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|May 4, 1998||
India faces biggest threat from China, not Pak: Fernandes
Union Defence Minister George Fernandes says India faces the biggest threat from China, and not Pakistan. He criticised the country's national security planners for ignoring Beijing's plans for regional hegemony, despite being warned about it for the last five decades.
Fernandes said the situation was now worsening with China expanding military airfields in Tibet to operate the latest version of Sukhoi, training and arming the Burmese army, building a base in the Coco islands near the Andamans and helping Pakistan with nuclear weaponry.
Speaking on 'India's security perspective' on the occasion of the 102nd birthday of V K Krishna Menon, the defence minister said India should exercise the nuclear option if compulsions of national security so warranted.
Earlier, Fernandes told a television channel that his government's nuclear weapons policy was the ''inevitable next step. We have come to a point where we believe we need to make a review of the defence policy.''
During the lecture, the defence minister said right from 1950 leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia, Sardar Patel, Krishna Menon and Y B Chavan had been warning the country about China's growing threat. When China annexed Tibet, Lohia had even said that it was not only an attack on Tibet but also on India.
Fernandes said India's strategy planning all along focused on Pakistan while overlooking China's military ambitions. There was a 'reluctance' to face the reality that China's intentions needed to be questioned. This is where the country made mistakes in the past and things had not changed, he said.
Regarding the ongoing diplomatic talks with China, the defence minister said, ''All discussions can be conducted even while you are prepared to face any eventuality and what I'm pleading is that we should be prepared for any eventuality.''
He said tough decisions would be required to counter the potential threat from China. ''When freedom is in peril, we should defend it with all our might,'' Fernandes said quoting late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Regarding relations with Pakistan, the defence minister said New Delhi stood for solving all issues through mutual talks but said the dialogues should be taken to a decisive phase to deliver final results. ''Bilateral dialogues should not remain limited to confidence-building measures,'' he said.
The external affairs ministry today, however, declined to comment on the defence minister's statement.
''There is nothing more to add to it,'' the ministry spokesman said when asked for his comment.
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