India’s security review focuses on China

NEW DELHI: The key focus of discussions at a security review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday was the status of preparedness vis-à-vis China. The detailed review meeting with the National Security Council, which lasted almost

three hours, saw the new Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao give a detailed presentation on the current state of strategic relations with China.

The discussions at the Prime Minister’s residence, sources said, were meant to firm up India’s position at the next round of dialogue between the Indian and Chinese Special Representatives, MK Narayanan and Dai Bingguo, due on Thursday.

According to analysts, after the negative fallout of the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement with Pakistan, the Prime Minister has been “hemmed in” and will face major constraints in going ahead with any bold new initiatives on the foreign policy front. It is unlikely that there will be a breakthrough at the talks later this week, to approach a resolution of the decades-long boundary dispute with China.

Top security officials including Narayanan, the three service chiefs and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister AK Antony, and Home Minister P Chidambaram attended the meeting.

The Indian government is going ahead with building 73 ‘all-weather’ roads along the entire LAC, including around 27 in Arunachal Pradesh, upgrading advanced landing strips in the western sector and has stationed Sukhoi-30 multi-role combat aircraft in Tezpur and Chabua, with plans to station two squadrons of Su-30’s gradually over the next few months. The government will move two divisions of army troops (around 40,000 soldiers) to enhance its vigil along the largely peaceful LAC.

Official sources said constructing basic infrastructure and roads along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) would help maintain supply lines for troops posted in the region and give a boost to border trade. China has constructed over 40,000 km of roads across the Tibetan Autonomous Region that borders India.

Also on the agenda of the meeting was the security situation along the western coast. The Prime Minister emphasised the need for improved coordination between the navy, the coast guard and the police to strengthen security along the country’s 7,500 km-long coastline.