Nuclear weapons are for deterrence and on a few occasions Indian armed forces have carried out operations across the Line Control (LoC) without the “nuclear portion coming into play,” Army chief Gen. Manoj Naravane said on Friday, referring to the 2016 surgical strikes and the Balakot air strikes last year.
Talking to a small group of print media journalists, he said the armed forces have been apolitical since independence.
“I disagree that there is any politicisation of the armed forces,” he said, adding there is some misperception on that. On the Army being called frequently to assist the civil administration he observed they are the Army “of the people and for the people.”
On the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, Gen. Naravane said we should be “firm” in our resolve and “assertive” in our claims but “don’t have to be aggressive.”
“We have to know what we want as far as the resolution of the border is concerned”, he stated.
“Historically nuclear weapons have been good deterrence. And that’s where their role ends. We have seen 2-3 occasions where we can carry out operations without the nuclear portion coming into play,” he said to a question on the conventional options available within Pakistan’s threat of nuclear escalation.
On the Balakot air strikes, Gen. Naravane said they have “achieved a lot.” “We destroyed that particular camp. Over the months it was rebuilt,” he stated.
On the message it had sent, he said, “It has signalled that terrorist camps and infrastructure like launch pads can all be taken down and they can’t operate with impunity. That was the message sent,” he said, adding as a result there will be some restraint and lot of caution which has come in before escalating (by Pakistan).
Gen. Naravane said terrorist camps continue to be there and their location keeps changing. Stating they don’t always have to be a big one, he said, they keep track of them. “We make an intelligence picture on the number of camps and number of terrorists. It is a guestimate, not an exact number,” he said, adding there are now about 250 terrorists at 20-25 launch pads waiting to cross over over into India.
To questions on the situation in Kashmir after dilution of special powers under Article 370, Gen. Naravane said it has brought peace. Stone pelting and violence have come down drastically, he said, adding, “Figures show there is improvement.”
Speaking of capability enhancement and infrastructure development on the border with China, the Army Chief said the focus has been there for several years and both the Western and Northern borders are equally important.
“The northern border is different and is a more inhospitable terrain. It’s natural that we focus more there. It is not that one is more important. We are just preparing for any eventuality. If you want peace you should be ready,” he stated.