Emphasising the need to demarcate the Line of Actual Control, he said the seriousness of Pakistan with regard to the ceasefire at the Line of Control could only be gauged after the onset of summer

Despite the de-escalation on Pangong Lake in Ladakh, the threat from China has not entirely dissipated, Army chief MM Naravane said Thursday as he stressed on the need to demarcate the Line of Actual Control. He also said the seriousness of Pakistan with regard to the ceasefire at the Line of Control could only be gauged after the onset of the summer.

“Unless a substantial amount of de-escalation takes place and the troops that had come from multiple places and are currently within striking distance of the border go back, the threat remains,” Naravane said at the Times Now International Economic Conclave.

He said there was tension on the Northern borders which was resolved through multiple rounds of talks culminating in disengagement at Pangong Tso. “The interaction was at different levels including the foreign ministers and defence ministers of both countries and reversion to status quo ante of April 2020 was the bottom line in all discussions.”

On the recently concluded military level talks with Pakistan, the Chief of Army Staff said: “There were talks between the DsGMO of both sides and a joint statement was issued on February 25, agreeing to resuscitate the ceasefire understanding of 2003 which was being honoured more in its breach. The whole month of March, we didn’t witness even a single round being fired on the LC barring one incident. It is for the first time in about five to six years that the LC has been silent. This really bodes well for the future. With peace and tranquillity prevailing on the border, it will contribute to the peace and stability of the country.”

Dwelling upon the reasons for ceasefire violations in the past and Pakistan now agreeing to honour it, the he said: “Ceasefire move was prompted by the futility of duels on the LC which was not resulting in any forward movement. They were also facing internal problems and over a period of time, even they realised that it was time to change tack and extend an olive branch. However, terror infrastructure and terrorists still remain in place and we will have to wait till the snow melts in order to see the seriousness with which Pakistanis treat this ceasefire.”

He added that there were primarily three reasons for Pakistan’s move for peace—the threat of FATF sanctions, domestic compulsions, and situation on its Western border with Afghanistan.

On the future of the arrangement, Naravane expressed cautious optimism. “We have reasons to be hopeful as the Pakistani Army is on board. Since the firing along the LC was done to give cover to the terrorists attempting to infiltrate and there has been no firing recently, there is cause to be optimistic about the future. We need to wait and see how things develop before we make any concrete assessment.”

The Army chief also spoke about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir which he said was “getting better”. He said the statistics on security situation in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 show that the condition in the Valley is getting better. This, he said, is confirmed by the high number of tourists in the peak winter months.

Naravane, however, added that social media was playing a role in radicalising youth.

“Youth are getting attracted to the romanticism of gun culture, especially through social media. We are taking a number of steps such as generating employment opportunities for them outside J&K, and attempting to wean them away from violence… The people of J&K know what is good for them. But sometimes they are forced to take actions and make statements under the shadow of the gun as the security forces cannot be omnipresent all the time… The youth are not getting radicalised as much as people think,” he said.