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‘Dual use’ villages are being built along the LAC: Reports

Lt Gen Manoj Pande, the head of Eastern Army Command, said on Tuesday that China has intensified its integrated military exercises and kept its reserve troop formations mobilized. The country has also continued to build ‘dual-use’ border villages and troop encampments. The Indian military is gearing up to handle any contingency along the border in full operational readiness.

‘Mitigating threats to Chicken’s Neck’

According to Lt. General Manoj Pande, the eastern Army command chief, India works diligently to mitigate the threat to the vulnerable Siliguri Corridor or ‘Chicken’s Neck’. In light of the 17-month-long military confrontation in eastern Ladakh, the government is also examining whether existing border pacts with China should be reviewed, including the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) signed in October 2013. Lieutenant-General Pande, for his part, said the Indian Army’s efforts ‘have been to respect the bilateral agreements and protocols’ and ‘not show any aggression’ in accordance with ‘our larger strategic guidance’, notwithstanding the actions of the PLA or their responses.

According to him, this is something that is being discussed at the highest levels in light of what happened (in eastern Ladakh) and what needs to be done moving forward. Several PLA reserve formations, which were mobilized last year, remain in place across the 1,346-km border that Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim share with the Tibet Autonomous Region in the eastern sector. ‘This year’s PLA exercises have also grown in scale and duration, with a focus on integrating joint operations. But these exercises are taking place in their traditional training areas in the depth,’ said Lt-Gen Pande.

‘A slight increase in Chinese patrols and border defence troops has been reported along the Line of Actual Control in several areas, including Asaphila, due to infrastructure development. However, we have sufficient forces in all sectors. We are ensuring that the eastern command is well prepared and capable of reacting to any contingency. In addition, technology is being used more effectively for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance),’ he said. A major concern remains the Siliguri Corridor, the narrow strip connecting the northeast with the rest of India. 73 days of fight in 2017 took place near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction after Indian troops blocked Chinese attempts to extend a motorable track on the Jampheri Ridge, which overlooks the Siliguri Corridor.

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As a result, the PLA has built military infrastructure and permanently deployed troops in north Doklam. China, which is keen to maintain control over Doklam, also signed an agreement with Bhutan last week to expedite its bilateral boundary negotiations. ‘Yes, the Siliguri Corridor is sensitive for us. We are looking at a ‘whole of nation’ approach, with the armed forces, Central Armed Police Forces, central agencies and state governments working together, to mitigate this threat,’ said Lt-Gen Pande. China and India are both aware of one another’s sensitivities in the region. A military officer disagreed that there was a stark asymmetry between the US and China.


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