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China's assertiveness more evident with its rise: CDS Gen Chauhan

NEW DELHI (PTI): China's assertiveness is more evident now with its rise and India will have to take this aspect into account in its overall "strategic calculus", Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan said while delving into various national security challenges and profound geopolitical changes.

Delivering the annual Gen KV Krishna Rao memorial lecture on Thursday, he also referred to India's "major dispute" along the northern borders with China and suggested that New Delhi will have to play its "strategic autonomy" card well.

"The strategic autonomy may be relevant to exploit opportunities rather than to take care of your threats. That's where the future should lie. We should be thinking about opportunities more," he said.

"This all what I said comes with a little bit of a caveat because of the northern neighbor. In this strategic calculus, India will have to take into account the emergence of China as a major power," the Chief of Defence Staff said.

"China's assertiveness is more evident with its rise. India has a major dispute on its northern borders with China and will have to play the strategic autonomy card...," he added.

Referring to disruptions in the global geopolitical order, Gen Chauhan also underlined the need for India to continue maintaining "strategic autonomy" in its approach and highlighted how New Delhi was moving forward from its approach of "non-alignment" to an era of being a "Vishwa-mitra" -- a friend to the world.

He also cited India's nuclear tests in 1998, its "neutral and a nuanced" stand on the Russia-Ukraine war and the decision to go ahead with procurement of S-400 missile systems from Moscow notwithstanding threats of sanctions as examples of the country exercising its "strategic autonomy".

"I believe that India has transited ahead from non-alignment of yesteryears to self-alignment as you said to maybe multi-alignment," he noted.

The Chief of Defence Staff also summarised India's journey of being non-aligned to that of exercising strategic autonomy.

"If I were to summarize the journey of India from non-alignment to exercising of strategic autonomy, it can be based on what I can say is three S. First is securing India. Next is self-reliance. And lastly, shaping the environment to India's advantage and benefit," he said.

Gen Chauhan also elaborated on economic aspects of global geopolitics and that the global balance of power can be shifted by economic alignment and even issues like morality, righteousness and convergence of global interests.

"In India's famous epic Mahabharata, Lord Krishna shifted the balance of power towards the Pandavas. His military might went to the Kauravas but it was only his righteousness and sage advice which shifted the balance of power," he said.

"And ultimately the Pandavas emerged victorious in that particular war. We as a nation have utilised the G20 platform to leverage soft power to play a dominating role. So these are also important facts we must keep in mind when we take strategic decisions on how to get aligned in future," he said.

Gen Chauhan said the global geopolitical environment is currently in a state of flux and India must exercise its options looking at its national interests.

"The world I believe is transiting between two orders. The old order is withering away and the shapes and no one knows the contours of this new order and how it will shape in the long run," he said.

Gen Chauhan also cited the financial crisis, disruptions in the global supply chains due to COVID-19, food and fertilizer shortages due to Russia-Ukraine conflict, the situation in the South China Sea as some of the manifestations of the geopolitical and geoeconomic flux.

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