Tuesday, May 28

Former IAF Chief calls Galwan clash a ‘bolt’ to China


New Delhi: Former Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane has said that the casualties suffered by the Chinese Army during the Galwan Valley clash in June 2020 were the first time they got “jhatka” amid China resorting to “encroaching” territory of its neighbours over the past two decades and its territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

In a podcast with ANI Editor Smita Prakash, General Naravane recalled former Defence Minister George Fernandes` remarks about China being a threat “number one” and said people have now become more cognizant of it.

“Time and again have said that we will not like to get into the numbers game. So the number of causalities is not important, what is important is the fact they suffered casualties. All along over the last two decades not only with India but with Bhutan and Nepal, they are also encroaching. In the South China Sea, they have been encroaching. They have a free pass and never have anybody challenged them and they never ever suffered casualties. For them, it was a very low-cost, no-cost option. Without doing anything, without suffering any casualties, they were gaining… their aims were being achieved. This was the first time they got the “jhatka” and that is what forced them to reassess this way of doing things. So that is what is important, the numbers are not important, whether it is one or 40, it doesn`t matter,” he said.

Following the actions of the Chinese Army, Indian and Chinese troops clashed violently in Galwan in eastern Ladakh in June 2020 in which 20 Indian soldiers laid down their lives. The Chinese have admitted four casualties but the numbers are believed to be significantly higher.

General Naravane said that during briefings, the Indian Army gives a clear and fair picture of what had happened in an incident to the political leadership.

He said that the Indian Army did not hide casualties during Galwan clash in eastern Ladakh as the Chinese did.

“We have to give a clear and fair picture of what happened. We try not to hide any facts and if something had happened like in the Galwan, we suffered casualties, we convey and state that we have suffered the causalities. We do not try to hide it as the Chinese have done and they refuse to declare causalities, then they declare four, then five but the numbers are much bigger. We give a very clear picture, we gave an assessment of what had happened and an assessment of what is likely to happen in the future. And in the future, I mean in the short term and the long term and based on that assessment what we need to do,” Gen Naravane said.

“So that is how it generally transpires and each service gives its own view on the incident. Of course, in an incident that is more land-based and very localized, there probably would not be so much input from the Navy but their input will also be taken into consideration,” he added.

Gen Naravane, who was the Army Chief from December 31, 2019, to April 30, 2022, said priorities are decided in terms of threats. “We will always have to prioritize and that kind of prioritization we do everywhere in our personal lives, so similarly we have to prioritize which is the more important threat and the more dangerous one. And, of course, more focused on that than the other,” he said.

Gen Naravane said China has been perceived as a threat in the past.

“That`s been the case not now but for many years and think our former Defence Minister George Fernandes had also said more than two decades ago that China is the enemy. So there is nothing new, it is just that we have become more cognizant of that fact. We are more open to talking about it than keeping it in the shadows and not mentioning it,” he said.

Gen Naravane`s remarks have come days after the attempts by People`s Liberation Army (PLA) troops to transgress the LAC in the Yangtse area of Tawang Sector in Arunachal Pradesh with the Indian Army thwarting the attempt to change the status quo.

In the latest attempt, PLA troops tried to transgress the LAC in the Yangtse area of Tawang Sector in Arunachal Pradesh on December 9 to change status quo.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament on Tuesday that the Chinese attempt was contested by the Indian troops in a firm and resolute manner.

“The ensuing face-off led to a physical scuffle in which the Indian Army bravely prevented the PLA from transgressing into our territory and compelled them to return to their posts. The scuffle led to injuries to a few personnel on both sides. I wish to share that there are no fatalities or serious casualties on our side,” he said.

He said due to the timely intervention of Indian military commanders, PLA soldiers went back to their locations. As a follow-up of the incident, the local Commander in the area held a flag meeting with his Chinese counterpart on December 11 to discuss the issue in accordance with established mechanisms.

Rajnath Singh said the Chinese side was asked to refrain from such actions and maintain peace and tranquillity along the border and the issue has also been taken up with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels.

There has been a standoff along LAC in eastern Ladakh since May 2020 due to the actions of the Chinese Army. There has been disengagement from some friction points following several rounds of military and diplomatic talks between India and China but a full resolution is still not in sight which has impacted the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Balakot strikes gave clear message to Pakistan that it will suffer more if it attacks India

General Manoj Mukund Naravane (Retd) also said that the air strike by Indian Air Force targeting Jaish-e-Mohammed`s (JeM) advance training camp in Pakistan`s Balakot in 2019 was a clear message that if anyone tries to harm India, then they will suffer more.

When asked about the situation when you are dealing with a country which is a rogue nation and has nuclear weapons, General Naravane said, “We hit them and they did come back the next day. We lost one aircraft and Commander Abhinandan was also caught down. It`s not that our action did not provoke a reaction”.”But once again we have to see the larger picture and the larger picture is that we have demonstrated our will to strike. Again whether we struck any number of casualties, the number of terrorists who were killed is not important. The fact is that we have said that if you do something to us we will do something to you and that will be proportionate even more than what you have done to us. That is the message that is gone across and which is the important message. The larger picture and the message that has gone is that don`t try the stunts you will suffer more than we do,” he said.

Responding to another question that at the time of the Balakot attack, people`s narrative was that we have lost to Pakistan and people were criticizing the Army so ignoring doesn`t work all the time, the former Army Chief said, “On the larger scale it is important to win the information war and that has become very important in the time of interconnectivity and social media.”

“It is not enough to win the war on the ground, we have to win a perception war also and for that whole new ball game has to be done at a much higher and at national level. It is not something that can be done at ground level when a battalion commander is saying something. It will have to be peace together and that narrative built will show that we actually won the war on the ground. Both these things have become very important,” he added.

The Balakot air strikes were conducted by the Air Force in response to the Pulwama terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy in which 44 personnel lost their lives. On February 26, IAF fighter jets targeted JeM`s advance training camp in Pakistan`s Balakot. Islamabad retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations the next day. However, the IAF thwarted its attempts.

India, after the aerial strikes, had said that it killed a large number of terrorists.

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