Post Galwan standoff, the Army has reoriented its empowered troop deployment towards the northern border in Rest of Arunachal Pradesh, backing it up with comparatively better road and mobile network, and intelligence and surveillance systems.
Though the Northern border in Arunachal Pradesh is peaceful and has not witnessed any provocation for long unlike the western border in eastern Ladakh, the Army officials are working towards established timelines to upgrade military infrastructure to enhance operational preparedness in this part of the North east which has been a conflict theatre since the World War II.
The counter insurgency operations in the North East has been left to only 73 Mountain Brigade, which was moved form Manipur last year, of the Army and to Assam Rifles, a Central Armed Police Force which comes under the union ministry of home affairs.
The infra push and offensive presence, however, in adjoining parts of Tawang region leading to the LAC has preceded Rest of Arunachal Pradesh which is spread over five districts -- Upper Dibang, Lower Dibang, Namsai, Lohit and Anjaw.
While Tawang and Kameng are under Army’s 4 Core, Rest of Arunachal Pradesh is under the three Core. The six districts of the rest of Arunachal comes under the jurisdiction of 2 Mountain Division which is headquartered at Dinjan.
“Combat readiness is of very high order due to better road connectivity and synergy with other forces like Air Force and paramilitary,” General Officer Commanding of the Army’s 2 Mountain Division, Major General MS Bains told a group of journalists. The Army’s “functional efficiency” has been brought about by restructuring, insisted Maj General Bains who just took over after a stint in Jammu and Kashmir.
The strategic mapping of the northern border is being governed by 14th prospective plan -- which began from 2020, the year the standoff with Chinese PLA took place in eastern Ladakh -- and would last till 2025, said another senior army official.
“We have clear timelines for capability development based on a clear perspective plan for the future,” Maj General Bains, a highly decorated 9 Para officer, stated. It is learnt that about two divisions of troop strength have been shifted out of the counter intelligence duties to focus on the northern border.
Under the 2 Mountain Division, there are three sensitive areas -- Fish Tale I, Fish Tale II and Dichu. The Indian Army dominates 19 passes, said officials, and the troops carry out long range patrols twice a month since it takes a week to reach LAC and return due to harsh and dense forest. The Chinese PLA also patrols the LAC and there are hot lines at the Kibuti and ‘Border Personnel Meeting’ point for verbal engagement though there has been no inflammatory instance in the recent past, said Army officials.
Army officials also stated that the capability enhancement is also being done through induction of new weapons, including ultra light guns for better mobility, and multiple ISR systems such as satellites, imagery intelligence, ground sensors and other surveillance devices. The Army Aviation Corps, based out of Dinjan, aide the Army not only in operations but also logistically to airlift men, machines and other supplies given that the terrain in the northern sector is very hostile which gets complicated with unpredictable weather. For almost half of the year, the weather becomes inhospitable in higher reaches due to snow. They also operate Heron-I Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) which provide live feeds into the systems for analysis and action, said Army sources.
Connecting valleys in process
General officer commanding Bains also said the capability development matrix has come into play due to road development, construction of habitat and aviation facilities. He also informed that the Army is in the process of linking various valleys which is the tough part, either through road or by aviation facilities that are also being utilised by civilians.The infra push is now beyond the valley floor. Under the 2 Mountain Division, three treacherous valleys - Dibang, Daodellai and Lohit -- come.
For a topography which stretches from mean sea level of 4,000 feet to 14,000-16,000 feet high altitude at the LAC, the infrastructure is being scaled up primarily on five counts - habitat construction, aviation construction, road infrastructure, logistics and security infrastructure. While the population is right up till the Kibuti which falls under the Anjaw district, it’s away in Dibang valley, said Army sources to give a glimpse of people spread at forward locations. There are 2,300 villages along the LAC which have been recommended for redevelopment for having schools, power and water supplies and medical facilities, under the Union home ministry’s ‘vibrant village project’ and 77 of them come under the area of operation of 2 Mountain Division.
Multi-agencies are constructing roads, tunnels and bridges in the bordering areas, including the Border Roads Organisation, under various schemes of the government of India. Similarly, for better mobile connectivity, 135 towers for offering 4 G services are likely to come up this year under the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) which service providers levy for raising telecom facilities in remote areas. Previously, mobile tower presence was in just Hayuliang, Tawang and Kibuti and that too providing 2G services, army officials stated to give a sense of the laggard infrastructure plaguing the region for long.
The Chinese infrastructure on the other side of the LAC is much ramped up, accepted another army official but remarked that it’s catching up on the Indian side as well. Since 1959, the Chinese have laid a road network spread across 1.2 lakh kilometers in Tibet, was the assessment of a senior Army officer.
Even General Officer Commanding-in Chief of the Eastern command, Lt Gen R P Kalita, had publicly acknowledged earlier that “Across the Line of Actual Control in Tibet region, a lot of infrastructure development is going on. The other side is constantly upgrading their road, rail and air connectivity so that they are in a better position to respond to a situation or mobilise forces”.