The basic issue with China remains resolution of the border and what is seen is China’s intent to keep “the boundary issue alive”, according to Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande. In eastern Ladakh, India’s aim and intention, as far as the situation was concerned, was to restore the status quo ante prior to April 2020, he said. 

On the impact of the Ukraine war, he observed that the foremost one was the relevance of conventional wars still remained and they need not necessarily be short and swift. He acknowledged that the Army’s supply chains were impacted to “some extent” but asserted that there was sufficient stock to last for a “reasonable” period of time.

“The first and foremost challenge is the resolution of the situations along the borders prevailing since April/May 2020. Our aim and intention as far as the situation is concerned is to restore the status quo ante prior to April 2020 in eastern Ladakh. Our intention is also re-establish the trust and tranquillity on both sides,” Gen. Pande said in an interaction with a group of journalists on Monday. “It cannot be a one way affair. Efforts should be made from the sides.”

On relations with China, he said the basic issue remained the resolution of the border matter. “What we see is that China’s intent has been to keep the boundary issue alive. What we need as a country is a ‘whole of nation’ approach and in the military domain, this is to prevent and counter any attempt to alter the status quo at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).” 

Important lessons

To a question from The Hindu on the impact of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war on the Indian Army’s preparedness, he stated that it had important lessons. The foremost was that the relevance of a conventional war still remained. “We are seeing many platforms – artillery guns, air defence guns, rockets, missiles and tanks being employed in this war in one way or the other. It also tells us that wars need not be necessarily be short and swift. It could prolong in a manner the current conflict is.”

The second important lesson would be to try and be self-reliant in terms of weapons, armaments, equipment and spares from outside. “We are dependent on certain weapon systems specially in the area of air defence, rockets, missiles and certain tanks from Russia and Ukraine,” he noted. Increasing the self-reliance and decreasing the dependence on outside sources was an important lesson. “We have already started this, in keeping with the Make in India initiative as also to attain ‘Aatmanirbharta’,” he explained.

As far as the immediate impact was concerned, he said, “the supply chain of certain spares and ammunition has got impacted to some extent, but we have adequate stocks to last for a reasonable period of time.” They were also looking at certain alternate mitigation measures and identifying alternate sources from friendly foreign countries, while in the long term, this was also an opportunity for the private industry to step up production and meet the requirements.

The third important issue was the aspect of non-contact or non-kinetic warfare and the lesson had come out “loud and clear”. Elaborating, he asserted that “be it the cyber domain or information domain, we have seen the battle of narratives has been used to gain advantage over the adversary. We need to increasingly focus on the new domains of warfare, focus on capability development.”

In the broader scenario, Gen. Pande said, the emerging geopolitical order was something that should be monitored very closely in terms of realignment and in terms of new alliances. That was something which would perhaps be much clear once the conflict ended. “We should also watch out for the ‘stance and position of our adversaries’. The third important aspect is that attention from our areas of immediate interest -Afghanistan and Indo-Pacific, does not get diverted to what is happening in the Russia-Ukraine war. These are the issues we need to keep monitoring and evolve our responses at the national level,” he remarked.

Eastern Ladakh situation

On the situation in eastern Ladakh, he pointed out that through dialogue at the Corps Commander level between the two countries “many friction areas have been resolved after talking to each other” and the balance areas could “only be resolved through dialogue”.

“It is good that we are talking to and engaging with each other. Our troops continue to hold important positions along the LAC,” he stressed. The guidance to the troops was to “have a firm and resolute” posture to “prevent any efforts to alter the status quo.” 

The Army had reoriented its troops from the west to the northern borders since the stand-off. There was a “re-appraisal and re-assessment” of the preparedness. “We have a ‘robust posture’ on the LAC and ‘adequate forces to deal with all contingencies’.”

As the last two years had seen significant technology accretion on the LAC, Gen. Pande said the focus had been on “upgrading our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] capabilities” and to build infrastructure to support the logistics. “Induction and incorporation of new technology in these areas is a part of the ongoing process of capability development in eastern Ladakh and along the entire northern border.”

In this direction, he said, the Army had to remain prepared to face a variety of challenges on the entire spectrum and they were working to fill voids in capability development as also operational preparedness. The end state is to see the Army as a “modern, capable and optimally structured force which is capable of winning wars”, he added.

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