India slowly building military muscle from Ladakh to Arunachal on the China front
KIBITHU: India is no longer the India of 1962, with weak defences along the border, paltry number of troops deployed in isolated and uncoordinated forward posts, and poor military command and control structures that virtually collapsed at the first sign of a Chinese invasion all those years ago.
This is the enduring refrain of military commanders as one travels along the border in the eastern sector amidst heightened shadow-boxing with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, despite troop disengagement from the 73-day face-off at Do-m near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tib tri-junction seven months ago.
Yes, there are daunting challenges for the Indian troops, ranging from lack of requisite roads, bridges and inter-valley connectivity to shortages of artillery, helicopters, drones and specialised ammunition stocks. But the operational readiness and troop morale is high, with India slowly but steadily adding some much-needed muscle to its military capabilities all along the 4,057-km long LAC to offset the stark military asymmetry with its larger neighbour. This has picked up pace after the People’s Liberation Army occupied north Do-m throughout the winter this time, even as it is disengaged from the actual face-off site on Bhutanese territory, say officers.
Four infantry mountain divisions (each with over 12,000 soldiers) under the 3 Corps (Dimapur) and 4 Corps (Tezpur), with two more divisions in reserve, are for example tasked for the defence of Arunachal Pradesh alone. The troop density at Tawang, which China claims to be part of south Tib, is particularly high to thwart any nefarious designs.
“Our primary task is to maintain the sanctity of the LAC and dominate the heights in peacetime, and be ready for war if it’s thrust on us. We shall not allow them to pass this time,” said a senior officer, overseeing the forbidding frontier in the Kibithu-Walong sector.
An expansionist and aggressive China is surely flexing its muscles. The number of its “transgressions” across the LAC went up to 426 last year, with around half of them resulting in troop face-offs, as compared to 273 in 2016. The upward trend continues this year.
Indian troops also conduct long-range patrols, which can even take up to 28-30 days in the harsh terrain, to “physically dominate” disputed areas along the LAC. India is also backing its foot soldiers with some firepower for credible deterrence, from deploying additional T-72 tanks in eastern Ladakh and Sikkim to the 290-km range BrahMos supersonic missiles and Bofors howitzers in Arunachal. The Sukhoi-30MKI fighter squadrons in the North-East will also be bolstered with the first squadron of the spanking new Rafale jets, which can also deliver nuclear weapons, at Hasimara by 2020.
Then, of course, the new 17 Mountain Strike Corps and associated units, with a total of 90,274 soldiers for “quick-reaction ground offensive capabilities”, will be fully raised by 2021-2022. After the 59 Infantry Division of the 17 Corps became fully operational at Panagarh (West Bengal), the 72 Infantry Division to be headquartered in Dehradun is now taking shape, with its first brigade to be raised at Roorkee next month.
“The 1962 debacle happened because we were grossly unprepared. It will not happen again. We are no longer blind in terms of surveillance, as we were even 15 years ago, and have enough boots on the ground to prevent any misadventure,” said an officer.
Koolheads-US-12 hours ago
This work will take time. India needs PM Modi for at least two more Terms for India to become an Economic & Military Power.