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Troops At LAC And LoC:WILL CHINA DO ANOTHER KARGIL?, by Dr. P.K. Vasudeva, 7 Nov, 2011 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 7 November 2011

Troops At LAC And LoC
By Dr PK Vasudeva


“There are between 3000-4000 Chinese, including troops, present in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) besides a large number patrolling all along the Line of Actual Control (LaC) in Ladakh and the North Eastern region”, disclosed the Army Chief General VK Singh recently. Adding, a number of encroachments have also been reported on Ladakh’s and Arunachal Pradesh’s borders.


Indeed, Gen Singh’s statement is significant coming as it does on the heels of the disclosures made by the Northern Army Commander Lt Gen KT Parnaik stating, “Not only are they in the neighbourhood but they are actually present and stationed near the line of control (LoC)”  in April last.


According to the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) analyst E Ahmed  “in the wake of massive troop formation on the Indo-China LaC there is a possibility of a limited attack to capture some disputed areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.” Adding, that China evidently wants to stop the emergence of India as an economic power in South Asia.


Importantly, the lower end of the conflict could be a Kargil-like situation at this level. Beijing’s aim could be to ‘teach India a lesson’ so as to influence India’s rise before its capacity building which is underway acquires traction. There could be a limited war confined to a specific section of the border or LaC, restricted in duration and amenable to a negotiated termination. It could be like the1962 operations but at a larger scale with Pakistan’s support.


Besides, on the Chinese side, the accommodation coming up is all in concrete. Even as Beijing terms the structures as ‘nomad-huts’, the Indian Army suspects these are of dual use and can be converted into supply depots or as bunkers. The Chinese watch-towers at Domshele and Demchok are three-storey high and are visibly well protected and insulated. While the Indian side has only basic amenities but these too are way behind China.


This is not all. China has also readied six air bases on its side in areas of Western Tibet and the Xinjiang province adjoining Ladakh. Also the Indian security establishment has irrefutable visual inputs on Chinese airfields.


Beijing now has the capability to launch fighter aircrafts carrying deadly strike weapons or transport planes transporting tonnes of equipment or hundreds of troops to land them close to the Indian forward defence lines restricted along the LaC. These fully functional airfields virtually form a ‘ring’ around Ladakh.


India, on its part has only the Leh and Thoise airstrips which allow operations of all types of small and large planes. The Kargil airstrip is just 6,000-feet long and allows only smaller planes like AN32 or the C-130-Js to land. It is likely to be expanded by the year 2016.


What’s more, the Nyoma airstrip in South-Eastern Ladakh is a mud-paved advanced landing ground (ALG). This sits at a junction from where three pressure points along the LaC-Demchok, Chushul and Chumar sector are close by. But Indian strategic planners have ruled out having full operational usage of the ALG’s at Fukche and Chushul as they are deemed too close to China.


Undeniably, there can be no masking the fact that India needs to prioritise and speed up its thrust into Eastern Ladakh. Setting up of vital airfields, infrastructure on the LaC, storehouses for supplies and better accommodation for troops just cannot be postponed any more. Towards that end, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) gave its nod to develop an airfield at Nyoma and expand the one at Kargil early last month.


Faced with growing Chinese military presence along the LaC and other complex security challenges in the region, the Government is now planning to increase the strength of the Army by almost one lakh soldiers over the next five years. The Ministry also approved an Rs 64,000 crore ($13 billion) military modernisation plan that would include raising four mountain divisions along the India-China border.


Two of which would be part of a Mountain Strike Corps dedicated to offensive operations. The MoD’s plan is also to raise two independent brigades, one in Ladakh and the other in Uttrakhand. Additionally, the proposed modernisation plan includes comprehensive overhaul and upgrade of the Army’s firepower, logistical capabilities and other aspects of China border deployment.


But the positioning of a few Sukhoi-30s or even the raising of a strike corps, though a good start, is not sufficient in themselves. Considering the type of terrain, India’s response has to start earnestly and early since it is a time consuming process.


Undoubtedly the overall development of the Eastern region will not only further the military aim but also improve the socio-economic condition of the region. The bureaucracy too has an important role to play in shepherding the military’s recommendations. Given that the necessary political direction will demonstrate that India is up to a big Chinese challenge. Remember, the Armed Forces require ultra light Howitzers for mountain warfare. It also requires a major addition to its helicopter capabilities besides replacement of age old MiGs.


This is corroborated by strategists who believe that too little attention has been given towards the modernisation of the Armed Forces. As a matter of fact, even the morale of the troops is not very high because of poor service conditions resulting in the acute shortage of officers which presently stands at that 14,000 and increasing day by day.


Significantly, defence analysts also feel that the steps taken by the MoD to counter the threat perception from the Chinese Army are too little and too late. As the Government only reacts and believes in fire fighting instead of acting on a proper perspective and planning basis for which the Chinese are well known.


Clearly, the political leadership therefore has to wake up and give priority to the modernisation of the Armed Forces, concentrate in developing the logistical infrastructure in the North East and Ladakh regions and finally improve the service conditions of the Forces to make it more attractive so that the deficiencies in manpower is reduced. ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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