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China is threat No.1, says Fernande
China is threat No.1, says Fernandes
NEW DELHI, May 3 (Hindustan Times)
Defence Minister George Fernandes has declared China as the "potential
threat number one" with its military and naval involvement beginning to
"encircle" India along the border with Pakistan, Myanmar and Tibet.
"Any person who is concerned about India's security must agree with that
fact," averred Mr Fernandes. In support of the perception, he drew
attention to the transfer of missile technology and nuclear know-how to
Islamabad by Beijing besides the nuclear weapons stockpiled in Tibet
along the borders with India.
The Defence Minister disclosed that over the last six months, there has
been a lot of elongation of military air fields in Tibet, where the
latest version of the Sukhoi aircraft were going to be parked. On the
eastern frontier with India, the Chinese have also trained and equipped
the Myanmar Army, whose overall strength has gone up from 1,70,000 to
This scenario of a Chinese involvement along the Indian borders from
Pakistan right up to Myanmar, including Tibet, extended to the Indian
waters, continued Mr Fernandes. He said Myanmar's territory of Coco
Islands, on the northern tip of Andaman and Nicobar, has been taken on
loan by Beijing and converted into a monitoring post (for keeping track
of India's activities) through installation of "massive" electronic
"There is no doubt in my mind that China's fast expanding navy, which
will be the biggest navy in this part of the world, will be getting into
the Indian Ocean fairly soon," contended the Defence Minister. He
pointed in the same breath to Beijing's plans to transform Coco Islands
into a major naval base - which would be a direct threat to India - and
the construction of harbours on Myanmar's western coast where Chinese
ships can be towed in.
"Their (the Chinese) senior officials have said that the Indian Ocean is
not India's ocean," remarked Mr Fernandes. In support of the view that
New Delhi has often underplayed, even ignored, the potential threat from
China, he said: "To underplay the situation across the Himalayas is not
in the national interest... I think there is a reluctance to face the
reality that China's intentions need to be questioned. This is where our
country has made mistakes in the past - in the early fifties and in the
sixties, for which we paid the price."
In an interview to 'In Focus With Karan,' to be telecast tomorrow by
Home TV, Mr Fernandes, while terming China as a bigger threat to India's
security than even Pakistan, remained unconvinced about Islamabad's
claims of possessing a (nuclear) bomb. The threat posed by Beijing to
New Delhi's security interests also figured in the V. K. Krishna Menon
Memorial lecture the Defence Minister delivered here this evening.
"India is against war and believes in peace. Discussing Confidence
Building Measures (CBMs) with our immediate neighbours is not enough. We
want negotiations to be carried to a decisive stage while discussing
CBMs," Mr Fernandes told newspersons after delivering the lecture. "We
must get down to serious talks," he insisted, "given the fact that
countries in the neighbourhood are in possession of weapons of mass
destruction that could cause havoc."
However, the Defence Minister stated that he had no verified version of
Pak Premier Nawaz Sharif's statement that Islamabad has a (nuclear)
bomb: "One can give a definite answer to the question only if one has
the verified version. At this point in time, I'm not convinced whether I
should say I believe him (Sharif)."
While agreeing that the security environment (in South Asia) has
deteriorated with the test-firing of Ghauri missile by Islamabad, Mr
Fernandes went on to confirm a shift in New Delhi's nuclear policy under
the BJP-led Government. The predecessor regimes, he replied in response
to a specific question, had not ruled out the nuclear weapons but the
new Government has ruled them in: "Well, (earlier) it was not ruled out.
We have ruled it in. Agreed."
Significantly, Mr Fernandes noted that among the options available to
India were to make a review and see whether there were threat
perceptions "where you have to go for a nuclear weapon." He said the
Government would exercise the nuclear option in the event of the planned
strategic review making such a recommendation.
The Defence Minister linked the change in the nuclear policy to the
change in threat perceptions. He said: "It's because there has been a
change in threat perceptions today. If those threat perceptions are as
one visualises them to be (following the review), then you have no
option. If one says options are to be exercised, then one exercises them
at some point in time. We believe the time has come to exercise the
Mr Fernandes clarified that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's
statement about no change in India's foreign policy couldn't be "lumped
with" the defence policy. "The defence of the country," he asserted,
"cannot be equated or clubbed with foreign policy... I am very sure that
the Prime Minister did not have in mind the strategic defence review and
the decisions which follow from that...."
