I disagree that there is any politicisation of the armed forces, he said

Responding to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's repeated threats of using nuclear warheads against India, newly appointed Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane indicated that it was nothing less than a bluff.

"Historically, nuclear weapons have always been the good deterrence. And that is where their role ends. We have seen two-three occasions where we can carry out operations without the nuclear portion coming into play," General Naravane said while interacting with a select group of journalists in his office in South Block. The Army chief was referring to the action against Pakistan-based terror groups, including the 2016 surgical strike and Balakot airstrike.

While he claimed that the security forces have “achieved a lot” from Balakot airstrike, General Naravane admitted that there has been reconstruction and reactivation of terror camps in the same vicinity. "Air strikes achieved a lot. Even in war time (when) there is an attack, it is reconstructed. But what is important is the signal.”

“It has signalled that terrorist camps and infrastructure like launch pads can all be taken down (even inside their territory) and they can't operate with impunity. That was the message sent," he said.

"As a result, there will be some restraint and lot of caution which has come in before escalating," The Army chief said. He also admitted that terror camps continue to exist in Pakistan-occupied territory, but Indian Army is keeping track of them.

"The camps are very much there....It doesn’t always have to be a big one....We keep track of them. How many are coming and going. We make an assessment on the basis of intelligence inputs on number of camps, number of terrorists and so on. It is only an estimate, not an exact number," The Army chief said, while adding that there are about 250 terrorists waiting to cross over at 20-25 launch pads from Pakistani soil.

When asked about the situation in Kashmir valley after Union government's decision of abrogation of Article 370, he claimed that the move has brought peace in the valley. "Yes, it has brought peace. Incidents of stone pelting and violence have come down drastically. There is no major terror attack in the state. So, the facts and figures show that there is an improvement," he said.

Immediately after taking over as Army chief, General Naravane had claimed that Indian armed forces should also concentrate on its northern border (border with China), as over the years, efforts have been made only towards western border. "We have two big neighbours and two large boundaries. Northern border is different and is more inhospitable terrain. It is natural that we focus more there. It is not that one is more important. We are just preparing for any eventuality. If you want peace, you should be ready," he said, and added that it is important to improve the capabilities and infrastructure on the northern border as well.

"We should be firm in our resolve and assertive in our claims. We don't have to be aggressive. We have to be assertive in our claims, not creating more frictions or stalling parallel talks on boundary disputes. We have to know what we want as far as the resolution of the border is concerned," he said in a carefully worded response.

Speaking about weapons and technology, he said, "Infrastructure, surveillance and reserves are the important things required for manning the border. We can't man every nook and corner of entire border. We will be too thinned out,"

Responding a question by The WEEK over restructuring the Army to make it more lean and mean, he said, "Army has sent four proposals to restructure it with an aim to deal with future wars. We are awaiting cabinet approval on it as the ministry is more or less on board with the Army headquarters suggestions. "

On the issue of politicisation of Army, especially after Army was called into build a railway bridge or make arrangement for a programme by a spiritual leader, General Naravane strongly dismissed it.

"I disagree that there is any politicisation of the armed forces. Armed forces have been apolitical since Independence. There is some misconception on that. We are the Army of the people and for the people," he said on the Army being called to build railway foot over bridge in Maharashtra.