New Delhi, May 25: Against the backdrop of terror attack on a Karachi naval base, Defence Minister A K Antony today asked the forces to maintain operational readiness as India is living in a “volatile neighbourhood”.
He said India was concerned, particularly with regard to the safety of nuclear arsenal in Pakistan.
“Naturally it (nuclear arsenal) is a concern not only for us but for everybody,” Antony told reporters here after addressing a conference of the naval top brass. He was asked if India was worried about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the wake of the terror strike.
“The challenges of the Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) and the volatile neighbourhood we live in, make it imperative for us to maintain operational readiness at all times,” Antony told the Naval Commanders' Conference.
He said, “Recent incidents in our neighbourhood have strongly underlined the need to maintain constant vigil. The Navy needs to take stock of the level of operational preparedness from time to time.”
The Conference was attended by navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and senior navy and Defence Ministry officials.
The top naval commanders briefed the Defence Minister on the operational preparedness and the role the force is playing in securing maritime interests of the nation. Describing piracy in Indian Ocean as a continuing cause of major concern, Antony said, “The menace (of piracy) needs a concerted effort and a collective response from the international community.”
Giving the assurance that the force would continue to work with the navies operating in Gulf of Aden, he ruled out India becoming member of any multilateral grouping unless it was under the mandate of United Nations (UN).
Referring to the terror strike in Karachi, Antony said, “Our services are taking all precautions and are ready round-the-clock. But, at the same time, we don't want to overreact.
“Developments in Pakistan, specially in Karachi, are a matter of serious concern to us. We are closely monitoring the situation and are taking precautions also. We are concerned about the developments,” he said.
“I can assure you that all the three services are taking necessary precautions and we are closely monitoring the situation. But, at the same time, we thought we must avoid reacting publicly,” he said.
The Defence Minister said, “Not only because of the situation in Pakistan, we are also always on the radar of the terrorists. It is not a new thing, and so our security forces are ever vigilant.”
On strengthening coordination among security agencies responsible for coastal security, Antony said they should adopt a more collaborative and cooperative approach. Asking the navy and the coast guards to draw a long-term strategic plan to enhance the security of Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands, he said that the coastal security is inextricably linked to the security of island territories.
He also said government has approved the plan to set up forward naval bases at Tuticorin, Kamarta, Diglipur, Campbell Bay and Paradweep.
On the controversy surrounding army chief General V K Singh's date of birth, he said, “Government had sent a request to Attorney General through the Law Ministry. I can tell you that the AG has sent his opinion through the Law Minister and the Law Secretary.”
He said no public controversy should be made out of the issues concerned with the armed forces. PTI