India should be prepared for a two-front war, Army chief Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday, adding that the threat of conflict was real on both western and northern borders, and deterrence in form of nuclear bombs or military power may not actually stop it.
"To say that in the future there will be no war if you have deterrence may not always be true.
"Nuclear powers don't go to war and that nuclear weapons are weapons of deterrence.... But to say that they can deter war, they will not allow nations to go to war, in our context that may also not be true," Gen Rawat said at an event here.
Noting that in future, wars may start before forces come into contact, he cited the recent stand-off with China, where something similar was seen.
"The nature of warfare has been changing, while we are accustomed to kinetic, force on force being applied, there can be blurring of lines in the future context. Wars may commence through non-contact warfare even before nations begin to understand that there is war.
"If you look at recent situation that happened at our northern border close to Sikkim, we did see information, psychological, media and legal warfare being launched by the adversary. It did not, however, lead to kinetic warfare. But this kind of warfare will continue so we have to remain prepared for everything," he said.
About Pakistan, Rawat said that propaganda was being used to make its people believe that India is an adversary.
"As far as our western adversary is concerned, we don't see any scope of reconciliation, because the military, the polity, and the people in that nation have been made to believe that there is an adversary, that is India, which is all out to break their nations into pieces...
"The kind of propaganda makes them believe India is their long term adversary.. while they have launched a proxy war on us, how long the country will bear this proxy war, when will the country decide the threshold level has been crossed is something difficult to predict. Because of this proxy war, there is always scope of conflict on our western border," he said.
For China, Rawat said they have "started salami slicing, taking over territory in a very gradual manner, testing our limits of threshold... it is something we have to be wary about and remain prepared for situations which could gradually emerge into conflict.
"Whether these conflicts will be confined or limited in space and time or whether these can expand into an all-out war along the entire front with the western adversary taking advantage of the situation developing along the northern border is very much likely," he said.
"We have to be prepared for conflict on the northern as well as the western borders... in our context, therefore, warfare lies within the realm of reality," he said.
On the shortcomings of deterrence, he said: "Most of us have been made to believe as we are gradually upgrading defence forces and that we are trying to achieve credible deterrence we will be able to deter war... Politically yes, but in the practical sense we should be prepared."
He also added that if the nation believes there is no threat of war, it may lead to defence forces not getting sufficient funds or not being prepared.