Defence Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Hindustan Times about India’s position on Pakistan, the revocation of Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and the ground situation in the state today, as well as the government’s plans to enable defence modernisation. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Many experts have raised doubts about India’s defence capabilities in case of two front wars. How is India preparing for any such situation?
We are modernising our forces. But our objective is self defence, and not to confront or attack any other country. This has never been our character and will never be in future.
What is the status of defence modernisation programme in India?
These are strategic issues that are best not discussed in public. I can tell you for sure that strength and confidence of our forces has increased many fold in recent years.
Is there any decision on adding fighters to the Air Force fleet?
Upgradation of the Indian Air Force is an ongoing exercise, which is undertaken on the basis of envisaged capability desired and allocation of financial resources. We have begun the process of upgradation of existing aircraft to include MiG-29, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 in a phased manner. In addition, induction of contracted aircraft like LCA (Light Combat Aircraft), Rafale and some balance Su-30MKI is underway. Acceptance of Necessity has been given for LCA Mk 1A. The option of a strategic partnership model is also being processed to improve the combat capability of the Air Force.
Senior functionaries of government have spoken about illegal occupation of parts of Kashmir by Pakistan at various forums. What, if any, is India’s change in position on PoK?
India has had a consistent stance on PoK, which is enshrined in the Parliamentary Resolution of 1994. This resolution seeks the vacation of all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, which have been occupied illegally through aggression by Pakistan.
Can you give a broad understanding of the level of transgression along the LAC?
There are differing perceptions of India and China on the Line of Actual Control. From time to time there are transgression across the LAC. There is an institutionalised framework between India and China for dialogue, confidence building measures and for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the India-China border areas. Both sides regularly convene border personnel meetings, flag meetings and engage in other confidence building measures on and off the border in order to promote peace and tranquillity.
Has normalcy returned to Kashmir after your decision to strike down Article 370?
We are speaking about striking down Article 370 in every manifesto of ours since 1951. People used to say we talk of it only for electoral purposes. We have shown there is no difference in our works and deeds. We have also addressed the challenge of crisis of credibility in politics. There is already a great deal of normalcy in Kashmir as compared to past. There is a big improvement. Pakistan keeps trying to destabilise India. But there is improvement in situation. Some friends are still trying to create confusion.
Why are Kashmir leaders under detention? When will they be released?
Is there any violation of human rights? Earlier terrorists used to violate human rights. Any government must take some steps to prevent violation of human rights. We have taken some precaution and there will be some relaxation with time.