Thanjavur: India`s capabilities to protect its vast interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and to tackle any threat there received a boost on Monday with the setting up of a Sukhoi fighter aircraft base in Tamil Nadu, the first such station in the southern part of the country.
Inaugurating the air base, Defence Minister A K Antony said, "The establishment of the premier fighter base is important in the view of the current geo-political scenario and threat perception in the peninsular region and in the Indian Ocean...It will help protect our island territories and sea lines of communication in the IOR."
He said, "This airbase is going to be strategically important. By stationing our Sukhois here, the IAF can protect a vast area of interest. In the emerging security scenario, the presence of fighter planes in Thanjavur will not only guard our interests but also give a feeling of safety to our neighbours."
His statement comes against the backdrop of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s assertion last week that India was well positioned to be the net provider of security to the IOR.
A full squadron of 16 to 18 Su-30MKI combat aircraft will be deployed at the base by the end of 2017-18, which will give India the capability to keep a close vigil on the IOR.
"There is a threat of piracy and terrorism and also emerging security scenario around the country is volatile. Even though we are a peace-loving country, we have to be ever-ready to face any kind of aggression...," Antony said.
The Defence Minister mentioned that the assets envisaged for the futuristic air base would be able to provide security to all the strategic and vital installations in this region.