India ramps up military presence along China border (Lead, changing dateline)

June 9th, 2009 - 4:08 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Itanagar/Tezpur, June 9 (IANS) India is ramping up its military deployment along the border with China, positioning two army divisions, each comprising around 25,000 to 30,000 personnel, as also a squadron of frontline Sukhoi Su-30 MKI combat jets at a key airbase in the northeast, military officials said.
This apart, the induction of the first of three airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) aircraft will be a potent force multiplier in the military’s capabilities to monitor the movement of troops and aircraft in Chinese territory.

“Hitherto, the Indian defence establishment’s focus had been on Pakistan but there is a growing realisation that we cannot ignore China’s growing military might and its ability to quickly move troops and equipment thanks to the railway line it has built up to Lhasa,” a top military official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“India and China might have put their border dispute on the back burner as they move ahead in other spheres but there is a growing realisation that we need to refocus on China, the warming diplomatic relations and the joint war games notwithstanding,” the officer added.

Thus, it was a matter of little surprise that India’s normally taciturn defence establishment chose to speak through a former Indian Army chief, Gen. J.J. Singh, who is now the governor of the strategic northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh - parts of which Beijing claims - to detail its road map for the heightened deployment along the China border.

“To develop India’s capability to effectively meet the future security challenges, deployment of more troops along the India-China border is necessary,” Singh told reporters Monday in Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar.

He said two army divisions, each comprising around 25,000 to 30,000 personnel, along with artillery, medical, signals and engineering support, would be positioned along the 3,500 km long international border.

“The exercise would be completed in a phased manner in the next few years along with development of roads and other infrastructure along the borders,” Singh said.

“Increase of the force level, and improvement of weapons, fighting platforms, intelligence acquiring and other equipment are aimed at enhancing the capabilities of the Army troopers to effectively meet any sort of challenges,” he added.

This apart, a squadron of Su-30MKIs would become operational at the Tezpur air base in Assam next week.

A defence spokesperson said Tuesday four of the multi-role jets would land June 15 Tezpur, about 185 km north of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.

“Four Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter jets would land first and soon it would be a full squadron comprising of 18 aircraft,” defence spokesperson Colonel R. Kalia told IANS.

Capable of carrying nuclear weapons, the jet has been tailor-made to Indian specifications by its Russian designers and is now being manufactured under license in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) after the initial lot was bought in fly away condition.

“There are more plans to improve infrastructure in the northeastern region, including developing four or five airfields and advanced landing grounds, besides putting our best assets in the region,” a senior IAF official said requesting not to be named.

The decision to set up a squadron of the most potent fighter jet in service with the IAF follows repeated allegations of Chinese incursions in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in the last few years.

The IAF base at Tezpur is within striking distance from the Chinese border along Arunachal Pradesh.

According to union home ministry reports, there were about 270 “violations” by China on India’s western, middle and eastern sectors in 2008, while there were 60 such incidents reported so far this year.

Beijing had in 2003 given up its territorial claim over the Indian state of Sikkim but was still holding on to its old stand that a vast stretch of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to them.

The mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030-km (650-mile) unfenced border with China.

The India-China border along Arunachal Pradesh is marked by the McMahon Line, a notional border which is now known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

India and China fought a bitter border war in 1962, with Chinese troops advancing deep into Arunachal Pradesh and inflicting heavy casualties on Indian troops.

The border dispute with China was inherited by India from British colonial rulers, who hosted a 1914 conference with the Tibetan and Chinese governments that set the border in what is now Arunachal Pradesh.

China has never recognised the 1914 boundary, known as the McMahon Line, and claims 90,000 sq km (34,750 square miles) — nearly all — of Arunachal Pradesh. India also accuses China of occupying 8,000 sq km (14,670 square miles) in Kashmir.

“Setting up of advanced air bases and plans to increase military strength in the region is to meet future national security challenges,” an army officer at the 4 Corps headquarters at Tezpur said on customary conditions of anonymity.

The defence ministry is also executing plans to develop more than 600 kilometers of roads along the Chinese border in Arunachal Pradesh that will be link to other road networks in the hinterland.

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