India's ties with other nations not any zero-sum game: Antony

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New Delhi, Apr 28 (UNI) Defence Minister A K Antony today said India's relationship with other countries was not the outcome of any zero-sum game and asserted that New Delhi would like to play its role in preserving peace and stability in the Asian region commensurate with its status.

Addressing the Army Commanders' Conference here, he said India enjoyed a long standing friendship with Russia and would like to further strengthen the existing ties.

On Indo-US relations, Mr Antony said New Delhi had been making steady progress. The cooperation with Washington extended to various areas, including security, space, counter-terrorism, energy and environment, he added.

Referring to China, the Defence Minister said India continued to abide by the confidence building measures mutually agreed upon between the two nations. ''But, we have to constantly upgrade our military and economic capabilities. There is no room for complacency,'' he added.

Mr Antony said Pakistan continued to provide covert support to perpetrators of cross-border terrorism and hoped for a more meaningful engagement with the newly-elected government there.

He hoped that Islamabad would take steps to effectively curb cross-border terrorism. ''On our part, we have to be eternally vigilant on all fronts.'' On Afghanistan, the Defence Minister said New Delhi was committed to providing continuous support to enable Kabul to emerge as a self-sufficient, stable and a democratic state.

He said winds of political change have also been sweeping Nepal.

Describing the current phase as a defining moment in the history of Nepal, Mr Antony said India was committed to helping Kathmandu in every way to ensure an orderly and constitutional transition to multi-party democracy.

Referring to Bhutan, he said transition to democracy has nearly been completed there. ''However, we cannot afford to lower our guard as any security related development is bound to have a spillover effect on our country.'' Infiltration and illegal immigration from Bangladesh were two issues that continue to be a cause of serious concern for India, Mr Antony said, adding that the Government had been taking up the issues with Dhaka from time to time.

On Myanmar, he said development of various infrastructure project by other countries there was an issue that had a direct bearing on India's security concerns.

The Defence Minister said Sri Lanka had been plagued by internal conflict for several years. ''India and indeed the entire South Asian region stand to gain from the restoration of peace process in the island nation.'' Overall, he said India would continue to strive to maintain and strengthen peaceful friendly relations with all its neighbouring countries. ''It will be our endeavour to resolve all outstanding issues without compromising on our strategic objectives.'' Mr Antony reiterated the commitment of the Government to enable the Army to meet the international responsibilities to the best of its ability.

India had so far participated in 43 peacekeeping operations in more than 30 countries, which earned it a lot of goodwill.

However, there have been some stray incidents, which have tarnished the otherwise impeccable track record of the Indian Army in international missions and exercises, he lamented.

The Defence Minister called upon the Indian Army personnel to uphold the highest standards of professional conduct and decency.

UNI AG SLD HS1835

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