INTERNATIONAL

Peace along India-China border, says J.J. Singh

Gen. J.J. Singh  



P.S. Suryanarayana

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SINGAPORE: Chief of Army Staff General J.J. Singh has hailed the present situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the India-China boundary as an atmosphere of 'total peace and tranquillity.'

Gen. Singh, who on Saturday completed a week-long goodwill visit to Indonesia and Singapore, told The Hindu that 'troops deployed on the [India-China] border, on both sides, are absolutely co-existing without any tension.'

The India-Pakistan ceasefire, he said, 'is holding out very well since almost two-and-a-half years.'

Commenting on a new military-related development, the Army Chief expressed confidence that India's 'nuclear security safeguards have been ensured' under the latest atomic energy accord with the United States. He did not wish to be drawn into a discussion on the proposed 'triad' of India's nuclear deterrence.

Gen. Singh said, 'We are looking at enhancing our level of military-to-military cooperation and getting some high-technology weapon systems and equipment' from the United States. He described India's parallel defence-related ties with Russia as 'durable.'

In a wide-ranging interview, Gen. Singh said India's 'military-to-military relationships' with Asia-Pacific countries 'assume importance' for a 'secure and stable environment in this region.' New Delhi was, therefore, 'looking at playing a role.'

During his talks with Indonesian Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono, in Jakarta, Gen. Singh suggested 'a joint exercise [and] joint training, with a United Nations peace-keeping backdrop or a counter-terrorism scenario.' It was left to Indonesia to respond to this initiative, he said.

Strategic partnership

Asked about Mr. Sudarsono's comment that India and Indonesia were exploring the possibility of a strategic partnership in the military domain, Gen. Singh said the bilateral dialogue was 'not really' focussed on 'revolutionary military affairs' despite the emergence of some 'strategic dimensions.'

Amplifying the 'very good understanding' that India and Singapore shared through their existing defence cooperation agreement, the Army Chief said the City-State was now 'quite positive' about the possibility of a new avenue of engagement. This related to India's 'world-class' Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School.

Inter-operability

About Singapore's perception of 'inter-operability' in the wide-spectrum engagement with India, Gen. Singh said the objective was to gain 'the ability to operate with each other' through coordination.

Two-way cooperation regarding defence technologies was possible between India, on one side, and Singapore and Australia, independently on the other side. Indonesia evinced interest in acquiring such know-how from India.

Fielding questions on India's defence posture with regard to China, the Army Chief said, 'The troops on both sides have confidence-building measures (CBMs) which have resulted in a state, where they have sports competitions amongst each other.' More significantly, they 'celebrate each other's national days together on the India-China border.'

About the sporadic reports of alleged intrusions by both armies along the LAC, he saw this development as 'an exercise' by them to 'patrol up to ... a particular point [or] area' with a purpose. Asked whether, in his view, the armies of India and China were seeking to show the flag and establish claims, Gen. Singh said: 'Yes. You can say that either side is trying to reinforce the fact that their perceptional border is up to a particular point. But that has not led to any confrontation or a skirmish where there have been any firings exchanged. It has generally been a very peaceful border in the last few years now.'

As for Pakistan, Gen. Singh said the series of CBMs 'has certainly helped in restoring the confidence of the people living close to the border areas in Kashmir on both sides.' With these measures 'stabilising' the situation along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, 'infiltration [from across Pakistan] has reduced, as per our estimate' in the LoC area.

In addition, with the Indian Army adopting a policy of 'iron fist for the terrorists and velvet glove for the people' in Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi had gained 'a fair degree of moral ascendancy' in the State now. The 'attrition ratio,' a quotient of the terrorists killed and army personnel lost, now stood at around 8:1, a dramatic improvement over the previous figure of 5:1, he noted.