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India appoints ‘China expert’ as new defence chief

India has picked a general who commanded soldiers on its disputed border with China as its new defence chief, as New Delhi strives to offset Beijing’s growing military assertiveness.Infomation Guide Nigeria

The nomination of LieutenantGeneral Anil Chauhan comes during a comprehensive overhaul of India’s armed forces, and nearly a year after the death of the previous defence chief in a helicopter crash.

India has been concerned of its northern neighbor’s increasing force presence along their vast border, and border conflicts, including fatal Himalayan battles in 2020, have been a recurring source of tension.

Local media referred him General Chauhan as a China expert”; following his retirement from active duty last year, he served as the national security adviser’s counsel.

He will serve as chief of defence staff “until further orders” according to a statement released by the Defense Ministry late on Wednesday.

Gen Chauhan led the ground forces on India’s eastern front, including a significant portion of the disputed border with China, prior to his retirement.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh in its entirety and believes it to be part of Tibet.

New Delhi and Beijing have routinely accused each other of attempting to take territory at critical flashpoints along their 3,500-kilometer Line of Actual Control, also known as the Actual Line of Control.

In 2020, their troops engaged in a conflict at a high altitude along the border between Tibet and the Indian state of Ladakh, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers and a severe worsening in ties.

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After more than a dozen rounds of high-level military discussions and a two-year standoff, both nations began withdrawing their troops from the vicinity of the site of the event this month.

New Delhi is particularly concerned about Beijing’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean since it considers the area to be firmly within its sphere of influence.

India and the United States are both members of the so-called Quad, a strategic partnership that focuses on the Indo-Pacific and aims to provide a more substantial counterbalance to China.

Gen Chauhan’s career has included a leading position in disputed Kashmir – the site of a protracted insurgency against Indian control – and cross-border raids against militant groups in neighbouring Myanmar in 2019.

His appointment ends months of speculation regarding who will succeed General Bipin Rawat, who was killed in a helicopter incident in December 2021.

Gen Rawat, 63, was the first chief of defence staff and was viewed as a close ally of the Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who created the position specifically for him.

During his time in power, Gen. Rawat ruffled Beijing’s feathers by regularly challenging its actions at their disputed boundaries and warning Nepal about China’s expanding footprint.

India has been attempting to modernise and simplify its 1.4 millionstrong armed forces, as well as to minimise its reliance on foreign armaments, revealing its first aircraft carrier produced domestically this month. AFP

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Emediong Ekpe

Emediong Ekpe is a graduate of English. A professional Sports journalist/analyst, and a spoken word artist. He is passionate about decimating information and putting smiles on people's faces via news writing.

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