Pakistan and China together form a potent threat to national security and their collusive approach towards India cannot be wished away, Army Chief Gen MM Naravane said on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference ahead of Army Day, Gen Naravane elaborated extensively on the situation in eastern Ladakh, and said Indian troops have been maintaining a very high level of combat readiness to effectively deal with any eventualities in the region.
The Chief of Army staff said he was hopeful that India and China will be able to reach an agreement for disengagement and de-escalation based on an approach of mutual and equal security.
At the same time, Gen Naravane, apparently referring to capture of certain strategic heights along the southern bank of Pangong lake by the Indian Army, said his force will hold on to its positions in eastern Ladakh based on its national interest and goals.
Naravane said that there has been no decrease in the strength of troops either on the Chinese side or Indian side as far as the friction points are concerned and asserted that issues will be addressed on the basis of mutual and equal security.
"Every year PLA troops come to traditional training areas. With winter and completion of the training period, training areas have been vacated. Fair to assume those troops who were in depth areas in Tibetan Plateau have gone back and that's the reduction in strength on the plateau," General Naravane said.
"There has been no decrease in strength either on their side (China) or our side as far as the friction points are concerned," he said.
"Talks (between India and China) will be used to address the issues on the basis of mutual and equal security. I am confident that we would be able to resolve the issue," the Army chief added.
General Naravane said that there has been no change in the status quo in Eastern Ladakh and asserted that both sides would be able to reach an agreement, which would result in disengagement and de-escalation.
"As far as the situation in Eastern Ladakh is concerned, the situation is the same as prevailing last year. There has been no change in the status quo. As far as the resolution of the present situation is concerned, we are hoping that based on the principle of mutual and equal security, we would be able to reach an agreement which would result in disengagement and deescalation, disengagement from the friction areas, and once de-escalation has been achieved then an overall de-escalation and a reduction in strength of the troops in the forward areas," he said.
"All along the northern borders, we have remained vigilant. Friction points are there in the central and eastern sectors of the LAC where China has developed infrastructure. We keep monitoring it and factor it in our strategy," he said.
The Army Chief said that there was indeed a requirement of rebalancing towards northern borders and that is what we have put in place now.
"We are prepared to hold our ground as long it takes to achieve our national goals and objectives. Even though we have more troops at high altitudes, cold injury casualties this year have remained constant in the past. It was 0.13 per cent last year and is 0.15 per cent this year," he said.
Naravane said that there is increased cooperation between China and Pakistan in both military and non-military sectors. The two-front threat is something that we should be prepared to deal with, he added.
Talking about the overall national security challenges, the Army Chief said collusive approach of both China and Pakistan towards India is manifesting on the ground.
"Pakistan and China together form a potent threat and the threat of collusivity cannot be wished away," he said.
The Chief of Army staff said India will have to be prepared to deal with a "two-front" threat scenario.
He said there has been an increasing cooperation between China and Pakistan in both military and non-military sectors.
Gen Naravane said Pakistan continues to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy and India will continue to confront the menace effectively.
We reserve the right to respond to cross border terrorism at a time of our choosing with precision, he said.