New Delhi: The measures taken by the Indian Army to protect its troops from COVID-19 in its initial phase last year benefitted it in tackling the Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh as it was in a high state of operational preparedness during that time, Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Wednesday.
After the coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed in March last year in the country, the Indian Army took strong measures to prevent Covid spread among its troops and imposed restrictions on them, and curtailed their physical interaction with the outside world.
The Chinese aggression along the Northern borders in eastern Ladakh started shortly thereafter. "The Indian Army was ready (due to anti-COVID measures) to meet all contingencies. As it so transpired, when the crisis developed along our borders in Eastern Ladakh, our decision for Force Preservation benefitted us, as we were in a high state of operational preparedness," Gen Naravane said while addressing a function titled "Winning the 21st Century War: Transforming Indian Army" here.
He said as the situation warmed up along our Northern Borders, jawans rose to the occasion.
"They had full faith in their leaders. They were willing to work through all the challenges and difficulties to achieve their objectives. All this was within the available resources. This was possible because we had a war-gamed the likely contingencies and possible options beforehand," the Army chief said.
General Naravane said force preservation does not mean that we were only taking care of ourselves. "The Indian Army prides itself as a citizens' Army, committed to the safety and security of our people. On our part, we proactively contributed to the government's efforts towards meeting this challenge," he said.
"We were involved in the setting up of Quarantine Centres and Hospitals at various places across the length and breadth of the country in a record timeframe. The strengthening of medical infrastructure and oxygen supply chains was integrated into the overall national effort," he said.
Naravane said spontaneous actions were taken at all levels to meet the challenge without waiting for any formal orders. "While carrying out these tasks, our fatalities were far below the National Average. This can be attributed to the high standard of physical fitness and self-discipline, a testimony to the effectiveness of junior leadership."
The Army chief stated that even during the crisis, certain functions did not cease. "You could shut down schools and offices, factories and shopping centres, but you could not cease security. Our borders had to be protected, the soldiers had to discharge their duties," he said.
General Naravane said, "COVID cloud also had a silver lining for Army coupled with the challenges of live and active borders. This crisis (COVID) has been a defining moment for us. It forced us to introspect and improve upon our processes and re-invent our procedures. People on their own came to acknowledge how the power of technology can be harnessed and utilised. Old inhibitions were shed. As an organisation, it has made us more efficient."
He said, "I could proudly share with you all today that our training academies and institutions have remained fully functional over the last 18 months."