In stern warning to Pak, Gen Rawat says ‘India capable of handling two-front threat’
Amid rising tensions with China in the Ladakh sector after provocative Chinese actions on the southern bank of Pangong Tso and India’s counter-manoeuvres to occupy key heights, chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat on Thursday said Pakistan could try to take advantage of any threat developing along India’s northern borders but warned that the Pakistani army would suffer heavy losses if it attempted any misadventure.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the United States-India Strategic Partnership Forum on ‘Navigating New Challenges’, Rawat highlighted the threat of “coordinated action” by the militaries of China and Pakistan along the northern and western borders and stressed that the Indian armed forces were capable of handling the joint threat.
The CDS said India’s military strategy to deal with a twin challenge would be based on identifying a primary and a secondary front for conducting operations.
His comments came on a day when Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane reached Leh for a two-day security review of the Ladakh sector where India and China armies have deployed almost 100,000 soldiers and weaponry in their forward and depth areas.
The Indian Army has rejigged its deployments at multiple points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, including the northern bank of Pangong Lake, to prevent the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from making aggressive manoeuvres to unilaterally alter the status quo in the contested areas.
Tensions flared in the sensitive sector after the Indian Army occupied key heights on the southern bank of Pangong Lake five days ago to stop the PLA from grabbing Indian territory in a stealthy midnight move.
Brigade commander-ranked officers from the two sides met for the fourth time in Chushul on Thursday to de-escalate tensions but the talks were inconclusive with neither army prepared to make concessions.
On Wednesday, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria visited frontline bases under the Shillong-based Eastern Air Command to review the air force’s operational readiness in the eastern sector.
India has strengthened its military posture across the length of the LAC -- from Ladakh to Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh - to deal with any provocation by the Chinese military.
India is also keeping a strict vigil on the western front to deter Pakistan from fishing in troubled waters and prevent what could turn out to be a two-front conflict.
Experts said collusive action by China and Pakistan was a possibility. “While hostility with Pakistan is out in the open, we are now witnessing military coercion by China in the Ladakh sector. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could collude militarily. They already have strategic collusion,” said Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd), a former Northern Army commander.
Reports prepared by the parliamentary standing committee on defence over the last decade have delved into the threat China and Pakistan could pose together. Pakistan was likely to step up hostilities if China were to launch offensive operations against India, a senior military officer told the committee in 2014. He, however, stressed that China might not pose a collusive threat if hostilities were to break out between India and Pakistan.
In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India’s sovereignty was supreme and if anyone threatened it — from the Line of Control (LoC) to the LAC — the armed forces would respond to them “in the same language”.
Rawat said India has border management protocols with China to promote peace and tranquillity along the border but of late there have been aggressive actions by China that the Indian military is fully capable of handling. He said India was keeping track of the infrastructure development by China in the Tibet Autonomous Region and its implications were being considered while devising military strategy.
The CDS referred to the Quad as a good arrangement to ensure complete freedom of navigation on the high seas and overflight, and unimpeded commerce. China has also been wary of the Quadrilateral security dialogue or Quad that was revived in late 2017 by India, the US, Australia and Japan, and these suspicions have increased since the four countries upgraded the forum to the ministerial level last year.
Rawat said India and the US could soon finalise the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for sharing geospatial intelligence. He said India was seeking collaboration with the US to acquire high-end technologies in areas such as aerospace, space and artificial intelligence.
He added there was tremendous scope for investments in India with the foreign direct investment limit raised to 74 percent.