Army chief stresses on focusing on northern border, says India not weak

Army chief stresses on focusing on northern border, says India not weak

New Delhi, January 12 (IANS) China is strong, and has been asserting itself, but India is not a weak country, Army chief General Bipin Rawat said on Friday, stressing that the focus now needs to shift from the western to the northern border.

 

Addressing the customary annual press conference of the Army ahead of the Army Day on January 15, General Rawat for the first time talked in detail about the India-China stand-off on the Doklam plateau along the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China for over two months.

 

He also said that India and China are working on establishing a hotline, like the one India has with Pakistan, and it will be in place soon.

 

“The focus has to shift to the northern borders (with China). We have focused too long on the western side (bordering Pakistan),” the Army chief said.

 

He said the terrain along the northern borders was in favour of India.

 

The Army chief said China has emerged as a powerful country, adding that dealing with the Communist giant was the government’s job.

 

“China is emerging as a powerful country, though I will not call it a global power. But certainly, it has emerged as a regional power. It is becoming assertive. We understand China is a powerful country, but we are also not a weak nation,” he said.

 

He, however, hastened to add that India is also seeking support from other countries in the region so that it is not isolated.

 

General Rawat said infrastructure development in areas along the northern borders needed speeding up, adding that India should also be prepared for future wars in the cyber space.

 

Asked about increase in incidents of interaction between Indian and Chinese soldiers, the Army chief said it is a result of increase in the number of Indian troops on the borders and increased patrolling.

 

“Contact started increasing with increase in patrolling by both sides. Therefore, a large number of transgressions are taking place,” he said adding that transgressions take place due to different perceptions of the Line of Actual Control between the two countries.

 

Talking about the Doklam issue, the Army chief said Chinese troops have maintained their presence in the northern part of Doklam, which is Chinese territory.

 

He said road construction had been on in Doklam since 2000, but the Chinese soldiers had come close to Tosa Nala — which divides north and south Doklam — with a large number of manpower and equipment in June last year, just before the India-China standoff started.

 

“We felt they will probably try and claim the whole of Doklam and build a road there… possible reach where the RBA (Royal Bhutan Army) post is… it was also posing a threat to us as it was changing the status quo,” he said.

 

“We felt they could take the road further down south… it is then we were compelled to take action… that is what led to a stalemate.”

 

General Rawat said the Chinese presence in the northern part of Doklam continued but has thinned out and the level of activity has also gone down.

 

“The Chinese have stayed put in the area. We have come back to our own territory; we are in the watershed; and the Chinese have gone back that much distance but behind that they have maintained themselves.”

 

General Rawat said the thinning might be due to the winter season, or because China wanted to de-escalate.

 

Talking about the western border, he said the ceasefire violations along the Line of Control has increased as Army was targeting Pakistan posts that were aiding terrorists.

 

General Rawat also said that casualties of the Pakistan side were “three to four times more” than on the Indian side, stressing this was being done so that they can feel the pain and a message is conveyed.

 

He said the Indian government had told the Army to conduct operation “in the manner they deem fit”.

 

About a situation of a two-front war, he said: “We will be able to take care of the scenario. In last one year there has been lot of upgradation.”

 

He also denied any direct Chinese support to terrorists in Pakistan.

 

Speaking of Jammu and Kashmir, the Army chief stressed the need for an overhaul of the education system in the state.