Doklam effect: Army rushes to upgrade infrastructure along the LAC
Following the Doklam standoff, the Indian Army has rushed to upgrade infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border to prepare for similar encounters. The matter has been discussed prominently at the ongoing Army commanders conference chaired by army chief General Bipin Rawat. The upgrade has been planned for sections bordering the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Here's more about it.
Tensed 75-day Doklam standoff gets resolved
Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a tensed 75-day standoff in Doklam, an area situated at the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. Both countries recently arrived at an understanding on mutual disengagement of troops from Doklam. Meeting on the sidelines of the recently concluded BRICS summit, PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping further charted a way forward for peaceful relations.
Why is the Army focusing on improving border infrastructure?
Gen. Rawat has warned that China may trigger situations similar to Doklam to weaken India. The middle sector of the LAC, encompassing the states of Uttarakhand and HP, has relatively been peaceful but incursions have frequently occurred in the eastern and western sectors. During the Doklam standoff, the Army reportedly felt the need to remedy the lack of strong, reliable supply lines.
China has put robust border infrastructure in place
Unlike India, China has constructed a wide network of "railway lines, highways, metal-top roads, air bases, radars, logistics hubs and other infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region," the Times of India has reported. The Chinese infrastructure would sustain over 30 divisions (having 15,000 troops each) and five to six "rapid reaction forces."
What is being planned?
The infrastructure upgrades will focus on establishing good connectivity to Niti, Lipulekh, Thangla-1, and Tsang-Chokla passes in Uttarakhand by 2020. Links to three other passes will be developed in the next phase. Army units and battalions deployed from the Karakoram Pass to Lipulekh are proposed to be brought under one corps "for better command-and-control." Improving inter-sector connectivity through lateral roads is also being proposed.
Many hurdles ahead
The Army is right to push for speeding up infrastructure development along the LAC to narrow the defense-preparedness gap with China. The Army aims to complete key links by 2020-21. However, it may have to overcome bureaucratic and operational hurdles to do this. A number of pending cases related to land acquisition and forest clearances continue to hamper implementation of crucial projects.