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'China must know India won't back down'

By ARCHANA MASIH
May 28, 2020 16:40 IST
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'India is not going to accept whatever the Chinese say. That is not going to happen.'

IMAGE: Indian soldiers stand guard as vehicles pass through the Zojila Pass on their way to the Ladakh frontier. Photograph: PTI Photo
 

"Our military preparedness is robust. We can handle such incidents on the LAC along with the situation on the LoC and the inflitrations. Our army is well-prepared," Lieutenant General D S Hooda (retd) -- the former Northern Army commander under whose command the Indian Army conducted the surgical strikes on September 28-29, 2016 in Pakistan occupied Kashmir-- tells Archana Masih/Rediff.com in the concluding part of a two-part interview.

Summer months account for heightened activity on the Line of Control with Pakistan. Now with the confrontation on the Line of Actual Control with China, does this open a two-front engagement for India?

I don't think so. Even the Chinese do not want a full-fledged conflict. These are methods to put pressure by doing some moves on the LAC.

I wouldn't worry because our military preparedness is robust.

We can handle such incidents on the LAC along with the situation on the LoC and the inflitrations.

Our army is well-prepared.

Let me go back to Chumar (Eastern Ladakh) in 2014. The Chinese tried to carry out a transgression in that area ahead of Xi Jinping's visit.

It happened at a time when Kashmir was under floods -- that was when the Chinese came in.

No troops could have come from Kashmir to Ladakh due to the floods if it was required, but we handled it with whatever force levels were available in Ladakh at that time.

So I think there are enough troops and capability to handle such incidents.

I don't see it going to an all-out war, I don't think either countries want that.

As if strategically timed, China asked its citizens to return from India citing the rising number of COVID-19 cases. This added to the concern that the confrontation at LAC was very serious.

Didn't we get out citizens back from Wuhan and other countries?

If China wants to bring its citizens back, we shouldn't read too much into it.

IMAGE: A soldier from the People's Liberation Army jumps through a ring of fire during a military exercise in Shihezi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. Photograph: Reuters

How well-trained are PLA soldiers?

These are professional armies and professionally trained soldiers. Just like our soldiers are extremely well trained.

I don't think we should make too much of a comparison, that would not be a professional judgment.

In any case, you should never underweight your adversary.

IMAGE: Both India and China have deployed additional troops in Eastern Ladakh after recent border clashes. Photograph: PTI Photo

We have had these standoffs with China, but you agree that this time there seems to be a greater strategy behind that?

Yes, the earlier incidents were triggered locally. Like in Dokalam they were building a road and we stepped in and that led to tensions.

This time considering the area, the number of Chinese troops and preparations, it seems like a planned operation at a fairly high level.

That's why I feel a resolution for this particular incident could get a little tricky because it is not something that could get triggered due to local conditions.

The Chinese are saying that you stopped our patrol. I think that is just an excuse. Incidents of such scale do not happen because of one local patrol being stopped because patrols being stopped have been going on for many, many, years.

There are protocols for when patrols come face to face. There is a 'banner drill' where both sides are supposed to go back and this has been going on, but this one is different.

IMAGE: Indian and Chinese soldiers at the India-China border. Photograph: PTI Photo

Will this standoff continue for a period of time before it is brought under control?

I'll be putting myself on a limb here, but it is not going to get resolved in a hurry. After all, if the Chinese have come in with some intent, they would want to achieve some gains and India is not going to back down.

India is not going to accept whatever the Chinese say. That is not going to happen. I see an extended period of negotiations.

I just hope the situation doesn't become worse or escalates, but the negotiations are not going to be concluded in a hurry.

But like you say, neither of the two countries would want all-out war?

Absolutely. I don't think it will come to that and I don't think it will reach that level.

Production: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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