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‘Migration of border villagers adding to Army’s challenges along LAC’ 

A view of Indian Army convoy. File

A view of Indian Army convoy. File | Photo Credit: YAWAR NAZIR

GUWAHATI

The migration of border villagers has added to the challenges the Indian Army has been facing along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in trying to match the rapid enhancement of infrastructure and operational capabilities by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China.

Lieutenant General Rana Pratap Kalita, chief of the Army’s Eastern Command, said this in Guwahati on Monday, while asserting that the partial withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from three northeastern States has aided the redeployment of troops on the northern borders of the eastern sector and focus more on China.

“Migration of people from near the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh has led to shortage of people to work in those areas. The outmigration to the hinterland has been compounded by the unwillingness of people from outside to work in those difficult areas,” he said.

Hundreds of villagers have moved to towns in the more accessible areas in search of greener pastures over the years.

For the Army, this has added to the challenges of a tough terrain along the unstable eastern Himalayas and inclement weather in developing infrastructure and operational capabilities along the LAC.

On the situation along the Tibetan border, Lt Gen Kalita said the complexities arise because of the differences in perception about the line that has not been demarcated. “But we have mechanisms in place in accordance with existing bilateral agreements and protocols to defuse tension and work towards peace and tranquillity along the LAC,” he said.

China has developed a lot of infrastructure in Tibet, which includes railway lines connecting border areas with the Chinese hinterland through Lhasa. They have also constructed many highways, certain roads in forward areas that connect the passes along the LAC, and upgraded airports and helipads, while additional areas have been taken to ensure the stationing of more aircraft and helicopters, the Eastern Command chief said.

“They have also developed their communication infrastructure. There is the availability of 5G mobile connectivity. All these infrastructure developments give them the capability to mobilise troops from the camps in a shorter time,” he said, adding that the rolling plateaus of Tibet give China the operational advantage, unlike the landslide-prone mountains on the Indian side.

“One reason of concern for us is some villages located close to the LAC have the possibility of dual use. They can be used for civilians as well as to mobilise troops to the forward areas,” Lt Gen Kalita said.

“We all are conscious of these factors, are constantly monitoring the developments across the border and taking requisite steps to develop infrastructure on our side,” he said.

On the botched ambush at Oting in Nagaland’s Mon district that left 13 civilians and a soldier dead on December 4, 2021, Lt Gen Kalita said action would be taken according to the Army Act against any soldiers found to have committed lapses.

“The report of the Army’s court of inquiry has been submitted. We also received the report of the Special Investigation Team constituted by the Nagaland Government. Both the reports are being analysed to identify the lapses that have taken place during the conduct of the operation,” he said.

“Let me assure you that any fault which we identify, requisite action will be taken against those individuals irrespective of their ranks or who they are,” he said.

Lt Gen Kalita, who hails from Assam, said the Army was conscious of the fact that there had been an increase in recruitment by the Paresh Baruah faction of the extremist United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent or ULFA-I.

“Most of these recruitments have taken place through the social media where they were motivated. I was given to understand most of them have a criminal background,” he said.


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Printable version | May 16, 2022 10:19:39 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/migration-of-border-villagers-adding-to-armys-challenges-along-lac/article65420670.ece