Hinting At China, Army Chief Says Nepal Objected To Strategic Road At Someone Else’s Behest

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NEW DELHI: Hinting at China's role, Army Chief Gen M M Naravane on Friday said that Nepal objected to India laying a road connecting the Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand is incomprehensible and there were reasons to believe that India's neighbour raised the issue at the behest of someone else.

"The area east of Kali river belongs to them. The road that we built is on the west of the river. There was no dispute. I don't know what they are agitating about," the Army Chief said in an interaction at a defence think-tank, a news agency reported.

"There has never been any problem in the past. There is reason to believe that they might have raised the issues at the behest of someone else and that is very much a possibility," he said in the video-conference organised by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

The 80-km-long strategically crucial road at a height of 17,000 feet along the border with China in Uttarakhand was thrown open by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh last week. The new road is expected to help pilgrims visiting Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet as it is around 90 kms from the Lipulekh pass. Singh had said pilgrims will now be able to complete their journey in one week instead of up to three weeks.

Later, Nepal on Saturday, raised objection to the inauguration of the road, saying the "unilateral act" was against the understanding reached between the two countries on resolving border issues.

On two separate incidents of face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops, the Army chief said there was no link between the two, adding "We are dealing with them on a case-by-case basis. I have not seen any concerted design into the face-offs."

On the two-front war, he said it is a possibility and that the country will have to remain prepared to deal with such a scenario.

On the Indian Army's proposal to induct young working professionals for a three-year tenure under the Tour of Duty (ToD) concept, Gen Naravane said the idea germinated following feedback from school and college students that they want to experience military life without opting a permanent career in the Army.

He said the ToD will help the Army in cutting down revenue expenses on account of payment of pensions and other benefits.

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