The issue of Doklam dominated COAS’s annual press conference
Speaking at the annual press conference in New Delhi, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat had many things on his mind including the role of education in radicalising the youth of Jammu and Kashmir and the necessity of lowering the General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) of weapon systems so that the indigenous defence industry gets a helping hand. But the main focus of the media interaction was the issue of Doklam and the many narratives that emerged post de-escalation between China and India.
General Rawat gave a sense of why Doklam is important to India even though the territory isn’t Indian. “Doklam is an area that is divided into two parts: North Doklam and South Doklam while the Torsa nala separates the two.”
“Up till June 2016, there was fairly inconspicuous activity, one or two bulldozers that would scrape the earth and go away but this time we found that the kind of equipment and manpower they (Chinese supported by the PLA) came with, they meant business. We felt they would probably try and claim the whole of Doklam and build a road there, and probably reach where the RBA (Royal Bhutan Army) post was. That was our impression and we realised that if this was going to happen, we would have to block it. This was posing a threat to us and was changing the status quo and violating our agreement with the Chinese to maintain the status quo. So, we were compelled to take action and block them. That led to a stalemate.”
“As of now, we feel the de-escalation has happened because of the winter months or because (the Chinese) felt it was time to de-escalate. But because the structures are still there (temporary structures), there is a possibility of movement again taking place once the winter months get over. Should (the Chinese) come in again, we will again take a call on what has to be done. But let me tell you that diplomatic efforts are on to de-escalate everything and see that everything returns to normalcy. More important now is the engagement between Bhutan and China, and how they resolve the issue. There are border demarcation talks also happening between Bhutan and China. How they progress, we will have to wait and watch,” said General Rawat.
He insisted that China may be a powerful country but India is not a weak nation either. He admitted to security concerns posed by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that “was exerting pressure” but reiterated the army’s preparedness and the fact that things are now different from 1962. “Yes, we should try that it (tension) is not escalated,” but we will not allow our territory to be intruded. We cannot allow our neighbours to drift away to China.”
“Doklam could have escalated but we were prepared. In this sector, the terrain favours us. Chinese troops continue to be deployed in North Doklam but numbers have now reduced. Tents and posts still remain (and) we have to be prepared,” he commented.
The chief was candid when it came to Pakistan, “We will call their nuclear bogey bluff. If we are tasked, we will cross the border and call its bluff.”
He said that all ceasefire violations initiated by India on the Line of Control (LC) are part of counter-terrorism action where Pakistan posts that are being used to launch terrorists are targeted. “Terrorists are a disposable commodity for Pakistan. Unless the pain is not felt by its forces, and it is a victim of its own actions, Pakistan army won’t learn. It is again and again asking for going back to the 2003 ceasefire because of the pain felt. If there is a drop in infiltration from Pakistani side, we are willing to call a ceasefire.” He also commented that while “both sides have suffered casualties on the LC, they are much higher, at least three or four times, on the Pakistani side.”
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