India must be prepared for war, says army chief

He accuses China of testing his country's limits even as border stand-off ends

NEW DELHI • India's army chief has said his country must be prepared for war and accused China of "testing our limits", days after the nuclear-armed neighbours ended one of their worst border stand-offs in decades.

General Bipin Rawat said India could not afford to be complacent and should be prepared for the possibility of an all-out war, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday.

"As far as our northern adversary is concerned, flexing of muscles has started," Gen Rawat said late on Wednesday at a Delhi-based think-tank, in reference to China.

"The salami-slicing, taking over territory in a very gradual manner... testing our limits of threshold 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 (remains to be seen)," the army chief added.

India and China went to war in 1962 over the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Last month, the two nations withdrew their troops to resolve a tense deadlock over part of a Himalayan plateau claimed by both China and Bhutan, an ally of India.

Gen Rawat also said India's archrival Pakistan - an ally of China - was likely to take advantage of the tensions.

"The western adversary taking advantage of the situation developing along the northern border is very much likely," he said, according to AFP.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence, two of them over the disputed region of Kashmir, which both claim in full.

At the Brics summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen earlier this week attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, both agreed not to let their differences turn into disputes.

"Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping had a constructive and forward-looking meeting on the sidelines of the Brics summit," Mr Raveesh Kumar, spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters in New Delhi.

The annual summit, which took place on Monday, was nearly marred by the 21/2-month-long stand-off between Chinese and Indian troops on the Himalayan plateau.

The face-off ended last week in what India said was an agreement between the two sides to an "expeditious" disengagement of troops.

Even before this, however, relations between the two sides had cooled somewhat over what is seen by India as China's expansion of influence in its backyard through Mr Xi's Belt and Road Initiative.

The initiative involves Pakistan, as well as Sri Lanka and Nepal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2017, with the headline 'India must be prepared for war, says army chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe