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'Army able to launch faster response against Pakistan'

Ajai Shukla  |  New Delhi 

Army chief, General V K Singh, on Thursday strongly defended the Indian Army’s performance over last year, but chose to keep mum when it came to questions about his date of birth that has currently become a matter of raging controversy.

Addressing a press conference here, Gen Singh asserted that a standoff it had with the defence ministry has “not impacted my vision for the army”. He highlighted the army’s achievements, making a mention of the eight officers and 57 soldiers who died in counter-insurgency operations last year.

Talking to the media in the run-up to Army Day on January 15, Gen Singh declined comment on the ongoing civil-military crisis in Pakistan. However, he outlined the continuing terror threat from the neighbouring country. “There are 42 terrorist camps, some in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, some in other areas”, he noted. They “continue to pump in well-armed, well-trained, foreign and other terrorists” into Jammu and Kashmir.

In contrast, Gen Singh was notably diplomatic about Beijing, referring to “friendly relations” that invariably adhered to the 1993 Agreement on Peace and Tranquillity between India and China. He glossed over an incident incident in July last year, when a Chinese People’s Liberation Army patrol entered Indian territory at Yangtse near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, and damaged a 200-foot-long wall that Indian soldiers had constructed.

“We consider it a childish act. It is just like scoring a point, like one child coming and taking away another child’s toy,” he said, referring to this incident that Defence Minister A K Antony later described in Parliament — on December 21.

Gen Singh came closer than any other government official, while describing the widely speculated Indian warfighting doctrine popularly referred to as “Cold Start”. “There is nothing like Cold Start. But we have a ‘proactive strategy’ which takes steps in a proactive manner so that we can achieve what our doctrines and strategies (demand),” he said.

This doctrine learns from Operation Parakram, when the military mobilised for war against Pakistan after the terror strike on the Parliament in New Delhi on December 13, 2001.

After taking weeks to reach its launch pads along the border, India’s military found Pakistan’s forces deployed and ready for battle. The new doctrine allegedly aims at launching attacks without prolonged mobilisation.

Gen Singh noted that “a lot of changes” had taken place since 2001. “In the next two years, even more changes will take place. We have done studies and made a plan to speed up deployments. We will have some new cantonments, forward locations…and changes in the method of mobilisation. From Parakram, there are a lot of changes. What we did in 15 days, we now do in seven; and will do in three days in the future,” he explained.

About India’s military relations with Myanmar, Gen Singh said he aimed at assuaging hurt feelings amongst small regional countries about an Indian neglect.

He said, “Some small countries think we don’t take them along [with us]. I wanted to reassure them that we respect them…no matter how small.”

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First Published: Fri, January 13 2012. 00:53 IST