New Delhi: Indian Army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane on Saturday said the Indian Army will take steps to wrest Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) from Islamabad’s control if Parliament wanted and if the Indian government gave such an order.
Addressing his customary press conference ahead of Army Day on 15 January, Naravane, who took over as the chief of the Indian army on 31 December, also said that the conduct of India’s 1.3 million-strong army would be guided by its "allegiance" to the Constitution and its core values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. The comments come in the backdrop of criticism that the military was politicised under his predecessor.
On threats to the country, Naravane spoke of possible collusion between Pakistan and China in Kashmir’s Siachen area with any link up between the two “all weather friends" in the region posing a threat to Ladakh.
He also said India and China had would set up a hotline between senior military commanders to ensure better communication to maintain peace and stability along their common borders.
He added that some changes had been initiated to meet the threat from China, including moving advanced weapon systems to strategic locations near the 4,000 kilometer long border.
While recalling that a 1994 parliament resolution had stated that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir belonged to India, Naravane said: “There is a parliamentary resolution that entire Jammu and Kashmir is part of India. If Parliament wants that area (PoK) should be taken we will definitely do so and appropriate action will be taken accordingly."
The army chief’s remarks are certain to rile up Pakistan, which also claims the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad has been particularly angered by India’s move integrating Kashmir with the rest of the country by through an amendment of its constitution. India’s parliament in August revoked the special status accorded to Kashmir by scrapping a temporary provision in its constitution. New Delhi also divided the state into two Union territories directly administered by the central government, this integrating it with the rest of the country. The move, in effect, takes the part of Kashmir under Indian administration off the table of talks with Pakistan and focuses attention on the Pakistan controlled part, something that has infuriated Islamabad.
On Siachen, Naravane said India needed to hold onto it’s positions in the strategically located region. "We need to hold onto it. This (collusion between Pakistan and China) can take place at any level, but Siachen and Sakshgam Valley are the places where the territory of these two countries meets." The Siachen glacier’s strategic importance lies in the fact that it acts like a wedge between the Shaksgam valley under Chinese control and Baltistan, which is occupied by Pakistan. India has kept hold of its position since 1984 in the region refusing to vacate despite the harsh climatic conditions that have claimed more lives of personnel than actual combat.
In his press conference, Naravane said the formation of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creation of Department of Military Affairs is a very big step towards integration of the three services.
"The formation of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creation of Department of Military Affairs is a very big step towards integration and we on our part will make sure that this is a success," he said. The post of CDS was created last month with Naravane’s predecessor, Bipin Rawat, being named India’s first CDS. One of the missions of the CDS is to promote integration and cohesion in the working of the three services.
On Saturday, Naravane said the process of integration would also be “within the Army and the integrated battle group is just one example of that. But I also want to assure everyone that in this process of integration we will take everyone along. Nobody will be left behind," he said.
Naravane also reaffirmed the Indian army’s allegiance to the Constitution.
"As the Army, we swear allegiance to the Constitution of India. Be it officers or jawans, we have taken oath to protect the Constitution and that is what should guide us in all time and all our actions," the Army Chief said. "What it translates into is also the core values which are enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution which are justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. That is what we are fighting for," he said.
"We are deployed on the border safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity, it is to secure for our people these core values... Be it officers or jawans, we have taken oath to protect the Constitution and that is what should guide us in all time and all our actions," the Army Chief said.
On defence preparedness, Naravane said training of personnel would aim to ready them for challenges of the future. “We are in a transformative stage and all the transformation that we are doing, we will have to consolidate upon them. We will have to carry forward the initiatives and policies set by my predecessor and make sure that all of them reach a logical conclusion," the Army Chief said.