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'NE mountain divisions not against China'

February 15, 2010 17:56 IST

Union Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday said the army was raising two new mountain divisions in the North-East, along the borders with China, but dismissed suggestions that the move was against the neighbour.

"We are raising two mountain divisions in the North-East. I must tell you it is not against China. But these are being raised under the overall policies to strengthen presence of the armed forces in the North-East," Antony told a press conference on the occasion of the Sixth DefExpo in New Delhi.

The defence minister asserted that India is not a 'war-mongering' country and has 'not invaded even an inch of soil of any other country ever' but added that 'we will defend every inch of our territory.'

"We have to be on guard. So we have to strengthen our armed forces to act as a deterrent. That is our policy. That is why we are modernising all our equipment," Antony said.

He said India had embarked on a modernisation programme for its armed forces that included securing the 7,500-km long coastline where the Navy and the Coast Guard were being strengthened.

For air defence, the Indian Air Force was being equipped with modern systems and for security of the land mass from Kutch in the west to north east, Jammu and Kashmir in the north to the southern most party of the country, the Army was being strengthened, he said.

"But it is not against any particular country, but (only) to meet any eventuality. I think there is a misunderstanding," the minister said to a query about the notion that the modernisation plans are aimed at any neighbouring country.

Antony said as a general policy, India was trying to be friendly with all its neighbours. In spite of the fact that there are certain differences with China, India is trying to improve the relations, which had in fact increased in terms of trade and cultural exchanges, he added.

"Of course, there is a long pending border dispute. But both India and China are trying for an amicable solution through discussions, which are going on," he added.

To buttress the point that the bilateral relations were growing, Antony said the Indian defence secretary had visited China last month to hold discussions with their leadership and the armies of China and India had done joint exercises in the recent years.

Asked why China and Pakistan were not invited to the DefExpo this year, Antony said Beijing was requested to attend the AeroIndia show in Bangalore last year but they had not participated then.

"Since they were not keen on attending, we did not send them any invitation this time. Regarding Pakistan, we have not invited them till date," he added.

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