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Army chief Gen Manoj Pande sets priorities: Resolution to standoff, operational preparedness

Gen Pande said his priority would be to ensure high standards of operational preparedness. His effort would be to leverage new technologies through the process of indigenisation, he said.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: May 2, 2022 7:03:33 am
General Manoj Pandey (left) takes over as the 29th Chief of Army Staff after Gen MM Naravane.

In his first public interaction as the Army chief, General Manoj Pande said Sunday that in the changing geopolitical situation globally, the Army, along with the Navy and the Air Force, will be prepared to tackle any challenges or conflicts. He also said in an interview later that the Army will not allow any unilateral change in status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) or any loss of territory in the stand-off with China.

“In the end, our aim is to continuously work towards reducing the tensions along the LAC, and ensuring that the restoration of the status quo takes place at the earliest,” he said.

“The global geopolitical situation is changing rapidly, because of which we have many challenges in front of us. It is the Indian Army’s duty to remain ready to adequately tackle every possible challenge. Along with the sister services, the Army will work in coordination, with cooperation and we will be ready for all challenges and conflict situations,” he said.

Speaking to journalists after receiving the Guard of Honour in front of the South Block on Sunday morning, Pande said his “utmost and foremost priority would be to ensure high standards of operational preparedness to face the current, contemporary and the future challenges across the entire spectrum of conflict”.

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In terms of capability development and force modernisation, he said: “My effort would be to leverage new technologies through the process of indigenisation and aatmanirbharta (self-reliance).” He mentioned that he would “like to focus on ongoing reforms, restructuring and transformation to enhance the Indian Army’s operational and functional efficiency” and said that he would aim to “enhance inter-service cooperation and synergy.” and to actively engage with other agencies to “positively contribute towards nation-building.”

The Indian Army, he said, is “fully committed to the values of swatantrata, swadhinta aur samaanta (freedom, independence and equality)”. The Army has a glorious past that maintained the security and integrity of the nation, the new chief said, adding that it has contributed towards nation-building as well.

Being the first Army Chief from the Corps of Engineers, Pande said that officers from all arms get opportunities to grow. “In senior leadership positions, all officers are trained and oriented on all aspects of warfighting.”

Pande took over as the 29th Army Chief of the country on Saturday from Gen MM Naravane who retired. Just months after Naravane had taken over as the Army Chief in January 2020, China unilaterally changed the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh at several points in May 2020, resulting in a standoff with China that remains unresolved.

Army personnel during the Guard of Honour for Chief of the Army Staff, Lieutenant General Manoj Pande, at South Block in New Delhi, Sunday. (Express Photo By Amit Mehra)

With two years into the standoff, Chinese troops continue to have a platoon-sized strength near Patrolling Points 15 in the Hot Springs area. They are also blocking Indian troops from accessing their traditional patrolling limits — PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13— in Depsang Plains, which is close to the Daulat Beg Oldie base of India, near the Karakoram Pass in the north. Additionally, some so-called civilians have pitched tents on the Indian side of the LAC in Demchok.

The two sides have pulled back their troops from PP14 in the Galwan Valley, north and south banks of Pangong Tso and the heights of Kailash Range in the Chushul sub-sector, and from PP17A in Gogra Post area.

However, in the last round of talks between the Corps Commanders from both sides, which was the 15th round of discussions, there was no breakthrough. Handling the tensions along the entire 3,488-km long boundary with China will be one of the main challenges for Pande.

Talking to ANI news agency later on Sunday, Pande spoke about the situation along the LAC, calling it “normal” as on date. “The unilateral and provocative actions by our adversary, with an aim to alter the status quo by force, I feel has been responded to. Over the last two years, we have carried out continuous assessment and likewise realigned and reoriented our forces” he said.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Pande and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar at the Guard of Honour for General Manoj Pande, on his taking over as the 29th Chief of Army Staff, at South Block in New Delhi, Sunday, May 1, 2022. All three Chiefs are now from the 61st NDA course (Express Photo By Amit Mehra)

He said that Indian troops are at the LAC “in a very firm, resolute and peaceful manner and ensuring that there is no change in the status quo. Also, our troops are holding important physical positions. But in all this, we are very clear that we will not permit any changes in the status quo and any loss of territory.”

He told the ANI that the process of talks between the two sides is going on, “because we believe that that is the way forward. Only when you talk to each other can you find resolution. We are confident as we continue to talk with the other side, we will find resolution to the ongoing issues”.

Talking about the preparedness, he said: “We have inducted additional equipment, additional troops in those areas, as well as looked after the infrastructure. Our focus has also been on infrastructure development, especially habitat to match the operational and logistic requirement.”

Speaking about the lessons from the Russia-Ukraine war, Pande told ANI that conventional wars are there to stay and are still relevant, and “we need to continue to focus on our capability development to fight a conventional war”. He said that it has also brought to the fore “the importance of non-kinetic means of warfare, such as information and cyber warfare” and added “we need to build our capabilities as we prepare ourselves for future conflict”.

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