The chief of the Army staff in India reportedly urged his country to prepare for military conflict, indicating that it is within the realm of possibilities for New Delhi to fight a “two front” war with its fellow nuclear-armed neighbors China and its ally Pakistan.
Gen. Bilpin Rawat’s comments come amid tensions between India and China along their mutual border as well as clashes between New Delhi-Islamabad in Muslim-majority Kashmir.
India, Pakistan, and China all claim parts of Kashmir as their own.
Although China has largely stayed in the shadows of the conflict in the Himalayan Muslim-majority region, it is known to back Pakistan’s claim.
Pakistan and its ally China have long considered India to be their economic and military rival.
During a seminar titled, “Future Contours and Trends in Warfare,” Gen. Rawat reportedly declared, referring to a potential two-front war with China and Pakistan:
Whether such conflicts will be confined or limited or whether these could expand into an all-out war along the entire front remains to be seen. But war is very much in the realm of reality, and India must be prepared to fight and can ill afford to let its guard down on either the Pakistani or the Chinese front. India must prepare for a two-and-a-half-front war.
The general went on to say that India must beef up its presence in territory where it has traditionally maintained a low number of troops, adding:
It urgently needs to develop its border infrastructure, engaging multiple civil entities through the relevant army commanders … It also needs to establish a comprehensive surveillance grid, and launch multiple small satellites by the Indian Space Research Organization to monitor the [border] Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China on a 24/7 basis.
This means it also needs to centralize its border control of the LAC and put in place systemic measures to control fault lines of its adversaries. This is the biggest strategic challenge the Indian government faces.
Echoing Gen. Rawat, Subhash Bhamre, India’s minister of state for defense, earlier said:
At the Line of Actual Control [with China] the situation is sensitive as incidents of patrolling, transgression and standoffs have a potential of escalation, [coupled with armed confrontations between New Delhi and Islamabad in Kashmir].
Last year, there was a nearly 70-day standoff between India and China in the Doklam region that sits along the International boundary that divides both countries.
China’s decision to deploy troops to accompany workers seeking to extend a road into the Doklam region triggered the conflict.
Although the conflict appeared to come to an end, Chinese workers recently attempted to again build a road on the Indian side of the China-India border.
China has beefed up its presence near Doklam, keeping about 1,000 troops and military equipment in the region.
India and Pakistan repeatedly clash with one another in Kashmir, resulting in the deaths of hundreds despite a 2003 ceasefire agreement between the two nations.
In its most recent Worldwide Threat Assessment, the U.S. intelligence community warned that the conflict between India and Pakistan might intensify, noting that Islamabad continues to increase its nuclear weapon and missile production activities.
Pakistan considers China its top ally in Asia. China is the top provider of weapons to Pakistan.
Despite the Gen. Rawat’s warnings of two-front war, India’s Retired Lt. Gen. Prakash Katoch notes in an editorial he penned for the Asia Times that his country’s Western Army Commander Lt. Gen. Surinder Singh does not believe such a conflict is a good idea.
Gen. Singh has reportedly been arguing in favor of higher diplomacy.
The retired Indian general wrote:
Singh also spoke of the need to improve relations with China to gain leverage over Pakistan, which is desirable. But whether it is feasible or not, and to what extent, remains to be seen given the China-Pakistan relationship. But Singh’s focus was on military diplomacy, which India has not optimized beyond joint exercises with any country.
“There is a very real possibility that war could be thrust upon India, initiated through a proxy war by Pakistan and/or the “territorial salami-slicing” by China,” acknowledged the retired Indian officer.
“In sum, China and Pakistan are one entity threatening India on multiple fronts,” he added, later noting, “A conflagration with India would test the Indo-US strategic partnership, draw India’s neighbors into China’s orbit, and contribute to Beijing’s aim for a China-centric Asia.”
According to the latest Global Firepower (GFP) index, which ranks the militaries of 133 countries each year, the U.S., Russia, China, India, and France, respectively own the most powerful armies in the world.
The GFP places Pakistan is 13th place.