LTTE threat prompts defence review


New Delhi : India's defence preparedness in the wake of the Tamil Tigers' newly acquired air power were reviewed at a high level meeting here attended by two senior ministers and the chiefs of the navy and the air force.

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Defence Minister A.K. Antony, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan were among those who attended the meeting.

The Indian Navy chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, and the Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Major, also attended the meeting, held in Mukherjee's South Block office.

The meeting is believed to have reviewed the security arrangements at naval, air force and Coast Guard stations along the southern coast in Tamil Nadu in the wake of three air attacks the Tamil Tigers staged in Sri Lanka.

The meeting came a day after Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona warned that the rebel group could also stage air strikes against Indian nuclear installations.

According to Kohona, "there is an air threat which brings within it not only cities within Sri Lanka, shipping in the Indian Ocean and also nuclear installations in India".

Indian officials sought to downplay the extent of the threat, even as they spoke of the need to remain alert.

"It is highly unlikely the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) would stage an air attack in India, particularly against a nuclear installation. But still, we have to be prepared to counter any eventuality," an official explained.

In this context, the meeting is believed to have considered steps to be taken should the LTTE aerial threat ever realise itself.

The meeting is also believed to have considered measures to counter a slur by a Pakistani politician against former Indian Army chief Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw on selling military secrets.

Gohar Ayub Khan, a former Pakistani minister, had during a TV interview all but named Manekshaw as having sold Indian military secrets in the 1950s.