China is potential threat number one: Fernandes
NEW DELHI: Defence minister George Fernandes has declared China India's
``potential threat number one'' and said a massive electronic
surveillance establishment set up by Beijing at Coco islands near
Andaman and Nicobar islands was ``monitoring everything in India.''
Stating that the country was surrounded by Chinese military and naval
activity, Mr Fernandes said in an interview to a private TV channel that
the potential threat from China was greater than that from Pakistan and
``any person who is concerned about India's security must agree with
Mr Fernandes said there were moves by China to convert the surveillance
set up into a ``major naval base which would be a direct threat to us.''
The television channel in a Press release quoted the defence minister as
saying that India would exercise its nuclear option if the planned
strategic review recommended it.
``If the review leads us to a point where it becomes obvious it is time
now to exercise the nuclear option, then we will exercise it,'' he said.
Asked if he believed statements from across the border, including one
from Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, that Pakistan had a bomb, Mr
Fernandes said, ``At this point in time I am not convinced whether I
should say I believe him. I am still not convinced.''
On whether the security environment had deteriorated following the test
firing of Ghauri ballistic missile by Pakistan last month, the defence
minister said, ``to a considerable extent it has deteriorated. If Ghauri
should become operational, large parts of India will be within its
On a question about Chinese military and naval activity around India, Mr
Fernandes said China has provided Pakistan with both missile as well as
nuclear know- how.
China, he said, has its nuclear weapons stockpiled in Tibet right along
India's borders. ``They are not directed only against India. I am sure
they are directed elsewhere also.''
He said there had been a lot of ``elongation'' of military air fields in
Tibet where the latest versions of Russian-made Sukhoi combat aircraft
were going to be stationed. ``And this happened in the last six
months,'' he added.
On the eastern frontier with Myanmar (Burma), he said the Chinese had
trained and equipped the Burmese army.
``The Burmese army was 170,000-strong six years ago. Today it is 450,000
strong and by the turn of the century it will be half- a-million strong.
Burma's population is only 42 million,'' he said.
The defence minister maintained that China has established ``massive
electronic surveillance establishment'' at Coco islands, 40 km from the
northern tip of Andaman and Nicobar islands.
``These are Burmese territory. China has taken them on loan. Already
there is massive electronic surveillance establishment which the Chinese
have installed and which is monitoring everything in India. And there
are moves to convert that into a major naval base which would be a
direct threat to us,'' he said.
Mr Fernandes said that on the western coast of Myanmar, there was a lot
of naval activity, including construction of harbours where Chinese
ships could be towed in.
``And their senior officials have said that the Indian Ocean is not
India's ocean. There is no doubt in my mind that China's fast expanding
navy, which will be the biggest navy in this part of the world, will be
getting into the Indian Ocean fairly soon.''
Asked if New Delhi had come to underplay or even ignore the potential
threat from China, he said, ``I think there is a reluctance to face the
reality that China's intentions need to be questioned''.
``This is where our country has made mistakes in the past. We made those
mistakes in the early 50s. We paid the price in the 60s. And I think
things have not changed,'' he said.
To a question on the on-going diplomatic talks with Beijing, he said,
``all discussions can be conducted even while you are prepared to face
any eventuality and what I am pleading is that we should be prepared for
On India's nuclear policy, Mr Fernandes said it was a continuation of
what it was in the past fifty years and maintained that the country's
defence policy could not change with a change of government.
Mr Fernandes said, ``What we have done is to take a step which is
inevitably arising out of the defence policy. Our policy on nuclear
weapons was that we shall not sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty
(NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
``When we took that position it was implied in it that we will have
opportunities to exercise more than one option ... One was to carry on
(as previously). The other was to make a review and see whether there
are threat perceptions where you have to go in for a nuclear weapon,''
The defence minister further said ``it is taking the inevitable next
step. We have come to a point where we believe we need to make a review
of the defence policy''.
Maintaining that there has been a change in the threat perception, he
said, ``If those threat perceptions are as one visualises them to be
following the review, then you have no option''.
Mr Fernandes said that when prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had said
India's foreign policy would not change, his statement did not cover
defence policy or the proposed re-evaluation of the nuclear policy.
``I believe as far as the defence of the country is concerned it cannot
be equated or clubbed with foreign policy. Where national security
concerns are involved I do not think we should link that with the
foreign policy statement of the Prime Minister,'' he said. (PTI)
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