Indian Army chief, General Bipin Rawat has said that India must not let countries like Sri Lanka drift towards China.
General Bipin Rawat said that India needs to shift focus from its border with Pakistan to that with China, cautioning that the country cannot allow its neighbours to drift towards China, virtually asking the Government to effectively implement its ‘neighbourhood first’ policy.
Admitting that Chinese troops have been ramping up pressure along the line of actual control (LAC), he asserted that China may be a powerful country but India too is not a weak nation, the Press Trust of India reported.
In a media address today on the eve of the Army Day, Rawat said countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have to be kept on board as part of a broader strategy to deal with China, and India must make “wholehearted” efforts to continue extending support to them.
“We cannot allow the neighbourhood to be drifted away from us—whether it is Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan. These nations have to be kept on board, and I think we have to put in our wholehearted effort to ensure we continue to support them,” he said.
The army chief’s comments assume significance given that in recent past, China has been deepening ties with some South Asian nations and providing them with huge financial aid, which, some experts feel, may draw India’s neighbours including the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal towards Beijing. These countries have been traditionally close to New Delhi.
Underlining the need for shifting attention from the western border with Pakistan to the northern frontier with China, Rawat said, “For too long, we have kept our focus on the western front. I think time has come for us to focus on the northern border. Therefore, our infrastructure development on the northern border has to be speeded up.”
Referring to India shoring up ties with other countries, he said, “We are seeking support of other nations, group of nations in the region, to see that we are not isolated completely in a situation in Asia against an assertive China. That is the next step that is being taken and, therefore, you will find that a quadrilateral is formed.”