By Choekyi Lhamo
General Manoj Mukund takes charge as Chief f of Army Staff- Photo PTI (ThePrint)
DHARAMSHALA, JAN 4: India’s new Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane’s suggested that it must hold back China’s border issue till Tibet is ‘settled’ on his acceptance speech on the New Year’s Eve. General Manoj Mukund Naravanae took over as the 28th Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) on Tuesday succeeding General Bipin Rawat, reports The Print
. He has suggested that India should have a ‘greater vigilance’ in its northern borders including the disputed region of Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir along with Ladakh.
The statement from the Army chief implied that their military strength has the capability of tackling any major terrorism threats from these northern regions including Pakistan. China’s muted response over the recent Pulwana attack in Jammu & Kashmir has complicated the already tensed border problems with India. He is clear that under his new leadership, the Indian chief can enhance its strategic military capabilities.
India shares the border with China, Nepal and Bhutan on the northern front where border tension has been high in the last decades. “We have been giving attention to our western front in the past. The northern front now also requires an equal amount of attention,” the new Army chief told the media. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not implemented new changes in the discussions over border dispute but has surely changed their response mechanism. This change in rhetoric will not only be noted by Islamabad but also by Beijing.
Beijing also took a neutral position over the Balakot strike in response to the Pulwama attack and merely asked both the countries to ‘show restraint’. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi had talks with India over the disputed region here in Dec where a draft framework has been proposed that India is now going over. The proposal has directed the Army to not only outline the focus area but the ‘how’ as well. Gen Naravane told ThePrint
that India needs to be firm in dealing with China: We don’t want to be aggressive but firm.
Indian army is laying out its plans to achieve what the chief had earlier described as “eventual solution” for the India-China border. This specific area concerns former Tibet-India border from Aksai Chin to Arunachal Pradesh. New Delhi has repeatedly reminded Beijing that India’s stand on Aksai Chin remains unchanged from the time Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru described Aksai China as “part of the Ladakh region of India for centuries” and that this border was a “firm and definite one which was not open to discussion with anybody”.
China’s discomfort over India’s move regarding Article 370 and the creation of two new Union Territories, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, has intensified the stance of the Indian side. The overjoyed response from the Ladakhi community also reflects a certain acceptance of the Indian state over the Chinese imminent takeover of disputed regions. When asked about the statements on “taking over POK”, he said that “the Army analyses all threats and strategizes accordingly”.
The guidelines agreed upon in 2005 proposed by China had plans to resolve border dispute whereby a new set of code of conduct to maintain peace and setting up a hotline between the Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was established to avoid incidents like Doklam in the future. It is also evident that until as late as 1963, India shared a border with Tibet, and not China, when the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) was raised. Hence, the ‘dispute’ being a fairly ‘new’ phenomenon, India would do well to hasten slowly on the border issues until the Tibet freedom issue is settled. This new emerging discussion only followed after the popular discourse on India and China’s relationship strengthened.