India alert on the situation in Doklam: Sitharaman
26 March 2018
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said that the country was “alert and ready” for any eventualities that may arise in Doklam along the Sikkim border, where Indian and Chinese forces were locked in a bitter standoff for over two months last year.
Sitharaman asserted that India was “ready for any unforeseen situation” in Doklam and will “maintain” its territorial integrity.
The Indian defence minister’s comments came a day after India’s ambassador to China dismissed reports that the Chinese military was stepping up infrastructure build-up in the Doklam area.
“There are lot of narratives which are doing the rounds, but as defence minister, I can assure you that the country is prepared for any kind of eventuality on all borders. We are taking steps for modernisation of the forces,” Sitharaman said in Dehradun.
She was addressing the press in Uttarakhand’s capital Dehradun, at a function to felicitate students who cleared the entrance examinations of National Defence Academy (NDA) and Combined Defence Service (CDS) for Indian Military Academy. A total of 140 such students were given a cheque of Rs50,000 each.
“There is no reason to worry about China because our armed forces are also undergoing modernisation, which will be visible in the coming days. Moreover, we are very well prepared and we are fully alert as well when it comes to any activity on the borders. We will maintain our territorial integrity,” Sitharaman said.
Earlier, last month, Army chief General Bipin Rawat had also echoed similar sentiments and assured that there is nothing to worry about the Doklam standoff.
“A lot of questions have been raised in the past few days about the preparedness of the armed forces and I must say that there is no lack in that aspect. Apart from this, the government has given complete power to the vice chiefs of all three services to purchase weapons and equipment as they see fit,” the defence minister said.
On being asked about the unified commands like those in USA, the defence minister said, “We are working on getting unified commands in India and we already have one existing in Andaman and Nicobar.”
Her comments come a day after India’s envoy to China Gautam Bambawale confirmed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the neighbouring country to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in June during which there will “definitely” be a bilateral meeting between Modi and President Xi Jinping.
The SCO, a China-dominated security grouping, is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO. The SCO summit is due to be held in the Chinese city of Qingdao from June 9-10.
Responding to the recent debates on lack of funds for modernisation and strengthening of the armed forces, the minister said the government has given the defence forces a free hand in exercising emergency powers to purchase whatever ammunition is required to strengthen the preparedness.
“As the defence minister, I want to assure the young cadets that our government is committed to modernise the defence forces. You should be proud to be now part of a world-class force,” Sitharaman said.