Antony Meets Patil Ahead Of J&K Visit
16 July 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi: Ahead of his visit to Jammu and Kashmir next week, Defence Minister A K Antony today met Home Minister Shivraj Patil and discussed with him the ground situation in the State which has witnessed a sudden spurt in infiltration from across the border. During the 30-minute meeting, Patil and Antony, who will visit the Jammu and Kashmir on July 27, discussed the rise in infiltration since April this year as compared to the corresponding period of last year. The two discussed the measures to expedite the repair of fencing in north Kashmir which was damaged during winter so that infiltration of terrorists could be checked. Funds for repair of fence along the borders of the country are provided by the Border Management Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The meeting between Antony and Patil came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Jammu where he rebuffed the alliance partner PDP over the issue of demilitarisation and relocation of troops engaged in the anti-militancy operations. Antony also heads a committee set up by the Prime Minister on March 30 this year to study the report of a panel chaired by Defence Secretary on relocation or reconfiguration of troops in the militancy-hit State. Antony also discussed the issue of continuance of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir in the light of second Administrative Commission recommending repeal of the tough law. Meanwhile, addressing Parliament Consultative Committee attached to his Ministry, Antony expressed concern over the delays in supply of crucial weapon systems by foreign vendors and imported arms often being not upto the mark. He sought 'aggressive indigenisation' through public and private sectors to offset the dependence. He said the domestic defence industry, both public and private should move forward to overcome it since indigenisation was the only solution to reduce reliance on foreign companies. He said such an overdependance often led to 'delays' in supply of hi-tech systems crucial to country's defence, and the imported armament systems received were many a time not 'found upto the mark'. These remarks came in the backdrop of delays India is facing in supply of weapons platforms like the frontline Sukhoi fighter planes and aircraft carrier Gorshkov from Russia and AWACS from Israel. Antony also cautioned that the current spree of arms purchases from abroad could not be sustained for long and domestic industry needed to invest more on research and development. India is currently spending billions of dollars on acquisition of hi-tech weapon systems and, according to official figures, the country spent almost 350 billion dollars on arms imports in the past seven years.