Bangalore: Defence minister AK Antony has said that the country's defence scientists would decide the number of launches required to make the Agni-III missile operational. He also stressed that India's missile tests were meant only to create adequate deterrence and were not aimed against any country.
"These kind of tests will continue," Antony asserted, after being queried by reporters whether India had the requisite political will to proceed to the next level of missile tests. Antony was on a visit to India's premiere defence manufacturing and design complex, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, located here in the city.
Antony also said that the successful test last week of the nuclear-capable Agni-III, which has demonstrated the ability to hit targets 3,000 km away, showed that Indian scientists had "matured enough and whenever necessity arises, we can have missiles of whatever capacity needed for the country."
Antony also made it clear the country's defence scientists would decide on the number of tests required to make Agni-III operational. As for political will, Antony said that the country always had the political will for the tests. "We do not want to exhibit it. It is already there," he said.
As for the induction of Agni-I and Agni-II missiles into the armed forces, Antony said that the induction would take place in "reasonable time" and that there would not be any "unnecessary delay."
Talking about the failed maiden test of Agni-III nine months ago, Antony said that it had not deterred scientists. "The scientists have produced results. It is excellent...up to the point," he said.
Responding to a question on India's "threat perceptions" in the region, particularly from China, Antony said that compared to the past, the "border situation is much better." He said that relations with neighbouring countries were better and dialogue would continue in order to find solutions to existing problems.
However, even as India was trying to improve relations with its immediate and distant neighbours and other nations, it could not ignore "developments around us", he said. Antony pointed out that countries were modernizing their armed forces "very fast" and "eternal vigilance" is needed to safeguard the nation's unity and integrity. India was preparing a plan to modernize its armed forces, he said.
In this regard he said that the Request For Proposal (RFP) for the acquisition of 126 fighter jets for the IAF, which would be sent out to aircraft manufacturers, is being finalized.
"Once ready, we will release it. But it would not take much time. We are committed to (buying the 126 jets). Additional requirements (of the IAF) will be met," he said.
On the issue of an aerospace command for the defence services, Antony said that a proposal had been made and the government was studying it.
Talking about the emerging Maoist threat within the country, Antony said that Maoism was a "real threat but I am not for the direct involvement of the armed forces in meeting it". He said that the threat would have to be tackled by police and paramilitary forces and the army would be willing to train them for this.