In a clear reference to China and Pakistan, Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that the threat of collusion is the “maximum” in Siachen and Shaksgam valley, while adding that the army is “rebalancing” its deployments and resources on the western and northern fronts.
Naravane, while addressing his first press conference after taking over as the Army Chief, said that Siachen is strategically very important to India. “That is one area where a formation is looking at both the western and the northern fronts. That is what makes it so strategically important. We must not lose sight that this is where the collusivity can happen. Therefore it is important to be on guard and keep that area in our possession,” he said.
Elaborating on the collusion between Pakistan and China, Naravane explained, “it can be both physical on land borders and in other spheres also. As far as the land border is concerned that is where the two countries are closest to each other. The threat of collusivity is maximum in Siachen and Shaksgam valley. Collusivity is also in other realms in technology and in coming to each other’s help in times of trouble.”
The Siachen Glacier is a bone of contention between India and Pakistan. The Indian Army had gained control of it in 1984. Pakistan had made several assaults to capture it, but failed. Meanwhile, there have been reports claiming that China has constructed a road in the Shaksgam Valley, located north of Siachen, although the army has denied it in the past.
On the army’s strategy for the border with China, Naravane explained, “we have to balance out our requirements and deployments to cater for both west and north. For the northern frontiers, we are going for capacity building, which include building roads to forward areas, habitats, storage for ammunition and moving some of our advanced weapons system to eastern side. In a way of balancing out we can meet a threat from any direction. As a result of this rebalancing, we are now prepared for this challenge.”
The Army Chief said that the army’s perspective plan and evaluation of threats and challenges over the years was focussed on the western front. “We now feel that both the western and northern fronts are equally important. In that context, that rebalancing is taking place,” he said.
In scenarios where there are simultaneous threats from both Pakistan and China, he explained that there will be a primary front and a secondary front. “The bulk of our forces and resources will be concentrated on the primary front. On the other front, we will adopt a more deterrent posture, so that we are not found wanting,” he said.
Dual-task formations that are ready to shift from the western to the eastern front and vice versa gain importance in this situation. “In this manner, we will be able to deal with both fronts to ensure territorial integrity is not compromised,” he said.
Naravane explained that the long term threat will always be conventional war and preparations in terms of improving training and new acquisitions are being made. “The short term requirement of getting involved in counter insurgency and counter-terrorist operations will remain for the possible future. But with the Rashtriya Rifles and Assam Rifles battalions who are facing the brunt of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations, the regular army is training for its primary role which is the conventional war,” he said.
“The various we are making, be it the towed gun system or ultra light howitzers and those in the electronic warfare domain is for conventional war. We have not lost sight of our primary aim, while remaining engaged in CI, CT operations,” he added.