Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 15
Amid an ongoing India-Nepal diplomatic row, Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane on Friday said there had never been an issue about the tri-junction (of India-China-Nepal) and added that Nepal might have raised the issue at “someone else’s behest”.
Though he did not name China, the hint was amply clear as Beijing was the only interested party to it.
Nepal has been protesting after India on May 8 opened a road till the Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand for connecting India with Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet, China.
General Naravane was answering questions after a talk on “COVID and Indian Army: Responses and Beyond” at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA).
He was asked a question by Vice Admiral Sekhar Sinha (retd) on why was Nepal protesting on “our road” across the Lipulekh and why had it decided to set up a border post at the spot.
“Do you see a link between Lipulekh and the recent clashes between the Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh and Sikkim?” the Admiral asked.
The Army Chief said there was no contradiction in Lipulekh. “We have made a road west of the Kali river. Nepal has accepted its territory is to the east of Kali river. There has never been an issue about the tri-junction (Nepal is protesting that the Lipulekh pass is not with India),” said Naravane.
“Nepal may have raised the issue at someone else’s behest,” he added.
However, he saw no connection between the face-offs and any other events.
‘Technology to drive battlefield’
Earlier during his 30 minute talk, the General stressed upon technology saying, will the tanks and large aerial platforms be needed in the future or should we be looking beyond?
The rate of change in technology will drive the battlefield. Because of technology we will have to shift from man power intensive to technology intensive, there could be 10 to 15 per cent reduction in manpower. The human being will be needed to take the tactical decision, he said.
After the Balakot strikes (February 2019) and surgical strikes (September 2016), it shows that attacks like these would be short of conventional war. “We are working at having strategy,” he said.
On the forthcoming joint commands, the General said, the integrated air defence command would be up soon. It would be followed by maritime command. Then the Army is looking at the western theatre and the Northern theatre. Don’t get bogged down with names, he said. “We have had a couple of brain storming sessions and matters are being dealt as per operational necessity to suit our peculiar requirements,” said the Army Chief.
On the Integrated Battle Groups (IBG), he said it’s based on very clear operational imperatives. “It will not cause any change to operational readiness or reduce combat potential. It is an idea whose time has come due to better weapons, improved mobility and communication.”
On Covid impacting the Army, the Army Chief said none of the Army units in operational areas in Northern Command and Eastern Command had a case of the virus. “This is because at the borders, we are free from any interaction with outside population,” the Chief of the Army explained.
“We cannot have social distancing in an ambush or inside a tank, it’s impossible,” he said.
On impending budgetary cuts, he said, “No cuts will be imposed at the cost operational efficiency or readiness”.
There will be budgetary constraints, how much we cannot say, he said.
Budgetary investment in safety is investment in growth, he gave the example of how the Sensex grew after Balakot strikes.
He gave another example saying forces spend Rs 1,000 crore per annum in and around Bathinda Cantt.
Areas have been identified for budget saving. Some 100 units which were slated to move from one peace location to another, will not move. Only those from high altitude of counter insurgency operations will be relieved, he said.
The Army may not have large formation training in Rajasthan, the Chief added.
On being asked about the two-front war he said it was now “two front plus half in Counter Terrorists and add another half for Covid”.
However, he said “Both fronts will not be 100 per cent active. There will be priority front and secondary front, the latter will be kept as dormant. Two front would not be just military offensive but a diplomatic effort too.”
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