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China intends to keep ‘boundary issue’ alive with India, says Army Chief Gen Pande

Gen Manoj Pande Said That While India’s Intention Was To Restore The Status Quo Ante As Of April 2020 & To Re-establish Trust At The LAC, It Cannot Be A 'one-way Affair'.

Army Chief, General Manoj Pande | By special arrangement

New Delhi: Making it clear that the main conflict between India and China concerns the border, Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande Monday said Beijing’s intent was to keep the ‘boundary issue’ alive.

Gen Pande, who took over as the Army chief on 30 April, said a “whole of nation” approach was needed to tackle China. In the military domain, this will prevent and counter any attempt to alter the status quo at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), he added.

His remarks came at a time when both countries have been involved in a two-year-old standoff that began in May 2020 in eastern Ladakh. It has led to the entire LAC becoming active with preventive deployment by both sides.

Speaking to a group of journalists at the Army headquarters in Delhi, the Army chief also said that India’s stand-off with China along its northern border was his “utmost concern”.

Gen Manoj Pande said that while India’s aim and intention was to restore the status quo ante as of April 2020 and to re-establish trust and tranquility at the LAC, it cannot be a “one-way affair”.

“Effort has to be made by both sides,” he said.

Responding to a query by ThePrint on what steps India should take to tackle China, Pande said, “The basic issue remains the resolution of the border. What we see is that China’s intent has been to keep the border 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 LAC.”

Gen Pande also said he would like to assure everyone that the Army has a robust posture along the LAC to deal with all kinds of challenges. He noted that his focus has been to bring more technology for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance abilities, as well as to build infrastructure to support operations and logistics.

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“Induction of new technology is part of an ongoing process in eastern Ladakh and all along the LAC,” he said.

Pande said Indian troops continue to hold “important positions” along the LAC and that his guidance to soldiers has been to be “firm and resolute” and prevent any attempt to alter the status quo.

He also said that India has been engaging with China for resolution via military and diplomatic talks. The talks, he added, have resulted in disengagement in the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley and Gogra area.

“We believe that as we go forward, we will find resolution through talks,” he said, speaking about points like Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang Plains where soldiers on both sides remain in stand-off.

Army for theaterisation

On the issue of theaterisation of the Indian military, Gen Pande said that the Army was all for it. He said the Army was in the last stages of completing the study on land-based theatres.

“While there have been areas of convergence and common understanding (between the three services), there are some issues that need to be addressed and taken up at appropriate level,” Pande added.

As reported by ThePrint earlier, the three services were asked to “dual-task” one commander-in-chief rank officer for working on the structures of the four theatres that have been identified — two led by the Army, and one each by the Air Force and the Navy.

The initial target for the rollout of the theatre concept was 2022, but there have been multiple inputs that it could happen earlier.

ThePrint had, on 17 June last year, also reported that theaterisation could get delayed since stakeholders were yet to be on the same page.