Antony rules out army for anti-Maoist operation

Chennai, May 27 (IANS) Defence Minister A.K. Antony Monday ruled out the deployment of the army in anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh and said police and paramilitary will have to be strengthened to fight the rebels.

Anthony was speaking to reporters at Thanjavur, 340 km from here, where he dedicated a new air force station which will house Sukhoi fighter jets.

In the backdrop of Saturday’s Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh, the minister ruled out any plans to deploy the army in the troubled area.

He said the real answer to the problem was to strengthen police and paramilitary forces to counter the Maoists.

The minister said training of Sri Lankan armed forces will not be done in Tamil Nadu respecting the sentiments of the people in the state.

On the new air force station, Antony said it would strengthen the air defence capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in general and the Southern Command in particular.

He said various sensitive, strategic, industrial, aerospace and economic assets were coming up in the southern peninsula and the station will play a vital role in providing protection to them.

He said the presence of fighter planes in Thanjavur will not only guard Indian interests but also give a feeling of safety.

The event was attended by Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne and the AOC-in-C Southern Air Command Air Marshal R.K. Jolly, among others.

Antony said the station will also help protect country’s island territories and sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean.

An official release said the Thanjavur airbase was poised to become a premier airbase in the Southern Air Command.

The airbase was constructed in 1940 by the British Royal Air Force and was handed over to the Airports Authority of India after independence.

The IAF took over the airfield in March 1990.

It said the air force station was slated to house an array of IAF platforms in the future, including Su-30 “air dominance” fighter aircraft, medium transport aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft and a medium power radar.

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