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George ready to bend rules to arm troops

George ready to bend rules to arm troops

Author: Gaurav C. Sawant
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: November 16, 2001
URL: http://www.indian-express.com/ie20011116/nat4.html

Khajuwala (Rajasthan), November 15: IN A sweeping statement today, Defence Minister George Fernandes said that the government will bend rules if they come in the way of speedy acquisition of equipment for troops at the borders. Evaluating the situation at the Punjab and Rajasthan borders, where Pakistani forces had begun a major troop mobilization in October, Fernandes said India had to resort to counter-mobilization since Pakistan's motives were not clear.

''We cannot understand Pakistan's motive in moving their reserve troops and tanks out of their barracks. These are certainly not routine exercises as they claim. Therefore, we have to be alert all the time,'' he said speaking to troops at village Khajuwala, barely five kilometers from the Indo-Pakistan border.

''Certain equipment is required to act as force multipliers. I assure you that the government will bend rules if required to ensure speedy procurement. Though there are procedural delays, these shall not be permitted to delay the equipment from reaching the soldiers. If we have to function outside rules, we will,'' he added.

Accompanied by Lieutenant General Surjit Singh, Army Commander Western Command and a battery of top military commanders, Fernandes visited locations at Fazilka in Punjab and Khajuwala in Rajasthan where ''enemy troop build up'' has been reported.

Addressing Air Force personnel at Bathinda and Nal (Bikaner), he insisted at every stage that the lack of equipment will not be permitted to come in the way of military preparedness.

''Pakistan is a neighbour and a known enemy. We have tried to make friends with it on three different occasions - the Lahore initiative, J&K cease fire and Agra invitation - though all efforts were thwarted. We are unable to understand why they have deployed elements from their strike formations on our borders. In order to face any contingency, we too had to deploy our forces so that we are not caught off guard,'' he added.

Speaking on post-September 11 developments, Fernandes said that the process of formulating new strategies to combat terrorism was underway.

''United States is undoubtedly the world's most powerful economy and military power. However, a handful of people challenged it. In this scenario new strategies have to be evolved to counter terrorism,'' he said. ''With Kabul's fall, the first phase of the war against terrorism appears to be over. But for us, the 12-year-old war against terrorism is still continuing,'' he added.

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