Voicing concern about China’s increasing assertiveness in the Indian sub-continent, Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat warned on Friday that India cannot allow its neighbours to drift away from it, and the time has come for the country to shift its focus from western to the northern frontier.
Rawat said countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have to be kept on board as part of a broader strategy to deal with China, and India must make “wholehearted” efforts to continue extending support to them.
Addressing the media on the eve of the Army Day, Rawat acknowledged that China was exerting pressure on India along the border but at the same time asserted that the Indian Army was fully capable of dealing with any security challenge on the northern frontier.
“I think we cannot allow the neighbourhood to be drifted away from us – whether it is Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan. These nations have to be kept on board, and I think we have to put in our wholehearted effort to ensure we continue to support them,” he said.
The Indian Army chief also vowed a tough position against terrorism and warned Pakistan that any ceasefire violation on the Line of Control (LoC) would be responded to befittingly and ”with force”, while adding that India wants peace on the frontiers with Pakistan as well as China.
Gen Rawat said the Indian Army would destroy all military posts from where the Pakistani army launches terrorists into Kashmir.
”We target all those posts from where they launch terrorists. Terrorists are a disposable commodity in Pakistan and the Indian Army’s approach is to ensure that Pakistan feels the pain,” he said.
On the increased number of ceasefire violations and casualties, he said India was ready to retaliate against any threat and would continue this approach till it sees a decrease in violations.
On Chinese expansion, Gen Rawat said, “We are seeking support of other nations, group of nations in the region, to see that we are not isolated completely in a situation in Asia against an assertive China. That is the next step that is being taken and therefore you will find that a quadrilateral is formed.”
In November last year, India, Japan, Australia and the US had set the ball rolling for forming a quadrilateral coalition in the Indo-Pacific region to pursue their common interests, a move seen as a measure to counter growing Chinese influence.
The general said there are other countries that are coming on board to support India in whatever way they can.
“At the military level, we know that if there is a threat from China, we have to be prepared for it,” he said.
Rawat also underlined the need for shifting attention from the western border with Pakistan to the northern frontier with China.
“For too long, we have kept our focus on the western front. I think time has come for us to focus on the northern border. Therefore our infrastructure development on the northern border has to be speeded up,” he said.
”We know China is a powerful country but let us also not forget that we are not a weak nation. Let’s not get so worried. We are dealing with the situation. We are confident we will be able to handle the situation,” he said.
Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam starting 16 June after the Indian side stopped construction of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army. Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam.
Rawat said China has been keeping its troops in north Doklam.