SPG preparing to deal with nuke threats: PM

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New Delhi, Mar 31: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the Special Protection Group (SPG) was equipping itself to deal with ''threats from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents'' with full support from the government.

''I assure you that our government will ensure that SPG gets all that it requires to upgrade the skills of its personnel and the organisation,'' Dr Singh said in his address to the group here on its 23rd Raising Day, after giving a long list of the upgradation programmes of the force. The Prime Minister said he was happy that the SPG was thinking of setting up a new ''Counter Sniper Unit'' which was indicative of ''forward thinking'' that was associated with the group.

Also, the adoption of ''proximate use of force'' by SPG showed the group's quest to equip itself with the most appropriate techniques to face the challenges that lay ahead, he said.

Further, the SPG proposed to build capabilities in the field of bomb disposal, Dr Singh disclosed.

Pointing out that as the Prime Minister he had a close and personal association with the SPG for the past four years, he said he had come to value this connection greatly. ''My admiration for what you are doing has only grown over time.'' He, however, acknowledged that a security wing like the SPG had a difficult job in a democracy where political leaders liked to be as close to people as possible. The leaders disliked being cordoned off by a ring of impenetrable security.

To protect leaders in a democracy and at the same time ensure that they were accessible to the general public required considerable skill, he said.

''A protective security organisation like SPG has, therefore, no alternative, but to act as an interface between the people and the political leaders while ensuring the security of the political leaders. This, I realise, is a task that requires considerable tact and is not an easy task.'' Dr Singh said the procedures and practice of handling the public must continue to evolve along with its professional skills. ''I am aware that sometimes you face criticism on this count.'' While a lot was being done to minimise the inconvenience levels faced by the ordinary citizen, he said he was sure that a lot more could be done to further professionalise and improve matters.

''Innovative lateral thinking along with an independent approach is perhaps the way ahead. I am confident that the SPG, as part of its culture of excellence, would endeavour to produce even better results in this sphere in future.'' Besides Dr Singh, the SPG, set up in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, provides security to former Prime Ministers and Ms Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul Gandhi.

Dr Singh said the world was confronted by the threat of terrorism, ''sometimes from non-State actors.'' The number of important dignitaries at risk from terrorist threats had increased and was a source of great concern for governments.

''We have to work with the international community to devise measures that combat this menace, particularly in democratic countries that are open societies and where people enjoy freedom of movement. As I have said before, terrorism anywhere is a threat to freedom and democracy everywhere.'' Reaffirming the government's commitment to dealing with such threats to peace and security, to political stability and economic progress, to social and communal harmony, he said whatever was the source of terror, ''we are determined to root it out and ensure that in a democracy political change can only come through the ballot box and not through the barrel of a gun.''

UNI

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