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‘Despite issues, confrontation with China to be avoided’

NEW DELHI: Recent reports of Chinese incursions and Beijing’s claims over chunks of Indian territory notwithstanding, Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday said India will follow a non-confrontationist approach towards its neighbours.

“We (India) are not ignoring (these incidents). To a maximum extent, we will try to avoid confrontation,” Antony told reporters here after inaugurating a conference of top commanders of the Integrated Defence Staff drawn from the three wings of the armed forces.

Over 150 incursions into Indian territory by China’s Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) troops have been reported in the last one year, apart from claims over Indian territory, including the recent controversy over Finger Area in north Sikkim, which was assumed settled till now.

During the recent visit of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Beijing, the Chinese reportedly tried to corner India by raising the Finger Area issue.

“We are in the process of finding solutions to the long standing disputes with China, and the process is continuing,” Antony said replying to a query.

Stating that the UPA government will not compromise on national interest and security, the minister, who recently visited defence personnel in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim along the border with China, said the armed forces were ready to meet any challenge.

“There is a national consensus for a dialogue with China and the 11th round of the talks was held recently. It will only be appropriate to find solutions through dialogue. At the same time, national security will not be compromised,” Antony said.

Responding to the recent Pakistani announcement of a freeze in their defence budget and the cuts in the Chinese defece budget, Antony said India’s defence spending was not matching the economic boom that the country had witnessed in the recent past.

“Our (India) defence budget is just 1.99 per cent of the GDP, which is one of the lowest in the world. The ideal situation would be 3 per cent of GDP, which is the global average,” he added.