'String of pearls' not an attempt to encircle India

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New Delhi, Feb 23: Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor has said the Chinese military build-up and the so-called 'string of pearls' may not necessarily be seen as an attempt to encircle India, and also admitted that there were incursions into China from this side as well.

''Every one of the bases that the Chinese may have may not necessarily be seen as an attempt to encircle India,'' he said in an interview here. However, Gen Kapoor said all of this was collectively borne in mind when India does its strategic planning. The 'string of pearls' is a circle of Chinese military installations stretching from Burma and Bangladesh in the East, through Tibet in the North, down through Pakistan and Gwadar in the West and into the Indian Ocean with Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, and some analysts believe this amounted to China's encirclement of India. ''When we sit together and discuss any threats to India's national security we would take all such considerations into our discussion and then come to a conclusion about what should be constituted as a threat or otherwise - any developments in the region are a matter for study and they must be studied in the light of security considerations and they must also be seen in the context of what do we need to do should they pose a challenge to us,'' the Army Chief said.

He was responding to a query that there were some people who argue that the 'string of pearls,' even if that may not be China's intention, should be seen as a potential encirclement of India. About Chinese incursions, Gen Kapoor said the media concern about the issue was based on a ''misperception''.

''I think a degree of misperception has been built on this issue of incursions - first and foremost it's a matter of perception. The Chinese have a different perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as do we. When they come up to their perception, we call it an incursion and likewise they do.'' ''And let me to tell you in 2007, the level of total number of incursions is somewhat similar to what it has been in the past. So, the feeling that too many incursions have taken place into Indian territory is not right,'' he added.

The Army Chief said India could be equally accused of such incursions.

''That's right,'' he said when asked that just as the Chinese incur into the Indian territory, the Indians probably as often incur into their territory because of differences of perception as to where the LAC was.

Asked they could just as easily turn around and say that India was incurring into their territory, if they should so wish, Gen Kapoor said: ''Which they would call an incursion into their side. So, to that extent, we would be as much blameworthy for that kind of incursion up to our perceived LAC.'' The Army Chief said he did not share the ''press fear'' that the incursions were a sign of muscle-flexing and perhaps something worse to come.

''I don't share that at all - that is why I say at times the press has not been fair in reporting this very accurately,'' he said in the interview to CNN-IBN for its Devil's Advocate programme, to be telecast tomorrow night.

Speaking about the differences in infrastructure -- road and railway development -- between the Indian and Chinese sides of the border in Arunachal Pradesh, Gen Kapoor said this gave China ''an additional capability to bring in additional troops''.

''It gives them an additional capability to bring in additional troops if and when they want to bring in. So that is an area where we need to be on an equal footing. The fact that our infrastructure is not so well-developed is a fact...There is a disparity and we are seriously looking into it and trying to change that,'' he added.

However, the Army Chief said the satellite technology gave India an ability to see deep across the LAC into the Chinese side and this has helped the country overcome the fact that China could move additional troops to the border faster than India.

''Whilst that is a matter of concern, the fact is that if and when they move (troops) there are also today images available through the means of satellite. Whenever any such movement takes place there is an ample opportunity for (advance) notice to be able to meet such a challenge if and when it does happen...the ability to look deeper across the LAC is today much greater.'' ''That's right,'' he said when asked if the technology had helped India overcome this disparity as well.


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