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India says Sino-Pakistan ties a 'serious concern'

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) May 21, 2011
India views with "serious concern" growing defence ties between China and Pakistan and says it will have to bolster its own military capabilities to meet the challenge.

"It is a matter of serious concern for us. The main thing is we have to increase our capability -- that is the only answer," Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters in New Delhi late on Friday.

The comments followed reports China plans to accelerate supply of 50 new JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat jets to Pakistan under a co-production pact.

Antony added safe havens for militants in Pakistan is another "main concern" for New Delhi and told Islamabad to "disband and destroy" all guerrilla outfits if it "sincerely" wants to improve relations with India.

The killing by US commandos of Osama bin Laden who was hiding out near the Pakistani capital Islamabad has "internationally stamped the nation's position as the core of terrorist activities in the South Asian region," he said.

India has long accused Pakistan of providing shelter and support to militant groups planning attacks on Indian soil and has pushed the global community -- the United States in particular -- to censure Pakistan.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought three wars since attaining independence in 1947, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Antony declined to comment on remarks by senior Indian military leaders that India has the capability to launch a strike like the one the US carried out in Pakistan to kill bin Laden.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said India would not undertake such a strike.

But a leaked diplomatic cable published earlier in the week quoted India's home minister as saying in 2009 that India would have to respond to another attack on its soil by Pakistan-based militants.

Discussing the prospect of another raid after the Mumbai 2008 assault which killed 166 people, home minister P. Chidambaram said, "The people of India will expect us to respond," according to the WikiLeaks whistleblowing website.

Antony added that India may sign a contract to buy 126 fighter jets for its air force by the end of March 2012.

"This fiscal (year) ends on March 31, 2012. The deal can happen before that," Antony said.

Last month, India shortlisted France's Dassault Aviation SA and European consortium Eurofighter GmbH for the contract. The deal, estimated at $10 billion, is considered the biggest of its kind globally in the past 15 years.

India has allocated 1.64 trillion rupees ($3.6 trillion) for the defence sector in the fiscal year through March 2012, up from 1.47 trillion last year. The budget is nearly double the 890 billion rupees in the 2006-07 year.

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