Press Trust of india

Army Chief sees ‘Pakistan, China combo’ a potent threat

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Says will never tolerate ‘cross-border terrorism’; hopeful of solution to Ladakh standoff; ready to deal with any eventuality

 New Delhi: Pakistan and China together form a potent threat to national security and their collusive approach towards India cannot be wished away, Army Chief Gen MM Naravane said on Tuesday.

Addressing a press conference ahead of Army Day, Gen Naravane elaborated extensively on the situation in eastern Ladakh, and said Indian troops have been maintaining a very high level of combat readiness to effectively deal with any eventualities in the region.

The Chief of Army staff said he was hopeful that India and China will be able to reach an agreement for disengagement and de-escalation based on an approach of mutual and equal security.

At the same time, Gen Naravane, apparently referring to capture of certain strategic heights along the southern bank of Pangong lake by the Indian Army, said his force will hold on to its positions in eastern Ladakh based on its national interest and goals.

Talking about the overall national security challenges, the Army Chief said collusive approach of both China and Pakistan towards India is manifesting on the ground.

“Pakistan and China together form a potent threat and the threat of collusivity cannot be wished away,” he said.

The Chief of Army staff said India will have to be prepared to deal with a “two-front” threat scenario.

He said there has been an increasing cooperation between China and Pakistan in both military and non-military sectors.

In a message to Pakistan, Chief of Army Staff said India will never tolerate cross-border terrorism and it reserves the right to respond with precision to any terror activity at a time and place of its choosing.

“Pakistan continues to embrace terrorism as an instrument of state policy. However, we are very clear that we have zero-tolerance for terror and we reserve our right to respond at a time and place of our own choosing and with precision,” he said.

He said India has sent a clear message to Pakistan that it will not tolerate any terrorist activities.

Talking about Jammu and Kashmir, Gen Naravane said though the situation in hinterland has improved, it has not yet reached a level when the government can contemplate moving troops out of the union territory.

Notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan has been resorting to “unprovoked ceasefire violations” along the LoC and making concerted efforts to push militants into Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Gen MM Naravane said he was hopeful that India and China  will be able to reach an agreement to resolve the eastern Ladakh standoff but at the same time asserted that Indian troops will maintain a high state of combat readiness to deal with any eventuality.

Addressing a press conference ahead of the Army Day, Gen Naravane said the operational preparedness of the Indian armed forces has been of very high level and they will continue to hold onto their ground.

“We are prepared to hold our ground as long it takes to achieve our national goals and objectives,” he said.

Talking about increasing security challenges at the Line of Actual Control, the Chief of Army Staff said a need was felt about “rebalancing” of troops along the northern borders, adding “that is what we have put in place now.”

The Chief of Army staff said he was hopeful that India and China will be able to reach an agreement for disengagement and de-escalation based on an approach of mutual and equal security.

“I am confident of finding a solution to the issue on the basis of mutual and equal security,” he said.

Gen Naravane said there was no reduction in deployment of troops by both India and China in eastern Ladakh.

The Chief of Army Staff said Indian troops are maintaining high level of alertness all along the Line of Actual Control and not just Ladakh.

Nearly 50,000 troops of the Indian Army are currently deployed in a high state of combat readiness in various mountainous locations in eastern Ladakh in sub-zero temperatures as multiple rounds of talks between the two sides have not yielded concrete outcome to resolve the standoff.

China has also deployed an equal number of troops, according to officials.

Last month, India and China held another round of diplomatic talks under the framework of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs.

The eighth and last round of military talks between the two sides had taken place on November 6 during which both sides broadly discussed disengagement of troops from specific friction points.

India has all along been maintaining that the onus is on China to carry forward the process of disengagement and de-escalation at the friction points in the mountainous region.

Following the sixth round of military talks, the two sides had announced a slew of decisions including not to send more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground and avoid taking any actions that may further complicate matters.

This round was held with a specific agenda of exploring ways to implement a five-point agreement reached between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) conclave.

The pact included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.

Gen Naravane trashes report on stress in Army

“I am stressed too. Stress is not a bad thing,” Army chief Gen MM Naravane said in a lighter vein on Tuesday, dismissing a recently reported survey that claimed that more than half of Indian Army personnel seem to be under severe stress.

The Chief of Army Staff said that the report was based on an inadequate sample size of 400.

He said that several steps were being taken to reduce stress among the personnel, and noted that the number of suicides in the force has been coming down.

“Based on a sample of 400, we cannot say there is stress or no stress.

“There could be stress. I am stressed too. Stress is not a bad thing. It can result in good work,” Gen Naravane said while replying to a query at a press conference.

The report published by leading military think-tank United Service Institution of India (USI) said that more than half of Indian Army personnel seemed to be under severe stress and the force has been losing more personnel every year in suicides, fratricides and untoward incidents than in any enemy action.

The report was removed from the website of the USI last week.

“I too read the report. I would like to say that the sample size for the report was only 400. I think it was not an adequate sample size. If you want a 99 percent accuracy with 1 percent margin of error, then the size of the samples should have been 19,000 for such a study,” Gen Naravane said.

“And if you were looking for 95 percent accuracy, it will come down to 7,000-8,000 sample sizes,” he said.

To deal with the problem of stress, the Chief of Army Staff said several initiatives were being taken, including sending advisories.

“We have taken note of the factors that can lead to stress. For example, somebody might not be having children, someone might not be getting married, someone’s child is in class 12th and it also results in stress; whether the child’s result will come or not, where the child will get admission,” Gen Naravane listed as possible reasons for stress.

“We have analysed all these factors. Keeping this in mind, we have been in constant touch with officers in the level of company commanders and the commanding officers” to help those requiring assistance, he said.

Gen Naravane said the figure of suicides has come down year-on-year.

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