Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane on Friday said China’s rising footprints in India’s neighbourhood and its attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo along disputed borders have created an environment of “confrontation and mutual distrust”. In an address at a seminar, he also said that “Sino-US” rivalry has created regional imbalances and instability.
He further observed that the regional security environment is characterised by the Chinese “belligerence” in the Indo-Pacific, its hostility towards weaker nations and its relentless drive to create regional dependencies through initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative. “The rising footprints of China in India’s neighbourhood and its attempts to unilaterally alter the status-quo along our disputed borders have created an environment of confrontation and mutual distrust,” the Army chief said.
His comments came in the midst of the disengagement process between Indian and Chinese armies in Pangong Tso areas in eastern Ladakh where the two sides have been locked in a nine-month standoff. Referring to geo-political developments in the region, Gen Naravane talked about increasing Chinese investment in Nepal and the period of political volatility that the country was going through.
In his address, the Army chief also stressed on unleashing the potential of the Northeastern region as part of measures to balance the influence of China. “Regional and internal connectivity is acutely linked to security. It is central to unleashing the potential of the Northeast and balancing the influence of China. “With failure to deliver on promises, delivery deficit has plagued our efforts at improving regional connectivity.
The Kaladan multimodal transport project and the trilateral highway have both seen cost and time overruns,” he said. On the internal front, Gen Naravane said infrastructure development has been marred by numerous challenges, adding involvement of multiple agencies and varied sources of funds coupled with environmental factors remain a major stumbling block. “There is a need for an apex body to coordinate multi-agency efforts,” he said.
The Army chief also said that there has been encouraging improvement in the internal security situation in the Northeast. “As you can see, the states of Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya and large parts of Assam are practically free from insurgency. The violence levels have also significantly gone down over the years,” he said. He said while “relentless operations” by the security forces and proactive policies by the government have laid the foundation, favourable external environment with Myanmar and Bangladesh has struck at the roots of the insurgent organisations.
“A series of operations under Operation Sunrise with Myanmar Army have witnessed growing cooperation and synergy between the soldiers on ground with reasonable operational dividends,” he said. Under Operation Sunrise, India and Myanmarese security forces had carried out offensives against militant outfits along the Indo-Myanmar border areas. “You would often hear the need to integrate the North East with mainland India. The perception that India is the mainland and the North East must align itself to the ways of the mainland, in itself is flawed and contemptuous,” the Army Chief added.