The defence ministry has stated it would enhance infrastructure along the 4,000km-long Sino-India border, including areas around the Doklam region, where a 73-day standoff with China was defused just a month ago.
The decision was taken at the Army commanders conference, which extensively deliberated on the Doklam face-off with China besides analysing all possible security challenges on the northern border, PTI quoted official sources as saying. Recently, there were media reports that the Chinese Army had begun constructing a road about 10km from the point of the faceoff, with more of its troops standing guard.
In his address at the week-long conference, which began in New Delhi on Monday, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat asked the commanders to be prepared for all eventualities at “all times”, while Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman emphasised the need to guard against “inimical forces”.
Director General Staff Duties Lieutenant General Vijay Singh said it was decided that there would be considerable “heft” towards road construction activities in the northern sector, for which additional funds would be granted to Border Roads Organisation.
Sitharaman, meanwhile, lauded the military for its swift and effective response in dealing with “external and internal threats”, seen as a reference to the Army stopping the construction of a road in Doklam and its anti-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
While talking about security challenges, the Army Chief highlighted the need for according priority to procurement of arms and ammunition, in an apparent indication of unhappiness over delay in buying critical weapons for the force. “Our approach to procurement process needs to be balanced with focus at the right places,” Rawat said. On her part, Sitharaman said the focus would be on ensuring capability enhancement and capacity building of the Army in a time-bound manner. She also emphasised the need for integration of all the services in effectively dealing with emerging challenges. While Rawat asserted that there would be no compromise regarding issues relating to welfare of Armymen, Sitharaman said keeping up the morale of the armed forces was a priority.
On boosting infrastructure along the borders, Singh said, “Four passes to Niti, Lipulekh, Thangla 1 and Tsangchokla have been decided to be connected by 2020 on priority”. All these passes are along the Sino-India border in the central sector. He said a roadmap for intra-sector connectivity within the central sector and inter-sector connectivity with neighbouring areas were also discussed in the conclave.
The commanders also deliberated on the cadre review of Junior Commissioned Officers and other ranks (OR), which now stands approved, and implementation of the Shekatkar committee recommendation on carrying out reforms in the force. The issue of employment of women officers in areas of specialisation that require continuity also figured in the talks. Singh said all 2,000 military stations would be modernised and would be at par with the government’s Smart City project. About 58 stations have been identified for the pilot project.
Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra stressed on the need for a time-bound action plan to resolve the issues plaguing the military. He said they would seek necessary sanction from the government to allow the Army to carry out procurement under the existing system till March 31, 2018 when the Government eMarket system was likely to stabilise.
(With PTI inputs)