Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane inspects the Army Day parade at Cariappa Parade Ground in New Delhi. Photograph:( IANS )
India's Army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane commenting on recent India-China face-offs said one should "not read too much into this" and that the Army will "ensure peace and tranquillity is maintained in the border areas
Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane has said while terror launch pads exist across the Line of Control(LoC), Pakistan needs to "change the policy" and "look beyond short-term gains".
Speaking exclusively to our diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, the Army chief commenting on recent India-China face-offs said one should "not read too much into this" and that the Army will "ensure peace and tranquillity is maintained in the border areas.
General Naravane also spoke on the Army's role in the national efforts against COVID-19 and situation in Kashmir calling the Handwara encounter a "stray incident".
WION: What is happening in our northern borders, the skirmishes in northern Sikkim and Ladakh?
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane: Earlier this month, I had gone to Sikkim, and after that, I had gone to the southwestern command which is on our western front, I am glad to say at both places, we are totally prepared, operationally ready to take whatever task we have to do.
From safeguarding our borders, or to help our civil administration to tide over the COVID-19 crisis. As far as the situation in the northern border is concerned, I will not call it skirmishes, I would rather say it is face-offs and these faces-offs have been happening in the past also, nothing new about it.
Different perceptions on where the Line of Actual Control(LAC) runs in these areas, we patrol up to where we believe LAC is, PLA comes were they think LAC comes. When we come face-to-face, when we come at the same place at the same time, that is when such face-offs occur.
They have been occurring earlier too, It is just by chance it has occurred near simultaneously at a number of places in Ladakh and Sikkim but we should not read too much into this, that it is not part of some coordinated nation or anything like that, it is just matter of coincidence and nor should we read any greater picture into, that is because of any national or international situation prevailing.
It is just something which is happening in the past and I am sure, we will be able to deal with it as and when such incidences occur.
We have our various protocol in place to handle such situations and they have been successful always in defusing the situation as and when they have happened and we will continue to follow those and we ensure peace and tranquillity is maintained in the border areas.
WION: How is the Army helping in COVID-19 crisis in the national effort?
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane: We have been doing a lot to help out our countrymen. It is not the just the Indian army but navy and the Air Force have also been playing an equally important part in making sure our national effort is well-coordinated between not only the armed forces but all the organs of the government.
As far as the army is concerned, we have been helping right from the day one, in fact, one of the first camps set up in Manesar was done by us in which students from Wuhan been evacuated and placed in quarantine. Thereafter, we have opened camps in Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, even in camp in Narela is being looked after by us.
And we have established a number of such camps as have the Navy and Air Force to take care of all the persons since they need to be put in quartine and need to be tested before they can be sent home. This is one aspect, in addition, we have earmarked specific hospitals to look after the COVID-19 patients and also earmarked specific bed in various hospitals should there be an overflow from the dedicated hospitals in times to comes, we hope the situation will not reach those proportions where these beds need to be used.
We have enough capacity to deal with any such surge that happens. Apart from that our families are also playing a role. They have been making masks, making food packets, distributing rations to people in need. Our NCC has stepped in, NCC cadets have also risen to occasion. More than 11,000 volunteers have stepped up and taken various initiatives like taking care of traffic control.
They have also prepared more than 5,000 food packets, distributed masks, and come to the aid of the civil society at large. This has been a total team effort to help our citizens in need.
WION: Have any forces been impacted by COVID-19?
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane: As soon as COVID-19 news started filtering in, we have been watching what has been happening globally and we in the army very pro-active measures to ensure we do not get impacted. In this, we are lucky also but some disadvantages also.
When I say lucky, we are deployed in far-flung places, on the border and inaccessible areas and because of that we have to keep our self safe.
Conversely, the disadvantage is the way we operate or forced to stay in close proximity to each other, so sometimes social distancing and other norms cannot always be followed.
But by virtue of all the actions and advisories we have issued, that we have been relatively incident-free and the majority of incidents that have occurred in the people who are providing assistance to COVID-19 patients and in the hospitals but happy to say not a single operational unit which has been impacted in whatsoever manner due to COVID-19.
WION: How has the situation been in Kashmir, we saw the Handwara encounter...
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane: Post abrogation of article 370, and ongoing winter months definitely a drop in all the parameters of violence and as is the pattern with the improvement in the weather, snows melting once again infiltration has increased and correspondingly the incidences which have occurred are a reflection of that but we are well poised to take on any of these stray incidents which are bound to happen but no doubt terror launch pads and terrorist continue to be there across the LoC and we are closely monitoring the situation and we will take appropriate action to make sure all these attempts are foiled along the LoC or in the hinterland.
WION: Do you think Pakistan plans to change its terror-sponsoring strategy?
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane: I can't comment on their policy but I can only hope, that they do change the policy and realise that the only way our two countries can prosper is if we have peace amongst ourself, and we must look beyond short-term gains and see what is best for the people both sides.
WION: How have the forces taken up PM's self-reliant call?
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane: We have always been on the forefront of championing the cause of self-reliance and Make in India initiative and happy to say, as far as the Indian army is concerned over 70 per cent of our orders both by volume - the number of orders by cost, more than 70 per cent of these have gone to Indian companies and we will further improve upon this and we will make sure we give a good fillip to Make in India project.