India following 'constructive engagement' policy with China: Army chief

India following 'constructive engagement' policy with China: Army chief

India was following a policy of "constructive engagement" with China, army chief Gen. Dalbir Singh said Tuesday, and noted that demarcation of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries was the first step towards resolution of the border dispute.

Addressing the annual press conference ahead of Army Day, Gen. Dalbir Singh said acquisition of artillery guns, third-generation missiles, upgrading armoured vehicles, augmenting army aviation and strengthening infantry were among "critical areas" for force modernisation that were being put on fast-track.

He said infrastructure development, especially along the northern and northeastern borders, remains a priority to "meet the large capability gap".

"Our borders with China remain peaceful as we pursue a policy of constructive engagement. Our confidence building measures have been very effective. Increased army-to-army exchanges have improved our mutual understanding over contentious issues," he said.

He said the Indian security forces were keeping a careful watch over the situation in Afghanistan and its possible spillover into India following withdrawal of the NATO troops.

Gen. Dalbir Singh said demarcation of the LAC, of which India and China have varied perception in some areas, was the first step towards resolution of the border dispute.

He said the two countries patrol according to their perception of the LAC, leading to the possibility of transgression and face-offs in some areas.

Asked if Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proposed to the Chinese leadership about demarcating the LAC, he said such a move will definitely help in resolving the border problem between the two countries.

He said the prime minister giving the suggestion was "itself a reflection (that) this is the first step towards resolution of the border dispute".

"No doubt, unless the LAC gets demarcated, there cannot be further progress in resolving the (question of) boundary," he said.

Answering a query on the new mountain strike corps, the army chief said it was progressing as per laid down timelines and it will "significantly raise" capabilities on the northern front.

"Our threats and challenges continue to grow in intensity and commitment because of active border that we have," he said.

To a query, he said one will have to "wait and watch" if the Pakistan Army had a change of heart since the attack on a Peshawar school by militants.

Answering another query, he said a national war memorial will come up in the India Gate area and the war museum will come up at Prince's Park.

Gen. Dalbir Singh also said he had "very good" operational experience during the Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka and it served him well in his postings later.

Terming his professional journey "very satisfying", he said he offered to go to Sri Lanka and stayed there till the unit came back.

The army chief was the Company Commander during Operation Pawan, the codename for the mission of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in northern and eastern Sri Lanka in the late 1980s that lasted some 30 months.

He said construction of about 70,000 dwelling units was planned under the third phase of the married accommodation plan.

Referring to achievements of army personnel in sports, he said "Mission Olympics remains on track to bring greater glory to the nation".

To a question about the seventh pay commission, he said the three services have a common proposal.

"We, the three service chiefs, decided that our projection must be well understood by the pay commission," he said.

Gen. Dalbir Singh also said the pay commission members visited difficult areas such as Siachen and Kargil and also desert areas.

"We hope we will be able to meet the aspirations (of service personnel)," he said.

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