Like the Doklam plateau which had witnessed a 74-days long standoff between Indian and Chinese troops last year, the Indian Army is now focussing on six to seven such areas located along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where there is a possibility of similar flashpoints occurring. Post winter, the army will build up its surveillance capabilities, besides already having adequate troop strength in these areas.
Although after the early 2000s India began building its military vis-a-vis China, it was the Doklam standoff that gave a greater push towards expediting infrastructure and capability development along the northern borders for better connectivity, surveillance and response in cases of emergency. This is the way being taken both by the army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which together guard the LAC.
Last week, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had said that Chinese troops are still present in North Doklam, but they are thinning out. However, he added that more of their troops could return post winter. “As of now what we felt is that the de-escalation has happened because of the winter months or he felt that the time has come to de-escalate. But because there are temporary structures (tents, toilets, posts) there is a possibility of movement again taking place once the winter months end. It could happen here or elsewhere,” he had said.
Sources explained that the army is located at advantageous positions around Doklam over the PLA. In fact, terrain favours the Indian armed forces in the northern borders. In addition, the army has already ensured stronger connectivity in Sikkim following the standoff. However, to prevent a similar incident or an incident of Chinese aggression from taking place in other locations, the army is keeping a watch on six to seven particular areas along the LAC.
“When the weather clears between March and April, we will take a call on what needs to be done in these areas. They will be kept under enhanced surveillance. They normally are kept under surveillance, but it will be beefed up.”
Some of these areas are Demchok and Chumar in Ladakh, and Aspahila, Longju, Yangtse, Dichu, Walong and Fishtails in Arunachal Pradesh, according to sources. Some of these areas have witnessed face-offs and incursions in the past.
Experts who are aware of their geography explained that surveillance by UAVs and satellite is easy in Ladakh due to its barren fields, but is difficult in the LAC’s central sector and Arunachal Pradesh due to their forested regions. Therefore,”detachments” of border personnel should be sent to conduct surveillance of important passes in such areas.
The army says it already has adequate troop strength along the entire 3440 km long LAC, including in these areas. For the ITBP, the focus has and will be on defusing any border tension before the army moves in.
Disputed and sensitive ::
These areas are among the disputed and sensitive locations along the LAC. Sources added that there are about 23 such areas, including nine which are disputed and the rest 14 that are sensitive.
The LAC is not demarcated and this has led to differing perceptions of it by both countries. Ground troops on both sides identify their country’s perception of the LAC by landmarks such as boulders and trees. This way, in some areas the two sides have a common understanding of where the LAC lies. However, in certain areas they both have determined the LAC location differently, due to their differing perceptions. Such areas are called disputed territories.
Sensitive areas are those areas which can trigger a confrontation. These areas are sensitive because they are located in dominating positions or where either side has prevented military construction activities. Such areas are in possession of either country and can affect operations across the LAC by easy observation of the adversary’s movements followed by directing fire to it.
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