feet”.

He said even as India must work with the international community to address global issues, “we must strengthen our own capabilities”.

He went on to list terrorism, Left wing extremism and piracy as major challenges.

“We must, therefore, consolidate our own strategic autonomy and independence of thought and action,” he said. In this age of rapid information flows and explosion of technologies, one of the most important security imperatives was our ability to respond to these challenges quickly and in an integrated fashion, he said.

Speaking on terrorism, he said India had a long history in fighting it, but “today terrorist groups are highly networked, nimble footed and more lethal”. Cyber threats were emerging as a major source of worry. Cyber and information warfare could qualitatively change the concept of a battlefield, he added. He asked the forces to focus more on maritime security, and on securing the coastline, the exclusive economic zone, the island territories and protecting the sea lanes of communication.





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