Will call Pak’s nuke bluff: Rawat

| | New Delhi

In a stern message, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Friday said the Army will call Pakistan's nuclear bluff — of threatening India that it will use nuclear weapons in case of war- even as he asserted that the Indian Army will continue to target the Pakistan Army posts aiding and abetting terrorists along the Line of Control (LOC) and will take a call about ceasefire only after infiltration from across the border stops. 

As regards an “assertive” China, Rawat said India cannot afford its neighbours to drift away and should have good relations with them to act as a counter balance to the eastern neighbour. Conceding that China is a regional power, the Army chief, however, stated India is not a “weak nation”. These observations came in the backdrop of incursions and transgressions by China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) leading to face-offs between the two armies like the Doklam incident lasting more than 70 days last year.

Fielding queries about Pakistan's threat of using nuclear weapons in case of war, Rawat said, “I do not think Pakistan wants to escalate the situation along the borders.  In case of nuclear bogey of Pakistan, I think we will call the bluff.  If a task is given to us, we cannot say we will not cross the border because they have nuclear weapons.  We have to call their bluff.”

Elaborating upon the current situation on the LOC, which has seen ceasefire violations in the past few weeks, Rawat said the Indian Army is destroying Pakistan Army posts shielding terrorists.  “These posts are used for infiltrating militants into India and we will continue to target them and the enemy is feeling the pain.”

Claiming that Pakistan Army has suffered significant casualties during these fire assaults by India, the Army Chief said Pakistan is now urging India to deescalate the situation at LOC and ceasefire.  Both the countries agreed to maintain peace and ceasefire at LOC in 2003 and it continued for some years before Pakistan broke the accord.

“Now, we will continue to target Pakistani posts till it stops infiltration.  Then we will take a call about ceasefire,” Rawat asserted adding the government has directed the Army to deal with the situation as it deems fit.

When asked about US exerting pressure on Pakistan on the issue of terrorism, the Army Chief it was too early to judge the situation.  “We will have to wait and watch s and cannot say everything is honky dory,” he said adding “I do not think it will move that way.”   US has its compulsions while dealing with Pakistan and therefore it was “premature to hazard a guess at this stage,” the Army Chief said.

On growing economic and military might of China, Rawat said China is an emerging power and is a regional power.  The eastern neighbor is now asserting itself and the Indian government is dealing with the situation at diplomatic and military level.In this background, India cannot allow its neighbours to drift away from it to counter an assertive China, affirming that time has come for the country to shift focus from western to the northern frontier.

Rawat said countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have to be kept on board as part of a broader strategy to deal with China, and India must make “wholehearted” efforts to continue extending support to them.

“I think we cannot allow the neighbourhood to be drifted away from us --whether it is Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan.”

On the military front, the Army has increased its troop strength all along the LAC stretching from Ladakh in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east, Rawat said adding patrolling along the border was also increased. 

However, he cautioned the next war with China may not be fought on the land and red-flagged the threat of cyber and information technology warfare.  Keeping that in view, India is enhancing its capabilities in these two fields besides improving infrastructure all along the northern front, the Army Chief said.



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