Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat on Saturday said that China’s foray into Myanmar and Bangladesh does not suit India’s interest, PTI reported.

Rawat added that the two neighbouring countries have received the largest military aid from China. He said that Beijing has also made investments in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives “to gain strategic foothold” in South Asia.

“Of late, we are witnessing a geo-strategic competition and huge investment by China in the region [South Asia] to create a favourable posture to provide sufficient security to its interests,” Rawat said at an event in Guwahati, according to the news agency.

The chief of defence staff said that there was an “omnipresent danger” of strategic instability in South Asia that could threaten India’s “territorial integrity and strategic importance”.

Rawat added that India must engage more with its neighbouring countries to counter China’s influence, PTI reported.

“We have to tell our neighbours that we are here as permanent friends and engage with them on equal terms and we consider all neighbours as equal partners in development,” he added.

The former Army chief also spoke about Pakistan starting a “proxy war” against India.

“Whenever there is peace and tranquillity in Jammu and Kashmir, our western adversary creates a situation where people of some community are killed and fear is generated,” Rawat said, according to The Hindu.

As many as 12 civilians, including migrant workers, have been killed in the Union Territory this month.

One person was shot dead by the Central Reserve Police Force, while the remaining 11 were killed by militants. The Resistance Front, believed to be an offshoot of Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, has claimed responsibility for most of killings.

Rawat said that the intelligence network in Kashmir was being strengthened.

“People don’t like the armed forces to become intrusive, but we will have to get back into this fold again and carry out activities to ensure the terrorists do not carry out any activity,” he said, according to The Hindu.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti criticised Rawat’s comment.

“Even after turning Kashmir into an open air prison, Bipin Rawat’s statement comes as no surprise because repression is GOIs [government of India’s] only method to deal with the situation in J&K,” she tweeted. “It also contradicts their official narrative that all is well here.”

Defence chief on Afghanistan

Meanwhile, Rawat on Saturday said that the situation in Afghanistan could also have an impact on Jammu and Kashmir, ANI reported.

“What is happening in Afghanistan, we know its overflow can happen in Jammu and Kashmir,” he added. “We have to prepare for it, seal our borders, monitoring has become very important. We have to keep an eye on who’s coming from outside, checking should be done.”

Afghanistan had come under insurgent group Taliban’s control in August as the United States and its allies were preparing to pull out their troops from the country after 20 years. The Taliban’s return to power triggered turmoil in Afghanistan, with thousands of people leaving the country to escape their feared rule.

In September, the Taliban formed an interim government in Afghanistan.

On border tensions with China

Rawat said that there were suspicions between India and China and it would take time to resolve the tensions, PTI reported. “The people must have faith and confidence in the system and the armed forces,” he added.

The two countries have been locked in a border standoff since their troops clashed in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June last year. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash. China put the number of casualties on its side at four.

After several rounds of talks, India and China had disengaged from Pangong Tso Lake in eastern Ladakh in February. After the commander level talks on July 31, the two countries also agreed to disengage from Gogra.

India and China are now discussing ways to resolve pending matters in a quick manner.

“Issues are being resolved with talks at different levels, from military to political level,” Rawat said, according to PTI.