ARMY CHIEF General Bipin Rawat said on Sunday that countries like Nepal and Bhutan cannot delink themselves from India as they are more inclined towards India “because of the geography”. He also said the geography does not favour their inclination towards China.
Rawat was speaking to the media after the concluding ceremony of BIMSTEC MILEX-18, a joint military exercise of BIMSTEC member nations, which was underway in Pune from September 10.
Replying to a question on Nepal’s absence in the MILEX-18 and its growing ties with China, Gen Rawat said: “They cannot delink themselves from India. Countries like Nepal and Bhutan have to be naturally inclined to India because of the geography. Geography favours their inclination towards India and not towards China. As our leaders say, Neighbourhood First and Act East. BIMSTEC is part of such efforts. We are strengthening our relationship with our neighbours. We are a bigger country, if we take the initiative, others will follow.”
Of the seven BIMSTEC nations, while troops from India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were part of the ground exercise, Nepal and Thailand sent teams of observers.
“The best example of this is America and Pakistan relations, as it did not remain same… Therefore, we need not be bothered about all these issues and need to concentrate on how to keep the country strong,” said Gen Rawat.
“China is an emerging competitor. Everything is about economics. They are also looking for market and we are also looking for the same market and there is competition. So, whoever performs better will win the race,” he said.
Replying to a question on illegal migration in the region, and whether the issue would be discussed in the BIMSTEC forum in the future, he said: “Migration of population has always happened from economically weaker areas to stronger ones. Therefore, equal growth, as our leaders stress, is important. This phenomenon is not going to end unless there is equitable distribution of growth.”
At the press conference after the concluding drill of the BIMSTEC MILEX exercise, when asked whether such exercises would continue in future, Gen Rawat said: “India has initiated this exercise, as we have been given the area of counter-terrorism to look at in the region. The frequency of the exercise in future, whether it will always be conducted in India or elsewhere, is yet to be decided.”