LAST MILE CONNECTIVITY: INDO-CHINA BORDER

 11/13/2017  233

Countering Chinese incursions in Ladakh, Tawang regions need two pronged approach, one that the border talks should continue, two India should create appropriate infrastructure along the border. The 4057 km LAC (line of actual control) which is a defacto border between India and China is divided in to three sectors, western, middle and eastern sector. The recent India-China standoff over Doklam and incursions in Ladakh by China calls for a strategy to contain belligerent stance of China. India defused the recent crisis through diplomatic channels and by deploying troops but as the saying goes” if you want to have peace be ready for war”. India’s 1.3 million strong army is fighting low intensity warfare in NE and J&K is combat ready and prepared to handle any outside aggression. Other than the combat readiness India needs to develop border infrastructure with last mile connectivity along LAC.

In May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to commemorate three years of his administration by opening the country’s longest ever bridge over the Lohit river, Called the Bhupen Hazarika Setu (BP), the bridge will significantly cut down travel time to the easternmost parts of Arunachal Pradesh (AP), an Indian state that has been publicly claimed in its entirety by Beijing since 2006 as “Southern Tibet.” The high-profile opening was also intended to convey a message to the Chinese that India was moving forward with its current strategy of developing infrastructure in regions bordering Chinese-controlled territory in order to facilitate the defense of every inch of territory it considers its own. Overall, at a time of heightened India-China tensions and fears about Sino-Pak military collusion potentially culminating in a two-front situation, India is now working to upgrade its military posture vis-a-vis China from one of dissuasion to one of deterrence.

China LAC Build up: Chinese have built motorable tactical roads to all 31 passes that are of military significance along the LAC. As far as airpower is concerned, besides the six fully operational dual-use airbases facing India at Lhasa Gonggar, Nyingchi, Qamdo, Hoping, Ngari Gunsa, and Shigatse, PLAAF has built another nine for its use in TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region).TAR also has some 27 additional airstrips that the PLAAF can utilize. Unlike in the past, the PLAAF now operates year-round from TAR, with reportedly some 24 combat aircraft, a mix of J-10s and J-11s, being based there on a near-permanent basis with other frontline combat aircraft being deployed to airfields in the region as detachments for durations of up to three months. Several airfields dedicated to helicopter and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations are also being constructed in TAR. In May 2017, the PLAAF took the lid off a base in TAR that hosts a GJ-1 armed UAV unit.

India’s Response: Despite the muscle flexing, the PLAGF is going to find it rather difficult to conquer any target of value along the LAC. Take Tawang, for instance. An entire IA mountain division, the 5th under IV Corps, has its headquarters in neighboring West Kameng district. Indian forces deployed in Tawang have the best firepower the IA has at its disposal and have essentially fortified Tawang. An advanced landing ground has also been approved for construction in Tawang, with surveys underway for a high-altitude rail link. In addition to the 5th Division, India has eight more mountain divisions along with one dual-tasked formation under the III, IV, and XXXIII Corps of its Eastern Command, which are all defensively oriented against the Chinese. To support these formations, the IA has also built numerous logistics nodes, troop habitats and underground storage facilities. In recent times, India is also desperately trying to complete the India-China Border Roads (ICBR) Project, which envisages the construction of 73 strategic roads along the LAC of which 27 roads are currently operational. Each of these roads will be capable of conveying 155 mm howitzers and multi-barrel rocket launchers such as the 300 mm Smerch and the 220 mm Pinaka.

The 17 Corps, with two new high-altitude infantry divisions as well as armoured, artillery, air defence, engineer brigades spread from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, will be fully formed with 90,274 soldiers at a cost Rs 64,678 crore by 2021. "All adversaries respect strength, which comes from having the capability to strike across the border," Army chief General Bipin Rawat had earlier told TOI. India is also progressively improving its aviation facilities in India’s northeast with composite aviation bases and dedicated UAV bases such as the one at Lilabari, Assam. Numerous other forward area refueling and arming points as well as forward operating bases are meant for helicopter aviation, including the soon to be acquired AH-64E Apaches as well as the indigenous Rudra armed helicopter, which is being deployed to the NE.

In Globalised world trade and development has taken over rivalries and full scale war is an outdated concept. As china has already resolved its boundary dispute with 12 out of 14 neighbours and in process sacrificed around 20000 sq kms of territorial claims. Now it has unsettled boundary disputes with India and Bhutan and both India and China have moved forward by showing their intentions to settle the dispute through dialogue and the meeting is being held in later this month.

In the picture : After Pangong clashes with Chinese troops, Army officers hold exercises near Chang La Pass

 

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