Prudence demands that we be prepared for mass intrusions by PLA, perhaps on scale even bigger than Kargil in unmanned areas, particularly in Arunachal Pradesh. Ruling this out in winter months would be as stupid; akin to the pre-Kargil intrusions appreciation that Mashkoh area cannot be traversed during winter while we sat at the Saltoro Range. Hiding behind the fallacy of Arunachal being inaccessible to Chinese will be yet another strategic blunder. With the type of communications the PLA has built enables them to sally forth gradually in what they illegally claim their own territory. As per recent media reports, government plans to raise another 15 BSF and ITBP battalions for beefing up borders with Pakistan, China and Bangladesh. Apparently, that is all that we can think of, but look at the massive concentration of forces in Maoist insurgency areas and the perception building of everything going hunky-dory whereas the ground situation is quite different.
The responsibility of guarding international borders and development of border infrastructure must rest with the Defence Minister, not the Home Minister.
Unless we are content with running a banana republic, the following actions are warranted:
The Defence Minister must seriously review the border infrastructure. The hotchpotch of Border Roads under MoD with responsibility of developing border infrastructure with MHA must be rectified. The responsibility of guarding international borders and development of border infrastructure must rest with the Defence Minister, not the Home Minister. The Defence Sectary who is officially charged with the defence of India has never bothered to resolve this mess, simply because he is not accountable, and couldn’t care less.
We need to optimize on the lessons of Op ‘Chequerboard’. Standing patrols will need to man unheld gaps even as we can’t afford to sit permanently many km behind anymore. It would be prudent to expand and employ Arunachal Scouts for tasks like standing forward suevellance rather than deploying BSF and ITBP from elsewhere. The Defence Minister needs to look afresh at the requirements of developing border infrastructure to the LAC in face of increased assertiveness of China.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi must place all international borders (manning and infrastructure development) under the Defence Minister overruling the turf wars and the faux pas prevailing since Independence, put in place deliberately by the bureaucracy. Defence of international borders is not a Diwali ki barfi with everyone getting a piece. It requires a single point command in the Defence Minister. This will go a long way in improving focus on securing our borders. With Border Roads under the MoD, the Defence Minister must launch an aggressive plan to build the required communications on priority harnessing private enterprises and Army Engineer resources as well.
There is no reason that ‘norms’ of PMGSY connecting roads to villages of only 100 or more population cannot be relaxed for forward-most villages like Bishing. The advantages by way of intelligence and response are obvious.
R&AW and IB need to be specifically tasked astride the LAC to provide early warning of enemy movements…
Rightfully, there has been much talk about optimizing technology including satellites, drones etc. But what of our borders? The misconception that national security is only military security has led us to neglect of our borders, with Home Ministry focused primarily on the Indo-Pak border in the plains sector. Despite Jinping’s stated focus of digitization of the PLA, India Army’ battlefield management system has been foreclosed after pursuing it for 13 years. Cohesive surveillance, battlefield management and communications systems need to be put in placed integrating all forces deployed along the LAC are vital necessities. This nation must provide the finances for this rather than grandiose plans of procuring 10,000 seaplanes that a Union Minister is propagating.
HUMINT will continue to play a major role in these areas, as was evident from the manner in which the Tuting intrusion was detected, not that we did any better in context of the Kargil intrusions. R&AW and IB need to be specifically tasked astride the LAC to provide early warning of enemy movements, even though fixation of all Indian Governments has been to use intelligence agencies to do down the Opposition – as scripted by MK Dhar, former Joint Director IB in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s intelligence unveiled’.
According to K Apang, Additional Deputy Commissioner in-charge of Tuting circle, “…. Only recently when we saw google maps, we realized that this is our land. The Chinese had already constructed 1250 metre (1.25km) of road inside Indian territory”. So the question is that while the LAC / MacMohan Line is not demarcated on ground, why is the administrative machinery of affected states along the LAC not educated similar to how Apang discovered what our territory is? And having done that, why can’t state intelligence sources be integrated into the surveillance grid? Jinping recently called upon Tibetan villagers close to the LAC to contribute to guarding the LAC. Why can’t we do so similarly?
The choices with the Modi Government are simple. Either ‘Act Borders’ (get its act together along borders, particularly the LAC) or continue as before (playing down intrusions / transgression, whatever) as prelude to the looming strategic setback with loss of more territory. Of course, resort to bureaucratic advice is always available as the fallback option – that China will undertake no such action purely for economic reasons. But then the game of Blind Man’s Buff was not invented without reason. If Jinping can order demolition of all churches with US-China rivalry having come to the fore, imagine to what length he would go when viewing US-China relations anti-China.