New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday warned that nuclear security and proliferation in India’s neighborhood remained “a serious threat” and called for the country’s policy-makers to factor in the deterioration in the international strategic and political environment while drawing up India’s future policies.
“Nuclear proliferation and nuclear security remain a serious threat in our neighborhood,” Manmohan Singh said, addressing the top security brass of India at the combined commanders conference of the army, navy, air force and coast guard here.
“Broadly speaking, the international strategic and political environment has deteriorated from our point of view. The policies we adopt, whether internally or externally, must factor this in,” he added.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony, External Affairs Minister Somanahalli Malliah Krishna and Home Minister Pallaniappan Chidambaram were also present on the occasion, along with navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, army chief General Vijay Kumar Singh and air force chief Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne.
However, the prime minister did not mention Pakistan, which is the other nuclear-weapon state in the region along with India, though his references were obviously aimed at the neighbor, which is troubled with threats to its nuclear installations from home-grown terror groups.
Despite serious conflicts, particularly after the the December 2001 terror attack on parliament and the November 2008 mayhem in Mumbai, the two sides have not crossed nuclear threshold. However, Pakistan’s proliferation record is suspect and has come under adverse notice globally.
The two sides are said to be holding close to 100 nuclear war heads each, as per the Stockholm-based SIPRI’s latest report.
Manmohan Singh also highlighted the cyber threats as “emerging as a major source of worry” to India’s security installations, in an obvious reference to reports of Chinese hackers breaching top institutions, including the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and National Security Council Secretariat in recent years.
He said India had a long history in fighting terrorism, but “today terrorist groups are highly networked, nimble footed and more lethal”.
“This calls for appropriate responses. Cyber threats are emerging as a major source of worry. Cyber and information warfare could qualitatively change the concept of a battlefield.”
The prime minister also called upon the armed forces to focus more on maritime security, and on securing the coastline, the exclusive economic zone, the island territories and the sea lanes of communication.
Internally, he said, India should work assiduously to address problems in the northeast and deal with left-wing extremism in a comprehensive manner.
“We have to be sensitive to the needs of the weaker sections of society and ensure that the fruits of our progress reach them.
“Issues relating to the use of scarce resources such as land and water and strengthening institutions of governance require much closer attention than they had received in the past,” Manmohan Singh added.