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Nepal may have raised border issue on someone else's behest: Army Chief hints at China's role

Nepal may have raised border issue on someone elses behest: Army Chief hints at Chinas role

In a sharp statement, hinting at a nexus between Nepal and China amidst the diplomatic row between India and Nepal, Army Chief General MM Naravane Friday said Nepal may have protested about the Indian road via Lipulekh pass at "someone else's behest".

Even though he did not directly name China, the Army chief's response to a question at a think-tank in Delhi left little to the imagination. There have been reports of face-offs between Indian and Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh and Sikkim in the past few days.

General Naravane delivered a talk "COVID and Indian Army: Responses and Beyond" at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) on Friday through a webinar, and was responding to questions from the participants.

"In fact, the Nepalese Ambassador has mentioned that the area east of the Kali river belongs to them. There is no dispute in that whatsoever. The road which we made is in fact to the west of the river. So, I don't know what they are agitating about," General Naravane said in response to a question on the reasons for Nepal's protest on the road, wherein it had established a border post at the spot. The participant had also asked if he saw a link "between Lipulekh and the recent clashes between the Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh and Sikkim".

The Army Chief said there was no contradiction in Lipulekh and there had never been any problems earlier. "There is reason to believe that they might have raised the issue at the behest of someone else and that is very much a possibility." He, however, stressed there was no connection between the recent face-offs and this event.

Nepal has been protesting after India opened a road on May 8 till Lipulekh pass in Uttrakahand for connecting India with Kailash Mansarover in Tibet, China. The new 80-km road built by the Border Roads Organisation from Ghatiabgarh in Uttarakhand to Lipulekh, just five km short of the LAC, was made under directions of the China Study Group. Formally inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh last week, it reduces the travel time for Indian pilgrims going to Kailash-Mansarovar.

Replying to another question, he said the Army has received an order from the government to cut expenditure by 20 per cent from the current fiscal due to the COVID-19 crisis, adding the force is implementing it without compromising its combat readiness.

He also said the two-front war is a possibility and that the country will have to "remain alive" to such a scenario. "It is a possibility. It is not that it is going to happen every time. We have to be alive to all contingencies which can happen, various scenarios that can unfold. We have to remain alive to the possibility.

"But to assume that in all cases both fronts would be 100 per cent active, I think that would be an incorrect assumption to make. In dealing with the two-front scenario, there will always be a priority front and a secondary front. That is how we look at dealing with this two-front threat," Gen Naravane added.

He said the priority front would be addressed in a different manner while the secondary front will be kept as dormant as possible just to conserve resources to focus on the priority front.

"We should not look at a two-front scenario just as a military responsibility. A country does not go to war with its armed forces alone. It has other pillars like diplomatic corps and other organs of government which will come into play to make sure that we are not forced into a corner where we will have to deal with two adversaries at the same time and in full strength," he added.

(Inputs and image from theindianexpress.com)

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