India is quietly beefing up its defences along the China border in Arunachal Pradesh, even as it publicly downplays the growing diplomatic spat with Beijing over the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state.
The Indian Army will deploy its new 15,000-strong 56 Division in Arunachal, which China claims as its own, within four weeks, a senior defence official told HT, requesting anonymity.
Simultaneously, it has put out a Request for Information (RFI) for acquiring 300 lightweight tanks that can be deployed in the North East and Jammu & Kashmir.
The purpose is to leave nothing to chance, notwithstanding the show of bonhomie between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao at their October 25 meeting in Thailand.
A second division will be deployed in Arunachal Pradesh in the next 12-18 months, the official added.
The army’s RFI states the light tanks should be capable of destroying bunkers and soft-skin vehicles up to 3,000m away and should have armour-piercing anti-tank guided missiles and anti-aircraft machine guns.
The RFI, which is in HT’s possession, also stipulates these tanks should “have protection against nuclear, chemical and biological warfare”.
In recent months, India activated three airfields along the 646 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, last used during the 1962 war with China. The army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have also stepped up patrolling along the LAC.