As China’s belligerent rhetoric continues over the ongoing military standoff at Doklam, the Indian Army has put its units in Arunachal Pradesh on a higher alert, staging some troops in the state ahead of their usual locations but still short of the Chinese border.
Sources told The Indian Express that, as a precautionary measure, many units of the Dimpaur-headquartered 3 Corps and Tezpur-headquartered. 4 Corps have been placed on “higher alert in a No War No Peace mode”. Sources stressed that these measures are not linked to any major build-up of Chinese military in Tibet which would indicate a serious threat. There has been no major movement of Chinese military observed by the Indian side so far.
In the eastern sector, as reported by The Indian Express, Army units in Sikkim have already been staged forward as they undertake their Operational Alert this month which has been advanced from October. No movement of troops has, however, taken place in Ladakh, the other major area where India and China share a disputed border.
The two Corps in Arunachal were put on a higher alert at the beginning of this month when nearly 24,000 soldiers were asked to stage forward from their usual locations in a “trickle down fashion”. Caution has been exercised by the Army to ensure that no major convoys of military trucks are used for this movement which could be misread by the Chinese as a sign of escalation. Moreover, these soldiers have not yet been moved to higher altitudes, above 9000 feet, which would require acclimatisation as it could send a wrong signal to the Chinese.
Among the major units being staged forward are the artillery regiments, whose essential operational stores excluding the guns, have been staged forward by nearly 70-80 km. These units are otherwise located around 150 km from China border which makes the transportation of these stores a logistical challenge in the mountainous terrain.
The movement of these soldiers and stores has been necessitated by the difference in infrastructure on the Indian and the Chinese side. In case of a military escalation, an extensive network of Chinese roads and tracks will allow the Chinese army to push its soldiers and stores in a matter of few days. The Indian side would, however, need much greater time to mobilise its troops and stores to the border. This state of higher alert, particularly in case of logistics and supply-chain dependent artillery units, would allow India to bridge that gap significantly and reduce the operational disadvantage.
Sources said that the standoff site at Doklam plateau has been experiencing heavy rains, with temperatures falling to 5 degrees Celsius. Nearly 350 Indian soldiers continue to face-off around 300 Chinese soldiers since June 18, when they stopped the Chinese from constructing a motorable road to Jampheri Ridge inside Bhutanese territory.
Meanwhile, Chinese embassy officials in Delhi met their US counterparts today and, sources said, they reiterated their position that India had been informed of the road construction in advance. The Americans, on their part, underlined India’s importance to the US foreign policy.