Indian Armed Forces: Coronavirus crisis ‘biggest invisible war’; Armed forces and military assets adequately protected: Rajnath Singh

NEW DELHI: India has put in place a robust mechanism to insulate the three services and their strategic assets from the coronavirus infection, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday, assuring that the military is fully prepared to defend the the country from “adversarial forces” though it was fighting the pandemic.

In an exclusive interview, Singh said the fight against the pandemic is the “biggest invisible war” in last several decades and India is acting on a war footing with proper coordination among all agencies concerned and support of people.

He said the Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force are strictly adhering to instructions issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Health Ministry and their own medical bodies for protection against COVID-19.

“The fight against COVID-19 is possibly the biggest invisible war in our lifetime. A war against humanity and having various impact on health and economic security of the nation,” he said.

“We as a nation are fighting the COVID-19 crisis on a war footing and all agencies of the government are working in close coordination. The armed forces are assisting the nation in its fight against coronavirus,” Singh said.

Asked whether the pandemic has impacted operational aspects of the military, Singh said they are prepared for all contingencies and ready to defend India’s sovereignty from adversarial forces in all scenarios.

Referring to the situation along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, the defence minister said India is dominating the enemy through targeted intelligence-based strikes on their launch pads.

“The Indian armed forces are prepared for all contingencies and I can assure you that we are prepared to defend our sovereignty from adversarial forces in all scenarios,” he said.

His assertion comes amid apprehension about possible impact of the pandemic on the armed forces, particularly after 26 Indian Navy sailors were infected by the virus in the first such large-scale case of infection in the Indian military.

“As you would have gathered from the operations along the LoC (Line of Control) in the last two weeks, we are dominating the enemy through targeted intelligence based strikes on their launch pads and eliminating them before they set foot on Indian soil,” the defence minister said.

Pakistan has been resorting to widespread ceasefire violations along the LoC at a time when India has been leading efforts to help the SAARC member nations in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Army has been adequately responding to Pakistani “misadventures” under its policy of “hot pursuit”, a military official said.

On the role of armed forces in containing coronavirus pandemic, the defence minister said expertise of armed forces in communications, supply chain management, medical support and engineering are being used to combat it.

He also said that the government has directed leading defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) to produce medical equipment like ventilators, masks, PPEs and other equipment to address the problem of shortages.

Singh said armed forces are taking measures like curtailing movement of troops, restricting leave and enforcing work from home to prevent spread of infection.

A mandatory 14-day quarantine period is being enforced for all personnel coming from outside any station, irrespective of rank, he added.

He said special precautions are being taken on ships and submarines where it is difficult to strictly follow social distances norms.

Soldiers deployed along borders, especially in remotest regions, are safest as they are cut-off from all likely carriers of disease, he said, adding the government is ensuring their safety by deploying fresh troops who have been medically validated as having no symptoms of the infection.

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