New Delhi: China is expanding its influence across the Himalayas in India's neighbourhood and is bound to be a "threat" in the coming years, a top Army official said today.
Lt Gen. Sarath Chand, the vice chief of the Indian Army, also castigated the Pakistan army for targeting civilians in cross-border shelling, stressing they had "stooped so low" as to fire at schools.
"This is not what the Indian Army would do," the vice chief said at the inaugural session of AMICON 2017, a two-day conference organised by the Army and the Confederation of India Industry(CII).
Chand also downplayed Army chief Bipin Rawat's comment that the Indian Army was "ready for a two and a half front war", stating that Gen Rawat "never meant to whip up a war hysteria" but was merely stating that India needed to pay more attention to its security.
Last month, the Chinese military had described Rawat's remarks as "irresponsible", and asked him to "stop clamouring for war".
Chand's remarks follow a month-long standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at the two nations' trijunction with Bhutan.
"China is expanding its influence across the Himalayas into our neighbourhood despite being an economy five times the size (of India), (with) such a large standing army, and despite having the Himalayas between us, it is bound to be a threat for us in the years ahead," Chand said.
He said a large part of the Chinese defence expenditure was "undeclared".
He also asserted that India needed to pay more attention to security in view of the existing scenario, and said military strength was essential for providing the security needed for economic development.
"You are aware of the tensions building up on our borders near Sikkim. You are aware of the trans-border engagements we are having. Last week alone, we lost seven lives. You are also aware of the insurgencies taking place in various parts of the country," Chand said. Referring to the military stand-off between India and Pakistan after a terror attack on Parliament in 2001, Chand said that "despite wanting to go across to take punitive action against the neighbour behind it", India did not go ahead because the edge it had was "considered inadequate".
He described Pakistan as "a smaller nation with a smaller economy". This was why it undertakes a "low-intensity conflict" to keep India engaged rather than waging a full-fledged war, he said. This suits Pakistan's "all-weather friend", China, he added. The borders of India and Pakistan have been witnessing an increasing number of ceasefire violations in recent months, with civilians on the Indian side often being targeted by Pakistani forces, especially in the Poonch and Rajouri areas. He said Pakistan shelled a school, and continued to do so while Indian forces were evacuating the children from the building. "This is not something that we would do. It is unfortunate to see that they have stooped so low to fire on civilians and cause casualties to our children," he said. Defending the Indian Army, Chand said even when it retaliated, it ensured that only the Pakistani military, its bunkers and defence establishments were targeted.