Army Chief Gen. Manoj Naravane on Tuesday asserted that the Army was ready to hold 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. These 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 they can be moved to the front in 24-48 hours,” he said at the Army’s annual press conference.
“There has been no reduction in the friction areas or where we are in eyeball to eyeball situations,” he said in response to questions if China has withdrawn some troops from the depth areas.
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 exercises and “we 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 confrontation.”
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 a growing cooperation between Pakistan and China, both in military and other areas. 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 in “equal and mutual security” a solution can be reached, leading to disengagement from the friction areas. “Once that is achieved, there can be a de-induction of troops and equipment from across the LAC”, 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 and that is taking 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 added.