Soon after he took over as the 28th Army chief on Tuesday, Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane sent a stern message across the border – India reserves the right of hitting back if Pakistan continued to flirt with terrorism as a tool for proxy war.
“India reserves the right to preemptively strike at sources of terror threat if the neighbouring country does not stop state-sponsored terrorism. A strategy of resolute punitive response has been evolved to punish cross-border terrorism,” Gen Naravane said in a media interview.
“Our neighbour is trying to use terrorism as tool of state policy, as a way of carrying out a proxy war against us while maintaining deniability. However, this state can't last long, as they say you can't fool all the people, all the time.”
Commissioned in the Sikh Light Infantry in June 1980, Lt Gen Naravane served as the Vice Chief of the Army, Commander in Chief of the Eastern Command in Kolkata as well as the Training Command in Shimla before taking over as the Chief of Army Staff from Gen Bipin Rawat. He would remain the Army Chief till April 2022.
“The Pakistan Army's proxy war design received a setback due to elimination of terrorists and decimation of terror networks (by India). The situation in Kashmir has improved after Article 370 was abrogated. The number of terrorist initiated incidences, as well as local ones, have gone down,” he said.
On the other hand, the situation at the China border remained peaceful as modalities are in place to resolve small pinpricks at the Battalion and Brigade level, Gen Naravane said, noting that the New Year would be celebrated by the Indian and Chinese troops on the disputed Sino-Indian border at five sites on Wednesday.
Gen Naravane said the recently concluded Exercise HimVijay – the first operation drill by the Mountain Strike Corps in Arunachal Pradesh – was a success following which 17 Corps was ready to take on any task.
Asked about the restructuring of the Army, he observed the transformation of the Brigades and Divisions into Integrated Battle Groups – as envisaged by Gen Rawat – would not happen over night and a minimum of two years were required for the single corps to accommodate the IBGs in place of brigades and divisions.
“There would be no sudden lessening of operational preparedness,” he said in one of his interviews.