Jun 6, 2011 Rajat Pandit, THE TIMES OF INDIA
NEW DELHI: India is now deploying spy drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and light observation helicopters along the borders with China to keep a hawk-eye on the stepped-up activities of People's Liberation Army.
The construction of over 5,500 "permanent defences and bunkers" along the borders is now being speeded up to ensure their completion within four to five years, under the Rs 9,243 crore military infrastructure development project approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security for the Eastern Army Command.
"Sukhoi-30MKI fighters are already being based in IAF airbases like Tezpur and Chabua. Army Aviation bases in Assam are also now being upgraded, with seven helicopters and four Israeli Searcher-II UAVs already been deployed there," a defence ministry source said.
The Army is also pushing for a mountain strike corps after having raised two new mountain infantry divisions. The new divisions, with 1,260 officers and 35,011 soldiers, have their HQs in Zakama (56 Div) in Nagaland and Missamari (71 Div) in Assam.
Though quite belated, all these plans are meant to strategically counter China's massive build-up of military infrastructure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) over the last two decades.
A flurry of high-level meetings in the last two-three months, which included a top military briefing to PM Manmohan Singh, have dealt on the dire need to boost India's military infrastructure, strike capabilities and operational logistics along the LAC.
Incidentally, with five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), China can now move more than 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) at their "launch pads" on LAC in double-quick time, outnumbering Indian forces by at least three-is-to-one.
China's rapidly-expanding footprint in infrastructure projects in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, in the backdrop of the Beijing-Islamabad military nexus which targets India, has served to further heighten concerns in the defence establishment here.
India's counter-moves, however, are anything but swift. Only 15 of the 73 all-weather roads earmarked for construction along the unresolved LAC, for instance, are actually ready till now.
IAF is now also upgrading eastern sector ALGs (advanced landing grounds) like Pasighat, Mechuka, Walong, Tuting, Ziro and Vijaynagar as well as several helipads in Arunachal after reactivating western sector ALGs like Daulat Beg Oldi, Fukche and Nyama in eastern Ladakh. "But the entire process needs to be hastened," said an official.
Similarly, Army and IAF want faster inductions of the indigenous Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to counter the threat posed by enemy fighters, drones and helicopters on both western and eastern fronts.
While IAF has ordered eight Akash squadrons for Rs 6,200 crore, six of which are to be based in the North-East, the Army has placed an order for two regiments at a cost of Rs 14,180 crore.