National security our top priority

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 26 2009, 03:45am hrs
Attaching top priority to national security, the Congress has listed defence preparedness and modernisation of forces as its topmost agenda if it comes back to power at the Centre.

Asserting that it will guarantee maximum security to every citizen, the party, in its manifesto released on Tuesday, has maintained that the policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism will be adopted from whatever source it originates. The determined stand also comes in the backdrop of criticism from the BJP, which has always sought to make national security a prominent issue.

The manifesto also said the process of equipping the police and security forces with the latest weapons and technology has already been initiated to meet terrorist threats and the process will be taken forward vigorously. It said more specialist battalions will be raised and positioned in key locations across the country.

The party also took credit for the forceful diplomatic campaign in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks which led to Pakistan admitting for the first time that its nationals carried out the terror strikes. Answering questions on the issue, Prime Minister Singh said he was not fully happy with the result but was satisfied that Pakistan had accepted that its nationals were involved.

On the issue of defence, the party promises highest levels of preparedness, pointing out that during the NDA regime, over Rs 24,000 crore of funds meant for modernisation were not spent. In the last five years, modernisation of our defence forces has resumed substantially. This will continue at a rapid pace, the manifesto said adding Congress also pledges to make Indias defence forces technology-enabled and equipped with modern weapons, aircraft, ships and delivery systems to repel any threat from land, sea or air.

The party also promised to take of the welfare of ex-servicemen and to utilise them extensively in nation-building tasks. As police forms an integral part of the security apparatus, the manifesto spoke about police reforms and said a clear distinction between the political, the executive and the police administration will be made.

The manifesto talked about making the police force more professional to confront new and emerging threats. It said accountability of the police force will be institutionalised. Congress also vowed to pursue judicial reforms to cut delay in courts. It said the Gram Nyayalaya Act was passed by Parliament last year and setting up of Gram Nyayalayas at the headquarters of the intermediate panchayats and mobile courts in rural areas will bring to the common man speedy, affordable and substantial justice.