The India Army troops rose to the occasion to the challenges along the northern border as likely contingencies and possible options were war-gamed beforehand, Army Chief Gen M M Naravane said on Wednesday, referring to the eastern Ladakh standoff with China.
He also said that while focusing on the situation in eastern Ladakh, the Army did not ignore the rest of India's borders as sufficient forces were deployed in high readiness along the western and eastern sectors to respond to any "misadventure".
He was speaking at an event organised by the All India Management Association.
"As the situation warmed up along our Northern borders, our soldiers rose to the occasion. They had full faith in their leaders. They were willing to work through all the challenges and difficulties to achieve their objectives, all this within the available resources," Gen Naravane said.
"This was possible because we had war-gamed the likely contingencies and possible options beforehand," he added.
Gen Naravane said the Army was maintaining its strong vigil along the border with Pakistan and other frontier areas while dealing with the situation in eastern Ladakh.
"As the situation unfolded in eastern Ladakh, even while focusing our resources on the Northern Front, we did not ignore the rest of our borders. Sufficient Forces were maintained in high readiness along our Western and Eastern borders to respond to any misadventure," he said.
Gen Naravane said the Indian Army prides itself as a citizens' Army and is committed to the safety and security of the people.
The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese armies erupted in May last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in February.
A similar disengagement process was carried out in the Gogra area last month, in a significant forward movement towards the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the region.
In his address, Gen Naravane said the nation expects the Army to protect its interests and its citizens whatever be the situation and the force has to live up to the expectations.
"We are extremely conscious that come what may, we have to live up to the expectations of our countrymen. We cannot afford to fail. There are no runners-up in combat," he said.
"So we train hard and fight hard, many making the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty to uphold this trust that has been handed over from father to son, from one generation to the next," he said.
The Chief of Army Staff said that the coronavirus crisis had a silver lining too for the Army as it forced it to introspect and improve upon the processes.
"For an Army of our size coupled with the challenges of live and active borders, this crisis has been a defining moment. It forced us to introspect and improve upon our processes and reinvent our procedures," he said.
"People on their own came to acknowledge how the power of technology can be harnessed and utilised. Old inhibitions were shed. As an organisation, it has made us more efficient," he added.
"Even during the crisis, certain functions did not cease. You could shut down schools and offices, factories and shopping centres, but you could not cease security. Our borders had to be protected, the soldiers had to discharge their duties," he said.
Gen Naravane said that the strategy of "force preservation" during the crisis benefitted the force.
He said force preservation does not mean that the Army was only taking care of itself.
"The Indian Army was therefore ready to meet all contingencies. As it so transpired, when the crisis developed along our borders in eastern Ladakh, our decision for Force Preservation benefitted us, as we were in a high state of operational preparedness," he said.
"As an Army, we need to constantly anticipate, remain three-four steps ahead and prepare, so as not to be surprised," he said.
Gen Naravane said the Army was clear about its goal of "force protection and preservation" in view of the pandemic as it was the only way the force could remain capable of safeguarding the nation's strategic interests.
"This was not a passive or defensive measure, but a transitory phase to be battle-ready when the situation so demands," he said.