India ramps up Himalayan border safety after clashes with China

New Delhi deploys cruise missiles, howitzers, choppers and Israeli-made drones alongside the treacherous mountain ranges.

On the winding highway as much as India’s Himalayan frontier is a postcard view of gushing streams and tranquil lakes, punctuated often by the sight of artillery barrels and navy bunkers.

A yr after lethal high-altitude clashes with Chinese troopers, India is ramping up its border defences alongside a treacherous mountain vary that has lengthy been a flashpoint between the 2 international locations.

Arunachal Pradesh straddles the opposite aspect of the Himalayas from Tibet and shares a standard Buddhist cultural heritage with its northern neighbour.

The Dalai Lama fled by the state in 1959 after a failed rebellion towards Chinese rule in his homeland and has lived in India ever since.

Beijing additionally claims possession of Arunachal Pradesh – which it refers to as South Tibet – and briefly occupied a lot of the territory, three years after the Buddhist chief’s flight, in a brief however bloody struggle.

Tensions have flared once more since mid-2020 when troops from each nations fought a hand-to-hand battle additional west alongside their shared frontier in Ladakh, killing at the least 20 Indian and 4 Chinese troopers.

Indian troopers are pictured on a Bofors gun positioned at Penga Teng Tso forward of Tawang, near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), neighbouring China, in India’s Arunachal Pradesh state [Money Sharma/AFP]

Each aspect routinely sends patrols into areas claimed or managed by the opposite, and India has additionally accused China of building everlasting settlements near the border.

“We have observed some infrastructure development on the Chinese side,” Lieutenant General Manoj Pande instructed journalists throughout a uncommon press tour by the area final month.

“That has led to [a higher] number of troops that are now located or placed there.”

New Delhi has responded by scaling up its defences in Arunachal Pradesh, deploying cruise missiles, howitzers, US-made Chinook transport choppers and drones in-built Israel.

Fatal geography

Officers within the area say final yr’s conflict highlighted the pressing have to fortify the navy’s frontier presence, after fruitless talks with Beijing to ease the border build-up on either side.

Temperatures across the distant strategic hamlet of Tawang – one of many closest cities to Tibet, and a possible chokepoint for any advancing forces – typically drop beneath zero and the skinny mountain air is starved of oxygen.

An Indian military soldier stands subsequent to a radar system that controls the upgraded L70 anti-aircraft gun in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh [Money Sharma/AFP]

Nearby navy outposts will be minimize off from the surface world for total weeks within the winter.

“The region’s geography is against humans,” an Indian military brigadier instructed the AFP information company. “It can be fatal if one isn’t fully fit, trained or acclimatised.”

Army engineers are constructing an enormous highway tunnel at 13,000 toes (4,000 metres) above sea stage, anticipated to open subsequent yr, to hyperlink the world to arterial routes additional south and develop the reach of troopers.

“These tunnels … will mean all-weather connectivity for locals and security forces deployed in Tawang,” mentioned Colonel Parikshit Mehra, the mission’s director.

An identical mission is underneath manner in Ladakh beneath the rocky terrain of the Zojila mountain cross – in any other case impassable throughout winter months – that may assist troops shortly mobilise on the border from India’s enormous garrison in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Indian military troopers stand subsequent to an M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer positioned at Penga Teng Tso forward of Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh [Money Sharma/AFP]

‘Pressure tactics’

A statue of the Buddha overlooks the homes sloping up the uneven plateau on which Tawang was constructed, reflecting the largely Buddhist inhabitants of the area.

Those living within the city have applauded the brand new deal with the area from New Delhi and are anxious about future Chinese incursions, conscious of Beijing’s efforts to suppress Buddhism throughout the frontier.

China’s formally atheist authorities has made clear it might search to call a successor to the 86-year-old Dalai Lama, the non secular chief of Tibetan Buddhists and a revered determine in Tawang.

“We share our culture with Tibet but China today is modifying Buddhism according to its whims,” mentioned Dondup Gyaltsen, who runs a shoe retailer in Tawang’s principal market.

Monpa Golang, who runs a pharmacy additional down the road, mentioned India ought to stand sturdy towards “Chinese pressure tactics”.

“Our government should make it clear that no Buddhist will accept anyone China imposes after the Dalai Lama,” the 75-year-old added. “He may look human but he’s our god.”