Do not allow adversaries to take advantage of India’s focus on COVID-19: Rajnath to military

New Delhi:  Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday directed the top military brass to ensure that India’s adversaries do not get any opportunity to push their “evil design” by taking advantage of the country’s focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

Reviewing India’s military preparedness at a high-level meeting, he also asked the armed forces to avoid wasteful expenditure and make sure judicious utilisation of funds in view of the downturn in the economy caused by the pandemic, they said.

The top army brass apprised Singh about the situation along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir as well as along the nearly-3,500 KM frontier with China.

Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh briefed Singh about the overall situation in the Indian Ocean region where China has been increasingly expanding its military influence by deploying warships and submarines.

A major focus of the deliberations was on situation in Jammu and Kashmir, said an official.

Notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic in the region, Pakistan has been resorting to unprovoked ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and making concerted efforts to push militants into Kashmir in the last several weeks, officials said.

India has been retaliating strongly to the Pakistani “misadventure” by targeting terror launch pads and ammunition storage across the LoC, they said.

On Wednesday, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Dilbag Singh said Pakistan was sending militants infected with COVID-19 into Kashmir to spread the disease among the people of the valley.

“Singh expected the forces to ensure their operational preparedness, while they are battling COVID-19 and that the adversary should not be allowed to exploit the current situation,” a defence ministry said in a statement.

Besides the Navy Chief, the meeting was attended by Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff Gen M M Naravane, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Secretary Defence (Finance) Gargi Kaul.

Top military commanders from key commands of the Army, the Navy and the Indian Air Force across the country also attended the meeting through video conference.

In the meeting, the defence minister asked the top military brass to identify and prioritise tasks that could help in revival of the economy after the lockdown is lifted, besides emphasising on the need for ensuring jointness among the three services, officials said.

The commanders appreciated recent devolution of emergency financial powers granted to them by the defence ministry, saying the decision has ensured timely procurement of necessary medical supplies to bolster the health infrastructure of the military hospitals, they said.

In the conference, the commanders apprised the minister about various measures put in place by them to prevent coronavirus infection among the forces and the assistance extended to the local civilian administration to deal with the pandemic, the ministry said.

“These include issue of standard operating procedure on COVID-19, introduction of appropriate modifications in protocols and drills as per the advisories issued by Ministry of Health and other agencies and taking care of the ex-servicemen and their families residing in their respective command areas,” the ministry said.

It said the armed forces also expressed readiness to pitch in to maintain essential services, locally, if requested by civilian administrations.

“In his address, the defence minister appreciated the role of the armed forces for the assistance extended to the local civilian administration and preparatory measures taken to fight COVID-19,” the ministry said.

The armed force have been playing a key role in the country’s fight against the pandemic which has killed over 700 people and infected more than 23,000.

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