India Vows Boost of Defenses

The defense and foreign ministers of India are speaking about boosting the country's military capabilities and the need for the international community to crack down on states not doing enough to fight terrorism within their own borders. 

India defense minister, A.K. Antony, is calling for the country's military to be modernized, arguing it is operating at less than 30 per cent of the capability the nation requires.

Antony says this needs to be done as quickly as possible because India is surrounded by "inimical elements."

The defense minister made the remarks Wednesday in the state of Goa during the commissioning of a new coast guard patrol vessel.

Meanwhile here in the capital, New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is calling for action by the international community against countries which sponsor terrorism or allow their soil to be used to carry out such acts. He tied the need for such resolve to the Mumbai terror attack in late November, which India blames on Pakistani elements.

"It is high time for the international community to recognize that such recalcitrant states must be brought to discipline by resorting to various international mechanisms," said Mukherjee.

New Delhi has been increasingly frustrated over what it sees as a lack of concrete movement by Islamabad to neutralize and bring to justice those responsible for the siege of Mumbai, in which more than 170 people died.
The Indian foreign minister also acknowledges disagreement with London over a recent statement by British Foreign Secretary David Milliband. London's top diplomat linked the regional terror problem to the unresolved Kashmir territorial issue between India and Pakistan.

Milliband observed, in a British newspaper article, the Kashmir dispute gives terrorist in the region "one of their main calls to arms."

Indian media have reacted furiously to the comment. The Asian Age newspaper calls it "an appeasement of terrorism" while the Hindu newspaper says the remark plays into the hands of those who justify violent extremism.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since the violent partition of the subcontinent following the end of British rule in 1947. The banned Pakistani jihadist group India blames for the Mumbai terror attack, Lashkar-e-Taiba, has carried out numerous attacks on Indian soil as part of its quest to oust India from Jammu and Kashmir.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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