India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made two highly-publicised visits last month. The purpose for his visits is to inaugurate 12 roads and 63 bridges across seven states which border China.
On the Leh-Loma road, one of the bridges connects the largest town in India’s Ladakh region to areas along its disputed border with China. The Indian Defence ministry describes this bridge as a 50-metre steel “superstructure”. The military will use the bridge to facilitate easy movement of heavy weapon systems. This will include guns, tanks and other specialised equipment.
Singh’s trips coincide with placement of troops to the LAC
Though unconfirmed by New Delhi, Singh’s trips coincided with a recent Bloomberg report. According to the report, it claims India has moved at least 50,000 troops to the 3,488km Line of Actual Control (LAC). This move is largely focused on Ladakh in the western Himalayas. Several deadly clashes between Indian and Chinese troops took place in this area last year.
Ajai Shukla, retired colonel and journalist, told Indian publication The Wire that the army is posting 16 divisions to the LAC. Last year it was 12 divisions.
General Bipin Rawat, India’s Chief of Defence Staff, stated weeks earlier that China is now India’s “primary threat” rather than Pakistan.
New Delhi’s change of approach towards the disputed border is reflected by these developments, according to military veterans and analysts. The disputed border stretches from Arunachal Pradesh in the east to Ladakh in the west.
To resolve the stand-off not achieving its aim for disengagement at three friction points, there were at least 11 rounds of senior military commander-level talks. The friction points in mention are Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang.
The country’s strategy is heading in another direction now. It is focusing on publicising its actions and intentions to strengthen its military position and border infrastructure now. Objections from Beijing will not be tolerated.
Deepak Sinha is a retired brigadier in the Indian Army. Sinha headed India’s only rapid deployment force, the 50th (independent) Parachute brigade. He said “Hence, India is no longer keeping Chinese sensitivities in mind.”
Sinha added “Over a period of time, India has stopped caring about what the Chinese object to.”
Red flag for Beijing
India’s increasing infrastructure activities will be an irritant and a red flag for Beijing. This is despite China maintaining the upper hand. Over the last two decades until now, China consistently makes infrastructure upgrades. General Rawat said in March that India needs at least three to four more years to match China’s infrastructural capabilities along the LAC.
Indian surveillance detected that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is building permanent accommodation, field hospitals and procuring snow mobility vehicles, according to The Hindu. This is a clear sign that the PLA is preparing for “permanent winter occupation of these posts”.
Improved PLA efficiency
Last week, Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhaduria, said that China had upgraded the efficiency of its air operations. Also, he notes the strengthening of infrastructure at China’s airfields since the stand-off began last year.
Ramping up infrastructure
Retired brigadier Sinha said all this means that New Delhi has no choice but to keep ramping up its infrastructure.
He said “The earlier logic that India followed, where we deliberately did not develop border infrastructure to slow down an adversary’s ingress into our territory, no longer holds because of missiles and long-range artillery that don’t require such advances.”
The Indian government should focus on one key area, said Sinha. India has many old Bailey bridges made of steel. These bridges have limited load-bearing capacities. Therefore, new bridges should replace the old ones as soon as possible. Sinha added “Most of these bridges can’t take heavy loads, and hence heavy artillery and tanks can’t be transported across these bridges.”
6th July 2021 23:00
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