India has a distinct advantage in Indian Ocean to choke China’s energy supply; ITBP, BSF on high alert on China, Pak borders
Not willing to take any chances after the unprecedented clash at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, the Armed forces have ramped up their efforts by deploying additional troops, placing fighter jets on the standby and the warships on active deployment in the strategically important Indian Ocean.
With growing maritime prowess, the Chinese have started making forays into the Indian Ocean thereby threatening India’s strategic interest as more than 70 per cent export and import come through sea lanes of this ocean.
The Centre has also put the ITBP on high alert post-Galwan valley bloody face-off with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in eastern Ladakh.
The ITBP posts are also being reinforced even as the BSF has been asked to remain on maximum alert along the Western frontier with Pakistan.
India has a distinct advantage in Indian Ocean as it can easily choke off China’s energy supply. More than 90 per cent of its oil supply imported from the Gulf and other regions pass through the Malacca Straits near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Indian Navy has been given the go ahead to block it if need be, sources said here on Wednesday.
Similarly, the IAF is also in active duty mode now after situation worsened over the last one month on the LAC in Ladakh.
Frontline fighter jets including SU-30s are carrying out regular sorties in the region to familiarize themselves with the operational area and deal with any threat if need be.
Moreover, all the advanced landing grounds (ALG) all along the 4,000 km long LAC from Ladakh in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east are now on full alert. Capable of handling landing and take off of transport planes carrying soldiers and logistics, the ALGs have ramped up their facilities, sources said.
The Army has moved forward its additional units all along the LAC in border States like Utarrakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. There is a rethink on reducing troops in Ladakh region after the Galwan valley incident.
When the stand-offs started a month back, China brought additional troops besides heavy weapons to the operational areas forcing India to match it. After the two sides decided to mutually pull back troops from the face-offs, it was also agreed to remove troops from the operational areas to peace time locations. Operational areas are generally located 20 to 25 km from the LAC.
However, with the bloody brawl on Monday night, the Army may not withdraw its troops as a precautionary step, officials said, adding it will wait and watch for the next few days.
In another development, the Army is now given emergency power to deal with complete freedom against any Chinese aggression at the LAC. The Government has reportedly given a free hand to the armed forces to act as they see deem fit after the Galwan valley incident, sources said. It will be upto the local commanders now to assess and take action accordingly, they added.
In the aftermath of suffering highest number of casualties in the last 40 years, the Army is likely to revise its standard operating procedure while patrolling on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). They do not carry weapons as per an agreement some years back with China. However, the brutal assault by vastly superior numbers in the latest incident resulting in 20 deaths, the decision makers will have to take a call on it.
As of now, the Indian Army patrols are strictly prohibited from opening fire at the LAC and as a precaution they do not carry guns. This confidence building agreement was inked between the two countries in 1996. It binds both the countries that neither side shall open fire or conduct blast operations within two km of the LAC.
In the Galwan valley incident on Monday, the patrol team was overwhelmed by a larger strength of soldiers from the other side. During the clashes, the Chinese used iron rods, stones and sticks with barbed wires and nails on them to attack the Indian team.
The 1996 agreement saw both the sides refraining from brandishing weapons at each other. The face-offs used to see pushing and jostling. The Chinese of late started pelting stones and now graduated to more lethal weapons like clubs with barbed wires and nails. The latest incident may see the Government revisiting the standard operating procedure at the LAC, officials said.
Meanwhile, ITBP Director General SS Deswal on Tuesday briefed Union Home Minister Amit Shah and updated him about the ground situation in the Galwan valley as also other points along the LAC where the PLA has breached the sanctity of the de facto border between the two countries.
The paramilitary has also been positioned at many places on the LAC in close coordination with the Army and was engaged in rescue and evacuation of Army’s personnel who were injured during the attack by the PLA.
The Force has already mobilised troops from various Battalions from different States and they were rushed for deployment in the Ladakh region for reinforcement of the posts.
ITBP is the nodal force tasked to secure the 3,488 km LAC from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Diphu La in Arunachal Pradesh.
Apart from maintaining maximum vigil on the frontier with Pakistan, the BSF has also been directed to keep an eye on the strategic road that runs between Baltal near Srinagar and Leh in Ladakh. The Srinagar-Ladakh highway has also been closed for the civilian traffic except vehicular movement for the carriage of essential items in the wake of the heightened situation along the LAC.
Thursday, 18 June 2020 | PNS | New Delhi
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