Sino-India border roads discussed at Army Commanders’ Conference

New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) More than a month after India and China stand-off at Doklam ended, infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border figured prominently in the Army Commanders’ Conference here, with stress being laid on road connectivity in the central sector of the border that has largely been neglected.

The part of India-China border under the Army’s Central Command is the patch which has been largely peaceful, and maps have also been exchanged for this part with China.A

While the road construction activity in the eastern sector is already in focus, sources said the central part of the border – along the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand – suffers from lack of infrastructure, apparently because of being peaceful.

Sources said on the contrary, China has built roads up to areas close to the border, and hence it was necessary to address the issue.

Director General, Staff Duties Lt. Gen. Vijay Singh, briefing media on the outcome of the Army Commanders’ Conference that started on Monday, said it was decided that there would be a “concerted heft” towards road construction activities in the Central sector.

“Four passes — Niti, Lipu lekh, Thang La 1, and Tsangchokla — will be connected by 2020 on priority,” Singh said. All the four are in Uttarakhand.

The central sector of the India-China border has two disputed areas – Barahoti in Chamoli district where a Chinese incursions took place in July last year, and Pulam Sumda in Uttarkashi district which claimed by China.

This section of border has four valleys – Harsil, Mansa, Niti and Sumna – up to which roads will be constructed, and will also be connected to neighbouring areas.

Singh also said that additional funds will be allocated to Border Road Organisation for the area under the Northern Command for development of roads and infrastructure.

Parts of India-China border in Ladakh, as well as India-Pakistan border fall within the area of the Northern Command of Indian Army.

The Army Commanders’ Conference also discussed recommendations of the Shekatkar Committee, and examined organisational changes for enhancing capabilities.

Sources said it was related to increasing the tooth to tail ratio of the force, regarding which it was recently decided that over 57,000 of its personnel will be redeployed to enhance combat capability of the force.

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, in his address at the conference, meanwhile asked the commanders to be prepared for all eventualities at all times and said it was therefore important to accord priority to arms, ammunition and equipment.

“Out approach to procurement process needs to be balanced with focus at the right places,” he Rawat said.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who addressed the conference on Tuesday, lauded the swift and effective response of the Army in dealing with external and internal threats.

She stressed on the “need to guard against inimical forces and talked about the need for jointness and integration of all the services in effectively dealing with emerging challenges”.

The Army Commanders’ Conference is a biennial meet which is attended by all Army Commanders and the Army Chief. The meet is also addressed by the Defence Minister and officials of the ministry are in attendance to brainstorm on important security and organisational issues.

The second edition of this conference started on Monday, and will conclude on October 15.

The recent Doklam stand-off and preparedness along the border with China in general, as well as the situation at the western border alone with Pakistan are top on the agenda of the meet.

Speeding up procurement, pace of modernisation in the Army, pushing the Make in India programme and indigenous procurement, and staff welfare related issues were also discussed.

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