Agence France Presse
Saturday 22 March 2003
Last Update 22 March 2003 12:00 am
BANGALORE, 22 March 2003 — Defense Minister George Fernandes said Friday the US-led war on Iraq was likely to intensify terrorism and have implications for India’s security.
“One thing we may have to face is terrorism with much greater intensity than we have experienced,” Fernandes told a public meeting here. “It may be individual terrorism or that terrorism which believes in self-destruction in groups. We can only hope that the conflict will not be prolonged and will end in the shortest possible time,” he added.
“The ongoing war will not affect the Indian economy, but will have an implication on ... security.” He said the attack on Iraq would also pose questions about the future of the United Nations.
The Indian government has said the US-led war lacks “justification” and that it favors peaceful disarmament of Iraq under the UN.
Fernandes said India was readying itself with humanitarian assistance for Iraq once the war is over. “We will be there as soon as possible in the aftermath to provide such assistance that the people of Iraq will need,” he said.
US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill alluded in a recent interview with the Times of India newspaper that New Delhi could be given a key role in reconstruction projects in Iraq once the conflict is over.
Fernandes said, however, that India would not provide refueling facilities to American war planes, which New Delhi had done during the 1991 war.
“The government has taken a stand on the ongoing conflict. We are not in favor of the conflict. Having taken such a position I cannot visualize government will make available facilities of refueling,” Fernandes said.
Meanwhile, the nation’s intermediate jet trainer made its first flight yesterday, filling a void in the country’s aviation industry, the head of the company which developed the plane said.
The intermediate jet trainer (IJT) was developed at a cost of 1.8 billion rupees ($38 million) and will replace the Kiran, an outdated propeller trainer.
“The Kiran aircraft is a decade behind in technology. There was an urgent need to replace Kiran and IJT has filled that void,” Hindustan Aeronautics chairman N.R. Mohanty told reporters.
Hindustan Aeronautics and other national agencies have spent two years developing the new trainer, which will be at least 20 percent more fuel efficient than the Kiran.
The Indian Air Force has placed an order for 12 of the new trainers and Hindustan Aeronautics plans to make about 200 after the first delivery scheduled for 2005. A second prototype, to be tested later this year, will be fitted with advanced avionics.
Fernandes, who witnessed the flight of the jet trainer, said India had a long way to go in terms of advanced technology and research and development in the aviation industry.
“During the last five years many defense production companies around the world are in a merger mode. We should spread our wings.
“Countries from South Asia, Africa and the neighborhood may join in creating defense production establishments to compete with the best of the world,” he said.