Army’s surveillance push along LAC amid increase in Chinese patrols in Arunachal sector
RUPA (ARUNACHAL PRADESH)
A big surveillance push using latest technology to offset the requirement of deploying extra troops on the contested border with China in Arunachal Pradesh and a massive thrust on building infrastructure to improve connectivity with forward areas for faster mobilisation of soldiers are the top priorities for the Indian Army in the sensitive sector, the commander of a key mountain division in the eastern sector said on Monday.
There has been an increase in Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) patrols along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Arunachal Pradesh sector, officials familiar with the development said on the condition of anonymity.
“We are employing technology in a big way to boost our awareness of the situation. It allows us to do away with the need to push troops to forward areas in peacetime,” said Major General Zubin A Minwalla, the commander of the Rupa-based HQs 5 Mountain Division. The division’s responsibilities encompass the sensitive Tawang sector.
“We are creating more (battlefield) transparency through the use of technology ---the fusion of an array of sensors including ground-based and air-based sensors, a network of radars and unmanned systems. The adversary cannot surprise us,” Minwalla said.
His comments came days after the 13th round of military talks between India and China to cool tensions in eastern Ladakh reached an impasse on October 10, with PLA not agreeing to suggestions made by the Indian Army.
The military dialogue took place more than two months after the last round of talks that led to disengagement of forward deployed troops from Gogra, or Patrol Point-17A, one of the flashpoints on the LAC, in early August.
The use of latest technology at the mountain division’s hi-tech surveillance centre is playing a critical role in tracking the developments and PLA activities along LAC in Arunachal Pradesh and across it, Minwalla said.
“We get live feeds of all their activities round the clock --- movement of troops from rear to forward areas, their patrolling patterns along LAC and steps being taken to ramp up infrastructure on the other side,” said an officer at the surveillance centre, asking not to be named. The surveillance centre is tasked with collecting, analysing and disseminating critical information to commanders on the ground.
While eastern Ladakh is the focus of the current round of border tensions between India and China, the Indian Army is also keeping a strict vigil on the eastern front.
“Our analysis of the situation across LAC in Arunachal Pradesh is pretty accurate. There has been an increase in frequency of PLA patrols owing to the current operational situation. There is also a slight increase in area domination patrols,” said a second officer, asking not to be named.
“There is also an increase in visits to forward areas by senior PLA officers,” he added.
China is also ramping up infrastructure on its side at a fast pace. The Indian Army is regularly picking up increased vehicular movement across LAC due to improved infrastructure on the Chinese side.
There is a tremendous thrust on building infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh whether it is through the development of border roads or the efforts of the civilian government, Minwalla said. “We have a confident approach in dealing the overall situation in the sector. We are not reacting to what they are doing. We have our own plans and are working on them,” he added.
Several new roads, bridges and tunnels are coming up in Arunachal Pradesh to cut down travel time for the army.
These projects include the Sela tunnel that forms part of a strategic road project that will reduce travel time to Tawang, a sector where the Indian Army is heavily deployed.
The Sela tunnel, announced by the government in the 2018 Budget, is part of the Balipara-Charduar-Tawang road, one of the strategic projects along the Chinese border. The tunnel, which will be operational by August 2022, will cut down travel time to Tawang by at least two hours, improving border connectivity for the army.