by Rajat Sharma

Today I would like to describe the ground situation prevailing at the Line of Actual Control in the eastern sector of Arunachal Pradesh. Our defence editor Manish Prasad visited the frontlines in Arunachal for two days and spoke to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Army Command, Lt. Gen. Manoj Pande.

The eastern army commander gave his frank assessment about the current ground situation and described in detail, how Indian army is gearing up to meet the challenge from China. Of course, due to security reasons, I will not share some of the critical information relating to our defence preparedness, but suffice it to say that our armed forces are fully prepared to meet any eventuality. China is deploying its army in a big way in the eastern sector too, apart from what it has been doing in Ladakh, in the western sector.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has not crossed the LAC in the eastern sector, but, in the guise of doing regular exercises, it has deployed a large number of troops close to the LAC. Reports of the Chinese setting up a model village close to the LAC are correct, says our defence editor. Chinese nationals have been resettled in this village. This village can be easily used to set up army bunkers and fortifications. Since it is a matter of concern for us, the Indian army has also deployed troops in large number near the LAC. Troops on both sides of LAC are on high alert. The posturing of Chinese PLA is not new, but, for the first time, the Indian army has decided to reply to Chinese posturing firmly and resolutely.

Our eastern army commander said that China is busy setting up infrastructure on its side of LAC, and for the first time, India has started building a big network of roads, bridges and corridors in a big way. Several bridges have been set up and border roads are being widened. Several tunnels are also being set up so that our convoy of troops, carrying weapons, can reach the zero point speedily, without use of air assets during adverse weather conditions.

Lt Gen Manoj Pande said, “our first step is to opt for negotiations with the other side, to maintain peace and tranquillity and avoid confrontation, but if the other side takes resort to misadventures, we are fully prepared how to respond. Our Jawans know how to reply to the enemy effectively.”

India has a roughly 3,500 kilometre long border with China, and most parts of this border are properly delineated. China tries to take advantage of this, and its troops occasionally carry out transgressions. To maintain peace and tranquillity in the face of such actions by the enemy, required tremendous restraint. Lt. Gen. Pande said, our forces always follow agreements, but where aggression is needed, they do show it. The PLA has seen how our brave Jawans with bare hands and without weapons, fought the Chinese troops in Galwan valley in Ladakh last year.

The Chinese army has deployed drones and long-range UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in the eastern sector. To counter this, the Indian army, for the first time, has set up an integrated command centre, to coordinate with the Indian Air Force, which has deployed Rafale and Sukhoi jet fighters, along with attack helicopters and advanced light helicopters. For the first time, Israeli-made hi-tech UAVs are being used to keep a close watch on enemy troop movements, from a height of 35,000 feet with a range of 35 km.

Lt. Gen. Manoj Pande said that the army intelligence network is working effectively and the Chinese PLA know that each of their movements is being watched by Indian army. Along with satellite surveillance, our Jawans keep a physical watch over enemy movements.

The Army in eastern sector has stepped up surveillance capabilities by using new artificial intelligence-enabled software to track movement of Chinese army patrols. Ground and air-based sensors that keep watch over enemy positions are being integrated. A division-level surveillance centre has been set up at Rupa which gets real-time images and inputs of Chinese troop movements along the LAC. All inputs from UAVs, helicopter-based sensors, ground radars and satellite feeds are integrated, collated and analysed to formulate a response strategy. Ground and air sensors are being fused, and latest technology is being used to keep watch on enemy troops. A portable surveillance system is being developed which automatically counts the number of enemy troops transgressing LAC and their mode of transport. This is immediately relayed to senior ground commanders for an effective response.

The LAC in the eastern sector is roughly 1,346 km long which spreads from Sikkim to Arunachal Pradesh. After China deployed large number of troops in Tibet, our army responded by mobilizing more troops to guard the frontier. The 17 Mountain Strike Corps has been deployed specifically to counter challengers from enemy in the eastern sector. Work is going on to set up an Integrated Battle Group consisting of men from artillery, infantry and air force. Howitzer guns, Chinook helicopters have been deployed by Indian army to counter the Chinese threat. Work is going on a war footing to building tunnels under Brahmaputra, Sela, Nuchipu and Sinkhu La. These tunnels are expected to be ready by next year.

At a time when the Chinese state-supported media has become jingoistic and is threatening to teach India a lesson, our armed forces are quietly carrying on with their war preparedness. Chinese media has been showing video of Galwan Valley confrontation to boost the morale of its troops. Their main aim is to show to the world that the Chinese PLA has an upper hand at the LAC, both in the western and eastern sectors, but our army commanders have rejected these claims as rubbish.

The question is: why are the Chinese trying to peddle lies and propaganda, when they know about the huge deployments made by India in both sectors? Whenever China made big claims about grabbing territory, it had to pay a heavy price. Chinese companies have been shown the way out from Indian telecom and hi-tech sectors. Chinese apps were banned by Indian government.

China is no more No. 1 in cell phone manufacturing. For the first time, Apple’s iPhone has been manufactured outside China, in India. Apple’s 5G inbuilt cell phone will now be manufactured in Tamil Nadu. There has been a 10 per cent drop in cell phone manufacturing in China, after Apple walked out. Korean company Samsung has closed its last manufacturing unit in China. Samsung used to manufacture 30 crore cell phone units in China, but now it has shifted all its factories to Vietnam and India. The biggest Samsung unit in Noida manufactures 12 crore cell phones annually. 58 big companies have shifted from China in the last three years. Most of these companies have shifted to India.

One of the biggest realty companies in China, Evergrande is now on the brink of bankruptcy, with a liability of Rs 23 lakh crore. China’s GDP fell almost one-fourth after the collapse of Evergrande company. There are many other similar examples. For the first time, multinational companies from the West are looking at China with suspicion. This is bad news for the Chinese economy.

As far as India is concerned, it has fought China both on the economic and military fronts. Our armed forces are ready to face any military challenge from China. The Chinese PLA knows the valour, capability and tenacity of the Indian army Jawans and officers. A section of people think that in order to divert the Chinese people’s attention from domestic economic problems, the Chinese President Xi Jinping is trying to create tension on India-China border.

Pakistan’s economic problem is worse. On Tuesday, the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) again decided to keep Pakistan in the grey list of countries. This means that Pakistan will not get loans from international financial institutions. IMF, World Bank have already refused to give loans to Pakistan. The only friend left for Pakistan is China, but already Pakistan is groaning under mounting Chinese debts.

Both these neighbours are therefore trying to create tension on their borders with India in order to divert the attention of their people. Both these countries should know that the Indian armed forces has the resources and capability to counter a two-front challenge.

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