General Manoj Pande. (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: India’s new Chief of Army Staff Gen. Manoj Pande on Monday said there seems to an attempt by China to prolong the border issue and not to find any immediate resolution. "The basic issue remains the resolution of the border. What we see is that China’s intent has been to keep the boundary issue alive," said Gen. Pande while interacting with a select group of journalists. He said the Indian Army’s aim was to restore the status quo prior to May 2020 when the current military standoff with China started. He said Indian troops continue to hold important positions along the LAC and "our guidance to them is to be firm, resolute and prevent any attempt to alter the status quo", the Army Chief said.
"What we need as a country is a ‘Whole of Nation’ approach and in the military domain, this is to prevent and counter any attempt to alter the status quo at the LAC," said the Army Chief.
Gen. Pande also said in the last couple of years the Army has decided to "rebalance and reorient" to deal with the situation in eastern Ladakh. "Our preparation assures we have a robust posture along the LAC and adequate forces are available to deal with all types of contingencies," said the Army Chief.
He said that the Army’s focus at the LAC was to upgrade its Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and build infrastructure to support operation and logistics. He also said that the induction of new technologies is part of ongoing process of capability development at the entire northern border.
To resolve the border dispute with China, Gen. Pande said India was engaging in diplomatic and military talks with China, which so far has resulted in disengagement on the north and south banks of Pangong Tso, Gogra and Galwan Valley. He said that if "we continued to engage, we will find a resolution through dialogue".
He said that the intention was to re-establish trust and tranquility with China but it can’t be a "one-way affair" and efforts should be made from both sides.
On "theaterisation", which was the mandate of the Chief of Defence Staff, he said the Department of Military Affairs had asked the three services to carry out studies on some of the proposed models which are underway. "Some issues still need to be addressed and taken up for resolution at the appropriate levels," he said.
Gen. Pande said that due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, there could be some impact on the supply chains of certain spares and ammunition to some extent. But he said India has adequate storage and was looking for alternate sources from friendly countries. He said that it was also an opportunity for Indian start-ups to manufacture these spare parts and armaments. Gen. Pande said the conflict demonstrated the relevance of prolonged and conventional war, self-reliance and the significance of information warfare.
"The war holds important lessons. The foremost is that the relevance of conventional war still remains," said Gen Pande. He pointed out that various conventional weapon platforms like artillery guns, tanks, air defence systems and others were deployed in one form or another. "The other lesson is that war is not necessarily short or swift and can prolong like this," he added.
The Army Chief further noted that another lesson the Indian military got was to be "self-reliant" in terms of armaments, equipment and weapons. "We are dependent on certain weapons systems like the air defence systems, tanks and others in Russia and Ukraine," he said. He said the military needs to increase self-reliance and reduce dependency on other countries. "We have already started work in keeping with Make in India," he said. The Army Chief said that the war also showed the importance of information warfare and the building of narratives.
On recent incidents of the killing of non-locals, political workers and minorities in Kashmir, the Army Chief said it was an attempt to create a sensation, get media visibility and to show that the insurgency in the Valley was indigenous. "Through counter-terror operations, we have managed to neutralise such attempts and we have been successful," Gen. Pande added.