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Expand Infrastructure – Build Accompanying Capability


One of the triggers stated for the aggressive responses of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the Line of Actual Control (LAC)/McMahon Line is said to be expansion of border road infrastructure undertaken by the Indian government over the past few years.


While overall response of the Chinese military on the India China border is not limited to this factor which is more or less an operational issue, never the less this cannot be discounted.

At the same time Government is apparently not inclined to take up a correspondingly forceful response against China, despite the political opposition egging on after the Yangtse incident and others prior to the same.


Avoiding loss of territory as well as operational flexibility is thus important. In addition to expansion of infrastructure there will be a necessity for developing corresponding surveillance and early warning capabilities to pre-empt a Chinese attempt to secure points on the border as at Yangtse and communications for establish contact to preempt a clash.


What would such capabilities entail, but first a look at the expansion of infrastructure on the border.


Development of Infrastructure – India China Border


Over the last five years as per details provided to the parliament by the Ministry of Defence recently there has been extensive development of infrastructure in the border areas.


The Ministry of Defence had entrusted Border Roads Organisation (BRO) construction of roads in border areas, as per priority fixed by Army based on a five-year Long Term Roll over Works Plan (LTRoWP).


This information was given by Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri Ajay Bhatt in a written reply to Shri Pratap Chandra Sarangi and others in Lok Sabha. Based on the same the roads developed including the length on the India China border is as given below.



State

No of Roads

Length Kms

Arunachal Pradesh

64

3097.15

Sikkim

18

663.535

Uttarakhand

22

947.21

UT of Ladakh

43

3140.535

Emphasising on the same, the Ministry of Defence in the Annual Review has indicated that in 2022 Raksha Mantri [Defence Minister] dedicated 75 infrastructure projects of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) across seven states and two UTs to the Nation in October.


The Ministry stated that in a ceremony organised at Shyok village in Ladakh, Shri Rajnath Singh inaugurated 45 Bridges, 27 Roads, two Helipads and one Carbon Neutral Habitat. 20 of these projects are in Jammu & Kashmir, 18 each in Ladakh & Arunachal Pradesh, five in Uttarakhand and 14 in other border States of Sikkim, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab & Rajasthan as per the Ministry.


In the parliament the Ministry of Defence indicated that in addition, Government of India is implementing the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) through the State Governments/UT Administrations in habitations located within 0-10 kms from the first habitation at international border in 117 border districts of 16 States and two UTs.


The main objective of the BADP is to meet the special developmental needs and well-being of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the International Boundary (IB) and to provide the border areas with essential infrastructure by convergence of BADP/other Central/States/UT/Local Schemes. Over the last five Financial Years, Rs 2,975.22 crore has been released to States/UTs.


This information was given by Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri Ajay Bhatt in a written reply to Shri Pratap Chandra Sarangi and others in Lok Sabha. Suffice to say there is a vast improvement in border road infrastructure thus being a cause of concern for the PLA.


Capability Requirements


With the PLA thus triggered to carry out aggressive patrolling and seizure operations as in Yangtse at the disputed points as well as areas where Indian activity has increased in recent years, if the objective is to maintain order and avoid escalation there is a necessity for real time reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities,


While the Indian Army has recently procured two Israel Heron UAVs for dedicated usage on the Northern front under the Emergency Powers, reports indicate that the P8I of the Indian Navy have been deployed for surveillance as well in the North.


The limitations of P 8 I in surveillance and spotting on the Northern borders can be well appreciated as these are meant for operating on the oceans, this would imply that dedicated assets would be necessary for this purpose.


Satellite imagery would be available to the Army but has limitations being time sensitive.

Of the ground based inputs, radars being line of sight may not be fully effective while night vision and artillery observation devices as LORROS would prove handy.


Deploying physical early warning elements would have limitations based on the local terrain, nevertheless options will have to be explored and would have to be equipped with night vision thermal imaging devices.


Combat weapons and support is expected to be inherent- heavy artillery, rocket and missile support are essential and the shortfall in the same also needs to be made up.


However employment is not envisaged given the present paradigm but readiness nonetheless assumes importance.


Communications up the chain of command in this case also assumes importance so that the developments in the front line are conveyed in real time for the hierarchy to contact the PLA commanders and thus defuse any attempts to upstage the front line and avoid a clash.


Conclusion


While the government policy of avoiding an armed confrontation and downplaying PLA’s attempts to establish new framework on the ground is well appreciated, this cannot be at the cost of frequent confrontations and loss of control over critical features on the border.


To obviate the same some critical capabilities in terms of surveillance and communications are essential as highlighted.

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