The Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane stated on 12 February, that Beijing’s recent moves, including its attempts to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control, “have created an environment of confrontation and mutual distrust.”
This comes a day after the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh confirmed the start of the disengagement process in the Pangong lake area to resolve the India-China standoff, in the Lok Sabha.
General Naravane was addressing the joint annual seminar of the Assam Rifles and United Service Institution, where he stated that the “Sino-US rivalry” resulting out of “Chinese belligerence in the Indo-Pacific, its hostility towards weaker nations and its relentless drive to create regional dependencies through initiatives like the BRI” had created “regional imbalances and instability.”
“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.
‘Need A Renewed Focus on The North-East’
Speaking at the seminar on ‘Evolving security challenges in the North-East and Way Forward’, the Army chief highlighted that “a review and renewed focus on India’s North-East is in order,” considering it as the centre of gravity for sub-regional connectivity and a ‘launch pad’ for Act East initiatives.
“Growth and development are intricately linked to the security environment. Nowhere has this linkage been more profound than in the North-East region,” he stated, adding that although the region was endowed with natural resources, its “a laggard in terms of growth and development”.
He noted the impact of the pandemic and the ‘security dynamics across our borders’ on the ‘geo-strategic construct’ of the region along with a history of “protracted insurgencies,” “legacy issues” which accentuated after Partition and “inefficient integration with rest of India.”
“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,” he stated.
On Neighbouring Countries’ Dynamics
Noting a ‘heavy Chinese investment’ in Nepal, which is “going through a period of political volatility” as well as an “upswing in our relations with Bangladesh,” General Navrane stated that “the ongoing dynamics in these neighbouring countries directly impacts the security environment in India’s North-East.”
“A large number of initiatives are already underway to leverage military diplomacy with our Eastern Command playing the spring-board for fostering stronger bilateral relations,” he added.
However, he also remarked that “failure to deliver on promises,” has led to a “Delivery Deficit” which has “plagued our efforts at improving regional connectivity.”
“The (India-backed) Kaladan Multimodal Transport Project (in Myanmar) and the Trilateral Highway have both seen cost and time overruns,” he said.
He also noted an improvement in the internal security situation in the region, stating that Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya and large parts of Assam are “practically free from insurgency,” with violence levels going down significantly.
Noting the contribution of the neighbouring countries, he added that “while relentless operations by the security forces and proactive government policies have laid the foundation, favourable external environment with Myanmar and Bangladesh has struck at the roots of the insurgent organisations.”
He also said that a series of operations under Operation Sunrise with the Myanmar Army has led to growing cooperation and synergy between soldiers on the ground with “reasonable operational dividends.”
He further put forth a proposal for a robust and effective N-E Integrated Security Council by the Realigned Strategy for the North East to establish “an organisation that can synergise multi-agency coordination and optimise resource and effort.”
(With inputs from The Indian Express, NDTV)