There has been a marginal increase in Chinese patrols in the eastern sector along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), while the scale and durations of its exercises has increased in their depth areas since the stand-off in eastern Ladakh last year, said Eastern Army Commander Lt. Gen. Manoj Pande on Tuesday. He noted that both India and China were attempting to develop infrastructure close to the LAC.
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The Army is countering the Chinese presence by incorporating technological advancements with specific focus on expanding surveillance capabilities like long range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and radars, Lt. Gen. Pande said while also stating that the Army’s 17 Mountain Strike Corps, meant for the border with China, had been fully operationalised.
Giving an overview on the situation along the LAC in the eastern sector in an interaction with a group of journalists from Delhi, Lt. Gen. Pande said, “Some of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] reserve formations which were mobilised continue to remain in their training areas, that again is in the operational depth. Both sides are attempting to develop infrastructure closer to the LAC and that leads to certain issues at times.”
Since this infrastructure had come up close to the LAC, there had been a marginal increase in the number of border defence troops already deployed there, he pointed out.
Speaking of the measures taken, he observed that the first step was enhancing surveillance both close to the LAC and in the depth areas. This was being done by synergising resources right from satellites at strategic level to troops on the ground and “we have adequate forces in each sector for any need that may arise”.
He stressed, “In certain areas, where our deployment was thin, we have strengthened our deployment but largely there has been no major increase in troops along the LAC.”
They were also looking at maximising technology, especially in terms of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, communications and likewise, he reiterated.
Of the 3,488 km-long LAC, 1,346 km fall in the eastern sector.
The raising of the new 17 Mountain Strike Corps commenced in 2014. By now it was fully operationalised and all its units, including combat, combat support and support, had been fully equipped, the Army Commander asserted.
“Its employment philosophy is stabilised. The formations of the corps have been carrying our validation and integrated training with other formations,” he said.
To further enhance the operational efficiency, they were were looking at Integrated Battle Group (IBG) model for the mountain strike corps so that “we have better options for its employment and its areas of application”, he remarked. Over the years, the organisation and structure of the mountain strike corps had evolved to meet the operational requirements.
IBGs are brigade-sized agile self-sufficient combat formations meant to swiftly launch strikes against adversary in case of hostilities. The concept had been tested in exercises and fine-tuned.
Lt. Gen. Pande disclosed that the in-principle approval for the creation of IBGs had been given and the modalities were being worked out.
There had been a major push for development of infrastructure in the region. The induction of equipment such as Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, which enabled faster movement, and deployment of M777 Ultra Light Howitzers have strengthened their position.
In addition, there is major expansion of roads in the region which will facilitate faster mobilisation of men, resources and equipment. Several tunnels are under construction while a railway line is also planned to Tawang.
India and China have three established hotlines for communication in the eastern sector between the armies to resolve any issues arising. A fourth hotline was recently operationalised.
The Army had embarked on a series of emergency procurements for eastern Ladakh in the backdrop of the stand-off that began in May. Lt. Gen. Pande highlighted that there were several emergency procurements done under the Eastern Command as well during that time.
Some of the focus areas were to enhance mobility in terms of all terrain vehicles where infrastructure was not good, precision-guided ammunition, better radio sets for communication, radars and night vision devices.
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On the strategic and vulnerable Siliguri corridor, the narrow stretch of land connecting the North East to rest of the country, Lt Gen Pande said it was very “sensitive”. Stating that there were challenges of radicalisation and separatists, he said a joint coordination centre was set up recently for the to corridor with all concerned stakeholders.
Following the standoff in Eastern Ladakh which is still ongoing, the Army and Air Force have augmented deployments along the Line of Actual Control. Thousands of troops of India and China deployed since will spend a second winter in the high altitude areas and Army has mostly completed advanced winter stocking to maintain these troops
In the Eastern sector too, Lt Gen Pande said they have mostly completed winter stocking and the habitat for troops have been beefed as well.