The Indian Army is ready to stand its ground in eastern Ladakh for as long as it takes to resolve the stand-off with China, Army Chief General MM Naravane said Tuesday. Addressing his annual press conference, Naravane acknowledged a “collusive threat” from Pakistan and China that is “manifesting itself” on the ground but added that the Indian forces are prepared to handle any eventuality.
The Army Chief sidestepped questions about how much land India had lost access to since the stand-off began in early May and stated that the situation is the same as it was last year.
Speaking ahead of the Army Day on January 15, Naravane also said any talks with China will be conducted on the principle of equal security.
“As far as the areas in eastern Ladakh are concerned, the situation is the same as was prevailing last year, there has been no change in the status quo,” he said. “We are hoping that based on the principle of mutual and equal security we will be able to reach an agreement, which would result in disengagement and de-escalation. Disengagement from the friction areas, and once this disengagement has been achieved, then an overall de-escalation and reduction in the strength of the troops in the forward areas.”
He said that the “talks are an ongoing process” and added that “we will ensure that through the medium of these talks, we reach a solution that is acceptable and not detrimental to our interests”.
“If the talks get prolonged, so be it. We are prepared to hold our ground, where we are for as long as it takes to achieve our national goals and interests,” he said.
Naravane stated that the Army is ready to meet any eventuality. And he asserted that all logistical aspects have been taken care of—be it clothing, ration or habitat.
He said the date for the ninth round of senior commander talks is awaited and expressed hope for an amicable solution “through dialogue and discussions”.
On the concerns over India’s western and northern neighbours, the Army chief said: “There is no doubt that Pakistan and China together form a potent threat and there is an aspect of collusivity, which cannot be wished away, and that is also very much part of our strategic planning and calculus, when we are formulating our plans”. He stated: “There is no doubt that a collusive threat exists and it is very much manifesting itself on the ground”.
The Army chief downplayed the significance of reports of nearly 10,000 Chinese troops pulling back from the Tibetan region. These troops, he said, come to their traditional training areas every year and leave once the exercise is complete and the winter sets in.
Discussing the role of the Army in internal security in Kashmir and northeastern states, he said that the situation in Kashmir’s hinterland has “improved” but “terror continues unabated”. In the North-East, however, he said “we are indeed drawing down and reducing footprint in internal duties and focus on primary task of external threats”.
Starting July, Army would start training women as pilots, Naravane said. He mentioned that women officers were only part of the Air Traffic Control till now.