Monday, December 03, 2007

Delhi has neglected Northeast: Antony

Monday December 3, 12:33 AM

Delhi has woken up to the rapid infrastructure development by China on its side of the border with the Northeast.

A.K. Antony, on his first visit to Sikkim after becoming the Defence Minister, admitted that India had a lot of catching up to do and would now focus on the Northeast.

"I admit we were not able to develop infrastructure in the border areas. There is no use accusing others," the minister said.

There have been intelligence reports from the Indian forces on China expanding its road network, building three new airstrips and extending the Lhasa rail line towards the Chumbi valley in its south that lies at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan. Antony said the Chinese have been developing infrastructure "very fast" on their side.

"In the past, the Northeast has not got enough attention. We have realised the development of the entire region is very important," he said. He added that it was the government's responsibility to provide facilities like "modern roads, rail links and air links". The Indian defence forces, wherever they are posted in the border areas, also need to develop good relations with the local population and be their "friends", he said.

Antony denied reports of China damaging two forward posts built by India. "Nothing like this has happened on Indian territory," he said. He said that the two countries had varying perceptions of their borders and were trying to resolve their disputes at various levels. "This is the first time am India-China defence dialogue has taken place," Antony said, referring to the talks held in November.

The first Indo-China defence drills are also scheduled for later this month in the Yunan province of China. "This is a good beginning," Antony said. He will visit Nathu La on Sunday. The pass was opened for India-China trade after a gap of 44 years last July.