One of the primary problems the Indian armed forces have faced over many decades is logistical inefficiency especially when it comes to the border with China. The logic behind keeping the infrastructure – mainly roads and bridges – inadequate and of inferior quality was to prevent the Chinese forces to blitzkrieg into Indian territory by using our infrastructure. This was not just a weak thought-process but even a demoralising one for the message you’re sending to the forces is that you are bound to be trounced by the Chinese in a frontal combat on the border so you better sit inside your own territory in a defensive posture to stop the enemy.
In a stark departure from our historical posturing, the Narendra Modi government has shed the defensive mindset and taken up in mission mode a holistic approach to giving our forces apt logistical facilities on the border with India’s most potent enemy, China.
Roads to Doklam Valley
In 2015, the government had given a go-ahead to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to build an all-weather road to the Indian Army’s Doka la base located at the edge of the Doklam plateau. Almost two years later we had the Doklam standoff between the Indian and the Chinese armies, however, by then the road hadn’t been completed and it took 7 hours of travel on a mule track. Now, the newly built road enables the forces to reach the Doklam Valley in just 40 minutes!
The BRO is also working on another road from Flag Hill to Doklam Valley which is currently a foot-track almost 34 km long. About 11 km of the path has been constructed and the entire road will be done by 2021 further easing the Indian Army’s movement to this extremely crucial and sensitive area.
Colonel Chewang Rinchen Bridge
Named after Col Chewang Rinchen, the ‘Lion of Ladakh’, the country’s defence minister recently dedicated a strategic bridge to the Indian Army located in Eastern Ladakh just 45 km from the border with China. Col Rinchen has two Maha Vir Chakras and one Sena Medal to his name.
The bridge is 1,400-feet long and is located at an altitude of 13,000 feet. It cuts travel time to half to 6.5 hours from 14 hours. The bridge has been designed to bear the weight of India’s heaviest battle tanks. It was built in a record 15 months. It will give the Indian armed forces all-weather connectivity in a region where India and China have often been at loggerheads.
Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG)
In September this year the IAF inaugurated the resurfaced runaway at the ALG in Vijay Nagar, Arunachal Pradesh. This is strategically important both in terms of China and Myanmar. To ensure the air force can conduct swift operations and be logistically efficient, the Modi government has in the last few years activated 8 ALGs along the China border.
Focus on Strengthening the ITBP
The ITBP which is tasked with maintaining border security is a crucial cog in the wheel of India’s land-based security apparatus. The Modi government has kept sufficient focus on this arm of the CAPF as well.
Since 2014, 25 Border Outposts (BOPs) have been created for the ITBP along the LAC and 10 more have been planned. Each BOP has an estimated strength of 100 soldiers which means that eventually an additional 3,500 soldiers would be placed to watch border activities. At the moment there are 180 BOPs operational.
ITBP priority roads earlier saw indiscriminate delays. But in the last 4-5 years there has been a great boost to road-building with 11 roads of 277.5 km having been constructed in phase 1. For phase 2, 45 roads of length 1033.52 km have been approved.
The national highway between Tezu and Kibithu is being dual-laned. This will allow artillery guns to move faster. Also, about 30 to 40 bridges between Tezu and Kibithu are being upgraded to bear heavy loads and additional ones are being built over the Lohit River.
A concerted effort on the part of the Modi government to ease travel of the armed forces in tough terrains in many areas along the LAC is amply visible. The above mentioned projects, and many more in the pipeline, will result in the difference in the capabilities of the Indian and the Chinese armed forces to shrink.