'China, Pak can collude near Siachen, Shaksgam valley'

New Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane. (PTI Photo)

India is in the process of rebalancing its forces with a focus on the northern border so that it does not lose sight of possible collusion between China and Pakistan, particularly in the areas near Siachen glacier and Shaksgam Valley, Army Chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane said here on Saturday.

“We must not lose sight where collusivity (sic) can happen. The collusion can either be physical or in many other spheres. On the land border, two countries are closest to each other in Siachen and Shaksgam Valley. At one point of time, the threat was more on the western front but now we feel both western and northern frontiers are equally important,” the Army Chief said in his annual press conference ahead of the Army Day.

“Siachen is very important to us where one formation is looking after western and northern fronts. It is strategically important. It is from there where collusion can happen,” he said.

As a part of the rebalancing strategy, India now builds roads in the forward areas, develops storage for logistics and ammunition and moves advanced weapon systems towards the eastern side.

Traditionally, Indian Army focused on the western frontier as it fought Pakistan-sponsored proxy wars for decades besides three conventional wars. But several flashpoints have erupted in the recent past on the 3,488 km long disputed Line of Actual Control, the de-facto border between the India and China.

Gen Naravane admitted that following the October 2019 meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mamallapuram, strategic guidelines were being followed by the Indian and People's Liberation Army troops at settling the border flare-ups at the lowest level.

In another confidence-building measure, a hotline would soon be set up between the office of the Indian Army's Director General of Military Operation the Western Command of the PLA. “The proposal was pending for some time due to some procedural issues, which have now been sorted out. The hotline is on the cards,” he said.

Asked about India's ability to fight a simultaneous two-front war, the Army Chief said the bulk of the aggression would be on the primary front whereas a more deterrent posture would be adopted for the second front. There is also a dual-task formation that can move quickly from the west to east and vice-versa.

On the recent series of alleged Pakistan-sponsored Border Action Team actions on the Line of Control, he said being a professional force Indian Army abode by international norms and would respond to Pakistan in a professional manner. “We won't resort to such barbaric activities,” he said referring to incidents in which the enemies mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers.

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