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'China a strategic partner, not a threat'

IANS  |  Port Blair 

should look at as a strategic partner and not as a threat, a senior military commander has said.

"Is a threat to us? Though we have some border issues with China, we have a strategic, economic partnership with that country," Air Marshal P.K. Roy, Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, told reporters here on the sidelines of the Milan 2014 drill involving 16 navies of the Asia-Pacific region.

"If we look at each other as a threat, then none of the two countries will grow," he added.

He also spoke about China's growing presence in the Southeast Asian region, especially its presence in the South Sea.

"It is increasing its presence, its navy is growing and we are aware of it... We are conscious about it. We are also developing, modernising, increasing and building our capacity," he said.

"As regard to the South China Sea and the growing Chinese presence, we are trying to find an amicable solution... We are working on it. Till we arrive at an amicable solution, a code of conduct has to be put in place to ensure that the situation does not escalate," he added.

He also refused to read much into the Chinese presence in the Coco Islands, located between the Andamans and Myanmar.

"China has been developing a runway for civilian purposes. There are no reports of presence of Chinese per se. The situation is not alarming," he said, adding that it was only some civilian infrastructural developments and not a threat to

Roy also said that human trafficking has gone up in the region.

"Trafficking is an issue... From 300 in 2011, it has shot up to 1,300-plus last year. If they are into international waters we cannot do anything. But as regards to extending humanitarian assistance, we always do that if there is an emergency," Roy said.

He added that the coast guard and the navy have been regularly conducting surveillance exercises across the southern and northern group of the Andaman islands.

"The coast guard and the navy ships and aircraft conduct routine sorties. Whenever we see anybody in distress, we rescue them, provide them assistance and hand over them to the civil administration," he said.

Roy said the Coastal Security Network - which includes setting up a chain of static radar and electro-optic sensors at various strategic sites along the coastline, including the island territories, was well on course.

"As regards to infrastructure, we have issues - environmental clearance, almost everything from equipment to materials to contractors has to be brought in from the mainland. All these things definitely delay in implementing the projects but things are moving," he said.

First Published: Sat, February 08 2014. 15:28 IST