The Indian Army lags far behind China in military infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“We lag far behind in infrastructure development,” General Officer Commanding, Northern Command, Lieutenant General BS Jaswal, told Hindustan Times.
China has built all-weather metalled roads leading right up to its border posts facing Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and Demchok and Fukche in Ladakh. It can, thus, move troops and material very easily to the border.
Indian troops, on the other hand, often have to march miles to the front. Roads, where they exist, are dotted with potholes, with long stretches of boulders and slush, leading to accidents that slow down movement.
Better connectivity allows the Chinese to cover 400 km a day. The Indian army finds it difficult to cover more than 200 km a day in the forward areas.
The Indian armed forces have activated three airfields at Daulat Beg Oldi, Fukche and Nyoma, about 220-250 km east of Leh since May 31, 2008. But only AN 32 transport planes can land there. “They have little operational value,” another senior army officer said.
The only airfield near the China border from where India can deploy warplanes is at Tezpur in Assam, where it has stationed its frontline Sukhoi 30 planes.
Chinese military aircraft, however, can reach Shimla, Chandigarh and Leh within five minutes and New Delhi within 20 minutes of taking off from their forward base in Gar Gunsa, across the border, from Demchok in Tibet.
It has five such airfields in Tibet where it has stationed warplanes.
After the 1962 India-China war, India pursued a policy not to develop infrastructure, especially roads, near the Line of Actual Control.
Reason: in the event of Chinese troops breaking through Indian defences, they would be greeted by hostile roads and infrastructure.
This strategy was reversed in 2005.
Accordingly, the government of India woke up to the need to build infrastructure along the 4,057-km LAC from Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir (north) to Himachal Pradesh (west), Uttarakhand (middle region) and Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim (east) sectors of the border with China.
Twenty-seven projects for construction of roads were sanctioned, but only six of them have been commissioned.
Each kilometer of road in the mountainous areas along the Line of Actual Control costs Rs 15 crore.
“The Indian Army is improving its infrastructure and capacity building on a massive scale and we are prepared to meet any eventuality if the need arises,” the Northern Command chief said.