Nepal objected to Lipulekh road link at someone else's behest: Army chief

On Nepal raising objections to India laying the Lipulekh-Dharchula road, Gen Naravane said the reaction by the neighbouring country was surprising

In an apparent indication to a Chinese role, Army Chief Gen M M Naravane on Friday said there were reasons to believe that Nepal objected to India laying a road connecting the Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand at the behest of someone else even as he asserted that the Army is dealing with incidents of face-offs with Chinese military on a case-by-case basis.

In an interaction at a defence think-tank, Gen Naravane said India will have to remain "alive" to a scenario of a "two-front" war along the northern and western borders, but noted that he does not foresee the possibility of every confrontation leading to such a situation.

On the Army's big-ticket proposal to induct youngsters for a three-year tenure under the Tour of Duty (ToD) concept, the Army Chief said the idea germinated following feedback from school and college students that they want to experience military life without opting a permanent career in the Army.

Gen Naravane said the ToD will help the Army in cutting down revenue expenses on account of payment of pensions and other benefits.

Replying to a question, he said the Army has received an order from the government to cut expenditure by 20 per cent from the current fiscal due to the COVID-19 crisis, adding the force is implementing it without compromising on its combat readiness.

Expenditure is being cut through a variety of measures including restricting large movements of troops, he said in the video-conference organised by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

On Nepal raising objections to India laying the Lipulekh-Dharchula road, Gen Naravane said the reaction by the neighbouring country was surprising.

"The area east of Kali river belongs to them. The road that we built is on the west of the river. There was no dispute. I don't know what they are agitating about," the Army Chief said.

"There has never been any problem in the past. There is reason to believe that they might have raised the issues at the behest of someone else and that is very much a possibility," he said.

The 80-km-long strategically crucial road at a height of 17,000 feet along the border with China in Uttarakhand was thrown open by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh last week.

Nepal on Saturday raised objection to the inauguration of the road, saying the "unilateral act" was against the understanding reached between the two countries on resolving border issues.

On two separate incidents of face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops, the Army chief said there was no link between the two, adding "We are dealing with them on a case-by-case basis. I have not seen any concerted design into the face-offs."

On the two-front war, he said it is a possibility and that the country will have to remain prepared to deal with such a scenario.

"It is a possibility. It is not that it is going to happen every time. We have to be alive to all contingencies which can happen, various scenarios that can unfold. We have to remain alive to the possibility.

"But to assume that in all cases both fronts would be 100 per cent active, I think that would be an incorrect assumption to make. In dealing with the two-front scenario, there will always be a priority front and a secondary front. That is how we look at dealing with this two-front threat," Gen Naravane said.

He said the priority front would be addressed in a different manner while the secondary front will be kept as dormant as possible just to conserve resources to focus on the priority front.

"We should not look at a two-front scenario just as a military responsibility. A country does not go to war with its armed forces alone. It has other pillars like diplomatic corp and other organs of government which will come into play to make sure that we are not forced into a corner where we will have to deal with two adversaries at the same time and in full strength," he added.

"I think that's where the whole-of-the-nation approach will come into play," said the Army Chief.



Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel