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Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane addresses a press conference ahead of Army Day on 15 January (PTI)
Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane addresses a press conference ahead of Army Day on 15 January (PTI)

We’re prepared to hold our ground in Ladakh, says army chief

The Indian Army was prepared for a long drawn out standoff in Ladakh similar to the one in Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal Pradesh, Naravane said

Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Tuesday said the National Democratic Alliance government had assured the military that it would get all the funds required for defending the country and modernization of forces amid signs of the military standoff between India and China getting prolonged.

The Indian Army was prepared for a long drawn out standoff in Ladakh similar to the one in Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal Pradesh, Naravane said at his annual press conference ahead of Army Day on 15 January. That standoff in Arunachal Pradesh, which had begun in June 1986, ended in August 1995. The ongoing standoff in Ladakh began in May 2020 when India noticed intrusions by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the amassing of a large number of Chinese forces on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Tensions have not abated despite a minor pullback of troops and many rounds of talks at the military and diplomatic levels and India has deployed almost 50,000 troops on its border mirroring a deployment by China on its side.

“We will ensure that we reach a solution that is acceptable and not detrimental to our interests. If talks get prolonged, so be it. We are prepared to hold our ground," Naravane said. Provisions had been made for high altitude clothing, shelter and rations for the personnel posted in Ladakh, he said, adding that any solution will be based on “mutual and equal security".

On the challenge posed by China and Pakistan together, Naravane said there was an “aspect of collusivity" that “cannot be wished away". “A two front threat is something we must be prepared to deal with," he said later.

The events of the past year had shown that the way forward for the Indian Army was to transform itself into a technology-enabled force from a manpower-intensive one, Naravane said. The Indian Army was committed to restructuring at the tri-service level, something that the Indian government has been aiming for to make the three services lean and mean, he said.

In response to questions on the budget for the Indian Army, Naravane said in the past year while other ministries had been told to cut down on their spending, there was no such restriction on the ministry of defence. “We are hopeful that at the revised expenditure stage we will get more funds," the army chief said.

Naravane, however, said that a move to monetize military land assets has been on hold temporarily because of a fall in real estate prices due to the pandemic.

“As far as land monetization is concerned, there has been a lot of progress. We have got permission for equal value infrastructure. We will go ahead with the monetization of land. But because of the covid situation, land prices have also fallen. Hence, we are waiting. As the situation improves, we will move it forward," he said.

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