Our Northern Frontier

By K.N. Pandita

For the first time after the independence of India, her policy planners have taken strategically pragmatic view of her northern frontier. Of course, first glimpse of such realization did appear after Chinese incursion in 1961, but what followed the event were only shock and surprise and not serious attention on long term northern frontier policy. China’s sudden ceasefire and quick withdrawal from occupied India territory in North-East in 1961 war sent very confusing signals to Indian policy planners of whom a section with make-believe orientation called it Beijing’s sense of remorse for “wrong doing”. Its self-delusion sprang from the “Chini-Hindi bhai bhai” catchphrase that had blurred the vision of most of us in this country.  

It took us several decades to wriggle out of that mess and look at our northern frontier through the prism of standard perspective of big power game. Our policy planners in general and the Defence Ministry in particular now have stumbled on new-found realization that we need drastic revolutionizing of our northern frontier policy in the wake of harsh realities of regional and international strategies.

The earliest signal in this direction was the movement by stealth of Chinese columns of PLA westward in our territory in Ladakh region and then into the Hindu Kush foothills on the prompting of our western neighbour. Encirclement of India, both in the north and south, has been the desk book policy of China, and for all these decades it has been pursuing its expansionist designs with determination. All long her border with Northern India, China has built roads and streamlined connectivity. All infrastructures needed for quick and effective deployment of troops and war machine along this line have been put in place. Functional airports have been laid close to Indian strategic sites from where air strikes on Indian targets would become easy. Beijing has connected Lasah with railway line and now the Chinese have completed the blue print of another railway link via Karakorum and then south into PoK and onwards to the capital of Pakistan. It makes transportation of men and material to forward areas easy. Thus China has completed all of logistically necessary preparations for armed clash with India. In the same way, China has mapped her plans for Assam and Arunachal contiguous to her southern territories. For quite some time, Beijing has been aggressively pursuing her claims on Arunachal so much so that the visitors from Arunachal to China are issued visa on a separate sheet of paper as in the case of Kashmiris. So far New Delhi has done nothing more than making a mild protest to the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi to which the Chinese made an equally casual and cursory response.

It is in this background that the Defence Ministry has come out with a master plan in military terms for the defence of our northern frontier with an outlay of 64000 crore rupees.  The defence strategy will cover entire Himalayan range from Bhutan to Kashmir in the north-west. The defence plan is to raise two divisions and a corpse with strike force of two Brigades equipped with mountain warfare machine and material. It will have full support of missile and affiliate regimes with powerful strike force far deep into Chinese territory. Nearly a hundred thousand soldiers will be recruited with 35000 personnel in officers’ ranks.  This force will be specially trained in modern mountain warfare with severe climatic conditions and will be supplemented by the manpower already in place.

We need to make these preparations and more. We need to divert funds for this unavoidable preparedness. We are sandwiched between two hostile neighbours, both working in tandem to destabilize our country, our economy and disrupt law and order in the region. It is also necessary to improve our military strength in Andaman and Nicabar because we know that China is strengthening her naval power in Indian Ocean. She has recently taken up building of the sea port at the southern tip of Sri Lanka and has forged naval connectivity with Pakistani port of Gawadar on Makran coast in which Beijing has made more than a billion dollar investment. We shall have to further strengthen our naval power and keep close watch on high waterways of the Indian Ocean from where our major trade and commerce is conducted with the world outside. Only a militarily powerful India is the proper answer to malicious designs of China and Pakistan. But what has been proposed in the new defence plan of northern frontier is still inadequate in some respects. We are lagging behind in infrastructural preparedness of which road connectivity is of vital importance. We need more forward area airstrips and air fields; we need more effective and much upgraded communication system and we need war machine with greater deep-strike power. Our supply lines to forward areas have to remain open throughout the year. This means that the tunneling of the mountains at numerous places becomes a regular process of strengthening infrastructure. The time has come when India has to assert politically, economically and above all militarily. There is no looking back. The nation has to be prepared to work towards India, as an Asian power.

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