New Delhi: Expressing concern over large scale build-up by China across the LAC in eastern Ladakh, Army Chief General MM Naravane said it appeared that the Chinese forces are there to stay, and added that Indian soldiers would also continue at their position.
Speaking at the India Today Conclave 2021, the Army Chief expressed concern that the LAC (Line of Actual Control) may turn into another LoC (Line of Control), though it would not be active like the western border.
The comments come a day ahead of the 13th round of Corps Commander level talks between India and China scheduled on Sunday at Moldo on the Chinese side of LAC, opposite Chushul. The two sides will discuss the next phase of disengagement and overall deescalation.
The Army Chief also said that infiltration attempts and ceasefire violations have started again along the Line of Control.
General Naravane called the large-scale build up of China a matter of concern, and wondered what prompted China to do this in the middle of a pandemic.
“Yes it has been a matter of concern, the large scale build up that has occurred, continues to be in place, to sustain that kind of build up there has been infrastructure development on the Chinese side. It means they are there to stay,” said the Army Chief.
“We are keeping close watch on the development, but if they are there to stay, we are there to stay too. The buildup on our side and developments on our side, I would say are as good as what PLA has done,” he said at the India Today Conclave.
He however added that this may create a LoC like situation at LAC, “What this would result in, especially if they continue to stay for a second winter, we will be in a kind of LoC like situation, though not an active LoC as is there on the western front, we will have to keep a close eye on all the build up and deployments to see they don’t get into any misadventure once again”.
Asked what may have provoked China for the action, the Army Chief said, “It has been very difficult to understand why they should have done this especially when the world was reeling under Covid pandemic, and considering that they also have certain issues on their eastern seaboard… whatever it might have been I don’t think that they have been able to achieve any of those aims because of rapid response by Indian forces”.
He also emphasized on the need to have “boots on ground” to maintain territory, even as he talked about technology dominating future wars.
“We have two unsettled borders, both on our west and our north, so although it is good to be talking about technology, the nature of these unsettled borders make it necessary to also have boots on ground. Physical occupation of territory to be able to stake our claim to it and to protect territorial integrity, these necessities aren’t going anywhere,” he said.
Talking about the western border, he said ceasefire violations have increased.
The Army Chief said a ceasefire agreement was signed in 2003, however, it was as good as being non-existent for long. However, from the end of February to around middle July, the ceasefire agreement was adhered to.
He said incidents of infiltration have started again, and three incidents of posts on both sides engaging in fire have taken place.
The Army Chief added that it can’t be said at present if this increase has anything to do with the situation in Afghanistan.
“What we can learn from the past is that when the previous Taliban regime was in power. It was in the early 2000s, that time definitely we had foreign terrorists of Afghan origin in J&K. There are reasons to believe the same thing may happen once again, once the situation in Afghanistan stabilizes we may see the inflow of fighters from Afghanistan into J&K, but we are prepared,” he said.
Asked about possibility of a two front war, the Army Chief said, “Wars are not fought by Armies alone, wars are fought by nation, at a national level, at the political level, at the diplomatic level all steps would be taken to ensure that we don’t come to a situation where we are facing two enemies at a time”.
Asked about the QUAD, he said it is a grouping of four like minded democracies, and a security dialogue which apart from defence also included fields like healthcare, and environment that the countries are working on together.