As India and China wait for Nathu La, the Himalayan pass on the ancient Silk Route, to reopen on Thursday, some Indian military experts advise caution. According to the experts, China could use the pass to extend its network in India.
And if troop deployment is any indication, Delhi is taking the warning seriously. One company of the Indo-Tibetan Border Force (ITBF) has already been deployed along the border this month.
“Besides, we have three battalions of the army posted along the border,” a senior army officer posted at the Gangtok said.
The Indian Army desperately wants its forces to be increased if the volume of trade goes up.
“We need more forces to keep a check on this border,” the officer added.
His apprehension echoes intelligence reports that China could use this place to extend its spy network in India.
“This is because the new Gormo-Lhasa railway link to Beijing will enhance China’s military transport capabilities vis-a-vis India’s. China will able to mobilize upto 12 divisions on the Indo-Tibtan border even at a short notice and this will boost its effort to expand military bases and airfields along this border,” says Shibayan Raha, coordinator of the Calcutta chapter of Friends of Tibet (India).
Then, there is the nuclear aspect to the railway line between Golmud and Lhasa. China may easily transport intercontinental and immediate range missiles on the northern border of India.
“That would be very dangerous for India,” said a senior army officer.
According to army officials here, China’s military presence in Tibet today includes 17 secret radar stations, 8 missile bases with 8 intercontinental missiles, 70 medium range missiles, 20 intermediate range missiles, 14 airfields and 300,000 to 500,000 P.L.A troops.
“We feel that they will beef up the security. So we also can’t afford to take a risk,” the officer said.
It may be recalled the Jawaharlal Nehru had once termed Kalimpong as the “den of spies” where India and Chinese goods were sold after Independence.
“We are going in the same direction,” felt Tseten Tashi Bhutia, convenor of Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee.