NEW DELHI: “Trust but verify.” With those words, India’s Army Chief Gen. MM Naravane underscored the approach to disengagement with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Ladakh. “We have systems in place to ensure no re-occupation of the heights and we can only hope the PLA will adhere to the principles agreed upon in toto. The entire disengagement process and all deals signed earlier with China is premised on being observed in letter and spirit.”
He said some issues remain, such as in Depsang, and there are pending issues in eastern Ladakh and other areas but there are strategies in place. Gen. Naravane emphasized that India and China have to move towards de-escalation and de-induction of troops from higher reaches. “But we have to be wary, we will be very cautious, there is a trust deficit and unless that is removed we watch his every move.”
He acknowledged that “China has been creeping forward making small incremental changes where each change by itself was not worthy of a strong reaction and because such moves were never contested, he was able to achieve his aims without firing a shot and with no loss of life. This strategy will no longer work and his every move will be met with a counter move.”
He said there is no evidence of any overt China-Pakistan collusion. There was no large scale mobilization which would be suggestive of help being given to the other. But the army’s long term strategy caters for a “two to two-and-a-half front war, the half being internal security. This is the worst case scenario.”
He lauded the “whole of government approach” to the crisis. “What we did at the diplomatic, political, military and economic level showed resolve in defending our interests. If our relations (with China) should develop, we want it to be as neighbours with peace and tranquility on our borders. Nobody wants unsettled borders.”
He said, with a whole of government approach, India can counter them (China and Pakistan) and as a military there is a strategy in place to deal with it. There is a primary front and a secondary front and strategies for each are in place. “We will prepare for the worst but hope for the best”.