Army Chief sees collusive threat from China and Pakistan
Army Chief Gen. Manoj Naravane on Tuesday asserted that the Army was ready to hold its ground as long as it took along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh to achieve the national objectives, and noted that a collusive threat from China and Pakistan existed and India must be ready for it.
“Every summer, for training, a number of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) units come to Tibet and go back once winter sets in. These traditional areas have been vacated. They are well in depth anything from 500-1500 km away from the border. We should not lay too much significance on these comings and goings. But we keep an eye on them as these are the forces that can be mobilised in 24-48 hours,” he said at the Army’s annual press conference in response to questions if China has withdrawn some troops from the depth areas.
“There has been no reduction of troops in the friction areas or where we are in eyeball to eyeball situations,” he stated.
On the beginning of the stand-off in May last, he said, the PLA mobilisation last year was an annual affair as they came for training exercises to Tibet and they were fully aware of their deployment. “But they had a first mover advantage...We had the same advantage in August when we surprised the Chinese despite an eyeball to eyeball situation,” he said.
On the threat of a two-front war, he stated that there was no doubt a collusive threat existed. It was very much manifesting on the ground. “There is increased cooperation between Pakistan and China, both in military and non-military fields. A two-front situation is something we must be ready to deal with.”
Responding to questions on the talks to resolve the stand-off, he said both sides were working to finalise the dates for the 9th round of Corps Commander talks. Based on “mutual and equal security” a solution could be reached, leading to disengagement and de-escalation. “Once disengagement is achieved, then an overall de-escalation and reduction of troops in the forward areas”, he remarked.
Following the stand-off last year, the Army was reorganising some of its strike elements from the western front to the northern front. “Periodic reviews of our threats are carried out, based on which certain amount of rebalancing is done. As the events in Eastern Ladakh have shown, there was indeed a requirement for some rebalancing towards our northern borders. That is what we have put in place,” he said.
To questions on the Army reducing its units for internal security duties in Kashmir and the Northeast, Gen. Naravane said that while the situation in hinterland in Kashmir had somewhat improved, it had not reached a point where they could contemplate moving troops out of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
“In the Northeast, the situation has improved many fold... We are indeed drawing down and reducing footprint in internal duties and focus on primary task of external threats,” he stated. Already one Brigade had been withdrawn and soon 2-3 Brigades could be withdrawn, and law and order duties handed over to police, he noted.
Women officers as pilots
Following the Navy and the Air Force, the Army would soon induct women officers as pilots in Army Aviation. Gen Naravane said he had initiated a proposal last month to enable this. “We are thinking that in the next course in July 2021, we will admit women officers for pilot training. And after one year of training they will be deployed for flying duties in front line operational units.”
Gen. Naravane dismissed a study by the United Service Institution of India (USI) that said over half the Indian Army personnel were under stress, saying that the sample size was just 400. For 99% accuracy, at least 19,000 samples should have been taken, he said, adding that a number of measures have been taken to reduce stress and the number of suicides have gone down over the years.