On the day Army chief General MM Naravane reached forward areas in eastern Ladakh to review operational preparedness, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat warned of the two-front threat from China and Pakistan, but said Indian armed forces were fully prepared to deal with it.
Speaking at the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) conclave Thursday, General Rawat said China and Pakistan have been collaborating militarily, economically and diplomatically.
“Chinese economic cooperation with Pakistan, in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, along with continued military, economic and diplomatic support mandate high levels of preparation by us,” he said. “This also poses the threat of coordinated action along the northern and western fronts, which we have to consider in our defence planning”.
He said the armed forces have planned for the two-front threat. “We have devised strategies to deal with the primary front,” he said, and that the other front will be “secondary”.
“Should any threat develop along our northern borders,” Gen Rawat said, referring to China, “Pakistan could take advantage of that and create some trouble on the northern border, and therefore we have taken adequate precautions to ensure that any such misadventure by Pakistan is thwarted, and they are not able to succeed in their mission. In fact, they may suffer heavy losses should they attempt any misadventure”.
Pakistan, he said, “has been launching proxy war, and sponsoring, training, arming and equipping terrorists on their soil, which they keep infiltrating into Jammu and Kashmir”.
He said India had been conducting bilateral military exercises with China as well but “I am not sure what will be the future of these exercises”. He said while India and China have established protocols since 1993, there have been some aggressive actions by China recently.
“We have our protocols in the way we want to ensure peace and tranquility along the borders. We have our border management protocols, which have been signed between us and China right from 1993 onward, and we have modified the protocols continuously. But of late, we have been seeing some aggressive actions by the Chinese, but we are capable of handling these in the best suitable way. We have our tri-services, that is the Army, Navy and Air Force, capable of dealing with threats along the frontiers.”
Referring to “rising Chinese influence in East, South East and South Asia,” General Rawat said India’s policy of engagement “if not backed by credible military power and regional influence would imply acknowledging China’s pre-eminence and influence in the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean Region”.
As the CDS, he said, his “highest priority will be to ensure that we prioritise the procurement process, and make sure that we get the kind of equipment that is required to turn our forces, our defence services into a modern force, capable of dealing with the threat on our northern and our western borders, and also to dominate the Indian Ocean Region”.
“Today we are living in a very volatile, uncertain, complex and unambiguous world. India faces the most complex threats and challenges spanning the full spectrum of conflict, from nuclear to sub-conventional.”
On the Quad grouping, comprising US, India, Japan and Australia, he said it is “a good arrangement which will ensure that in the Indian Ocean Region and all other oceans, there is complete freedom of navigation, without fear of any nation singularly trying to dominate the oceans”.
Meanwhile, Army chief General Naravane inspected forward areas in eastern Ladakh for an operational review. One of the visits was to a forward area in the Chushul sector, sources said. It was in this sector, on the south bank of Pangong Tso and at Rechin La near Rezang La, that India occupied vacant heights last weekend, giving its troops a commanding view of the terrain. Troops can keep an eye on China’s Moldo garrison and prevent any attempt to ingress via the Spanggur Gap.
General Naravane went to the headquarters of the XIV Corps in Leh, where he was briefed on the ground situation and the preparedness of the Army in the sector.
A day earlier, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria visited the Hasimara and Kalaikunda bases in West Bengal. The IAF, in a statement, said he visited bases of the Eastern Air Command where Air Officers Commanding “apprised him of the readiness state and operational preparedness of the combat units under their command”.
With its headquarters in Shillong, the Eastern Air Command is responsible for the border with China in the east.