NEW DELHI: India is re-orienting its military deployment to increase troop levels on the frontier with China while persisting with its order of battle on the border with Pakistan. The ceasefire with Pakistan along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is also nearly in tatters.
“For too long have we been focused on the western border. Our focus has to shift to the northern border,” the chief of army staff, General Bipin Rawat, said here on Friday. The western border is the one with Pakistan. The northern refers to the frontier with China.
“China is becoming assertive on the northern. But there has to be a whole-of-government approach that includes diplomacy and not the army alone,” the chief said.
He said that since the 73-day face-off with the Chinese at Doklam in Bhutan in June-July last year, the Chinese have retained a portion of the plateau that they dispute with the Bhutanese.
“Doklam has two parts – north and south – with the Torsa nullah running in between. They were building a road through three passes heading south towards the Jampheri Ridge that is when we stopped them. Now the troops have separated. But we can see Chinese troops in North Doklam, we can see their tents and kitchens. There has been a thinning-out but yes they are there,” General Rawat said.
“We understand China is a powerful country but we are not a weak nation. We have increased our troop levels on the China front. There is no belligerence but we are now patrolling hitherto unpatrolled areas and that is why there are more intrusions,” the General said.
The mandate for the Indian military is to be prepared for a two-front war. An additional ‘half-front’ includes insurgency. The army chief said that in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian army was targeting Pakistani army posts that were giving “covering fire to terrorists”. He said the Pakistanis have been requesting a return to the 2003 ceasefire situation. “We can consider it if infiltration levels come down,” he said.
This is the first time an army chief has said that the ceasefire with Pakistan is almost not holding. Asked if the continuous small arms fire would not lead to escalation, General Rawat said the effort was to keep it under control. An escalation in the past led to Pakistan rattling the nuclear sabre. “I think if Pakistan were to raise the nuclear bogey we will call their bluff,” the army chief said.