ITBP asked to keep eye on Chinese troops along border
Intelligence agencies are assisting the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) technologically and providing it satellite imagery as the government has directed the force to solidify its presence and keep an eye on the movement of Chinese troops along the 3,488 km long India-China border from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, two officials said. More troops were being rushed to the frontier, they added.
Tensions between India and China have escalated since Monday when at least 20 Indian troops were killed after Chinese soldiers attacked them with clubs studded with nails and stones in Ladakh’s remote Galwan Valley.
The officials cited above said the border guarding force was being provided with the imagery to ascertain if Chinese troops were trying to transgress from other areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between the two countries.
ITBP troops are deployed at 180 border outposts (BoPs) along LAC in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in a treacherous terrain located between 9,000 feet to 18,750 feet above sea level, where temperatures can dip to minus 45 degree C.
“Each BoP usually has a strength of 100 to 110 personnel but following aggressive behaviour of [Chinese] People’s Liberation Army in the Ladakh sector and... [the attack] particularly, we are sending more troops from the battalion headquarters and other postings,” said an official who did not wish to be named.
A second official said satellite-based surveillance is important for border guarding forces to know the movement of Chinese or even Pakistani troops before it is too late.
The government had decided to make ITBP the nodal agency for a G-SAT Centre in Delhi to monitor things like Chinese troop movement, their strength along LAC in case of a similar situation after the 2017 Doklam standoff between the two countries. The centre is yet to become operational
The government is also yet to raise four more ITBP battalions (around 4,000 troops) that it had decided in 2017 for better border management.
Top ITBP officials could not be reached for a comment on the matter while the Union home ministry said it has no additional information to share.
According to government data, Chinese transgressions along LAC have gone up over the last few years, particularly in Ladakh. In 2019, there were 663 such incidents.
A parliamentary standing committee report on the Doklam standoff and the border situation with China in September 2018 noted Beijing remains in illegal occupation of 38,000 sq km area of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir. China has illegally acquired Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’s 5,180 sq km territory from Pakistan, it added. The report said China claims about 2,000 sq km territory in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The panel asked the government to monitor the Chinese activities along the border, improve the infrastructure and equip Indian forces to respond befittingly to any contingency. It added in absence of commonly delineated LAC, China sees it in its interest to keep the dispute alive indefinitely for “throwing India off-balance whenever it so desires”.
The panel asked the government “to improve coordination between the army and the Air Force, which could provide better airborne early warning and control support to the forces on the ground when difficult situations arise, including through the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones”.
The panel asked the Centre to urgently re-energize ties with neighbouring countries. “It is clear that we now have to contend with the possibility of some of the countries in our neighbourhood playing the China card as leverage in their relations with us.”