New Delhi: Army Chief Gen MM Naravane on Friday said there were reasons to believe that Nepal objected to India’s newly-inaugurated road linking Lipulekh Pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand at the behest of “someone else”, in an apparent reference to a possible role by China on the matter.
In an interaction at a defence think-tank, Gen Naravane said there was no dispute whatsoever between India and Nepal in the area and road laid was very much within the Indian side.
“The Nepalese Ambassador mentioned that the area east of the Kali river belongs to them. There is no dispute in that. The road that we built is on the west of the river,” the Army Chief said.
“There has never been any problem in the past. There is reason to believe that they might have raised the issue at the behest of someone else and that is very much a possibility,” he said.
The 80-KM-long strategically crucial road at a height of 17,000 KM along the border with China in Uttarakhand was thrown open by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh last week.
Nepal on Saturday raised objection to inauguration of the road, saying the “unilateral act” was against the understanding reached between the two countries on resolving the border issues.
Talking about evolving security scenario in India’s neighbourhood, Gen Naravane said the country will have to remain “alive” to a scenario of of a “two-front” war along the Northern and Western borders but noted that he did not foresee possibility of every confrontation leading to such a situation.
On the Army’s big-ticket proposal to induct youngsters for a three year tenure under the Tour of Duty (ToD) concept, the Army Chief said the idea germinated following feedback from school and college students that they want to experience military life without opting a permanent career in the Army.
Gen Naravane said the ToD will help the Army in cutting down revenue expenses on account of payment of pensions and other benefits.
In replying to a question, he said the Army has received an order from the government to cut expenditure by 20 per cent from the current fiscal due to the COVID-19 crisis, adding the force is implementing it without compromising on its combat readiness.
Expenditure is being cut through a variety of measures including restricting large movements of troops, he said in the video-conference organised by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
On two separate incidents of face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops, he said there was no link between the two, adding “We are dealing with them on a case-by-case basis. I have not seen any concerted design into the face-offs.”
“We (troops from both sides) are meeting at 10 different places and it is business as usual,” he added.
On May 5, around 250 Indian and Chinese army personnel clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in Pangong Tso area in Eastern Ladakh. Four days later, there was a similar face-off near Naku La Pass in North Sikkim.
On Thursday, the External Affairs Ministry said India remained committed to maintaining peace and tranquility along the border with China and noted that such incidents could have been avoided if there was a common perception about the frontier.
Asked about the possibility of India facing a two-front war along the borders with China and Pakistan, Gen Naravane said it is a possibility and that the country will have to remain prepared to deal with such a scenario.
“It is a possibility. It is not that it is going to happen every time. We have to be alive to all contingencies which can happen, various scenarios that can unfold. We have to remain alive to the possibility.
“But to assume that in all cases both fronts would be 100 active, I think that would be an incorrect assumption to make. In dealing with two front scenario, there will always be a priority front and a secondary front. That is how we look at dealing with this two front threat,” he said.
He said the priority front would be addressed in a different manner while the secondary front will be kept as dormant as possible just to conserve resources to focus on the priority front.
“We should not look at a two-front scenario just as a military responsibility. A country does not go to war with its armed forces alone. It has other pillars like diplomatic corp and other organs of government which will come into play to make sure that we are not forced into a corner where we will have to deal with two adversaries at the same time and in full strength,” he added.
“I think that’s where the whole-of-the-nation approach will come into play,” said the Army Chief.