Till Tibet is settled, army chief Naravane must hold back on China border issue
Not only does this show a shift in the defence position, but his statement is also a clear indication that under his leadership, the Army intends to enhance its capability from the northern borders, such as in the northeast.
Even though there isn’t any immediate threat of any kind – standard or non-conventional – on the northern front, where India shares a border with China, Bhutan, and Nepal, the Army chief’s statement can’t be dismissed as simply’taking over office’ speech.
We have been giving attention. The northern front now also requires an equal amount of attention,’ he told the press after taking over as the 28th leader of the Indian Army, succeeding General Bipin Rawat, who is currently India’s first Chief of Defence Staff.
Equally significant was Gen Naravane’s assertion that the force is capable of dealing with any security challenge. The warning from the chief of the second-largest army in the world – almost 14 lakh active staff, 11.55 lakh reserve forces and another paramilitary force of 20 lakh recruits – should not be dismissed by our errant neighbour, Pakistan. The Army chief’s reference to Balakot strikes while reiterating that’India reserves the right to pre-emptively attack’ in the sources of terror assumes greater importance.
The Narendra Modi government has since 2014 revealed that while there is not any radical change in New Delhi’s foreign or defence policies, the response mechanism has surely changed, and for the better. The Army chief’s reiteration that a’new normal’ in India’s response mechanism to acts of cross-border terrorism has been phatically’ displayed will be adequately taken note of not just by Islamabad but also the string-pullers in Beijing.
It should be noted that China’s response was muted, to say the least. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who had at the time stressed on the need for preventing escalation and solving the matter through dialogue, met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in December to present China’s border talks plan with India, nearly indicating how Beijing would react in the event of another such’pre-emptive’ strike.
After this meeting, China suggested a fairly new draft framework to resolve the long-pending border dispute that India is now going over.
Since that proposal, the Army, after change of guard at the bottom level, has outlined not only the focus area – the northern boundary – but the’how’ as well. ‘We don’t need to be competitive but firm.’ Certainly, the Army is laying it out how it would go about achieving what the chief had earlier described as’eventual solution’ across the India-China border.
But is it needed?
India-China border dispute has a number of strategic locations all along the non-demarcated former India-Tibet border – from Aksai Chin to Arunachal Pradesh. Aksai Chin, the uninhabited high elevation wasteland that lies in Ladakh and Xinjiang province connects China to six countries and also to India through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
China has refused to include Aksai Chin in border talks under the pretext that the region, ceded to it illegally by Pakistan, is part of the’disputed’ area of POK. New Delhi has contacted Beijing that India’s stand on Aksai Chin remains unchanged from the time Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had described Aksai Chin as’part of the Ladakh region of India for centuries’ and that this northern boundary was a’firm and definite one which was not open to discussion with anyone’.
This explains China’s discomfort over India’s move regarding Article 370 and the creation of two Union Territories from the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state followed by the subsequent statements on POK by External Affairs Minister Jaishankar -‘PoK a part of India and we expect one day that we’ll have physical jurisdiction over it’
Army chief General Naravane, when asked about these statements that were regular on’taking over POK’, stated that’the Army analyses strategises and all threats accordingly’. In simple English, it merely means that the Army is ready to execute any strategy that the political and security establishments would prepare for it.