Amidst concerns over Chinese military activities along the forward areas of Arunachal Pradesh, India has started the process of shifting the North East headquarters of border guarding force ITBP, 500-km from Shillong to state capital Itanagar.
The huge logistical exercise entails shifting of over 2,000 troops and support staff, setting up of communications and border signals, residential logistics and transportation of heavy vehicles, weapons and artillery from Meghalaya to Arunachal Pradesh, both states on the eastern border flank of the country.
Officials said the central government had in 2014 approved a Rs 175 crore infrastructure package for Arunachal which includes deployment of eight fresh ITBP battalions with about 8,000 troops in it, opening of 35 new border roads, 54 border outposts and 72 staging camps along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
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Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force Director General Krishna Chaudhary confirmed the move to PTI stating the exercise of shifting the North East frontier headquarters from Meghalaya’s capital Shillong to Arunachal’s capital Itanagar is expected to be accomplished by next month.
“The process in on. The ITBP North East frontier will soon be operating from Itanagar,” the DG said. Officials said a huge infrastructure creation exercise is currently on in Itanagar where the force’s sector headquarter has been operating since 2004. A senior official in the security establishment said keeping in mind the military capabilities being created in Arunanchal, it was essential to base the ITBP command in Itanagar rather than in far-off Shillong where there are no such huge developments taking place to bolster the strength and number of Indian troops and other logistical activities.
“The ITBP frontier at Shillong was set up long back but it’s geographical location has now lost relevance vis-a-vis the security of the Sino-India border. Arunachal is the right place for basing such strategic activities now,” the official said. While a frontier is headed by an Inspector General (IG) rank officer of the force, a sector is commanded by a Deputy IG (DIG) level officer.
About 7-8 battalions of the ITBP are deployed to secure the Sino-India LAC in these areas, and at least eight more ITBP battalions are set to be inducted in this region keeping in view the sensitivity, operational requirement and border disputes that occur between ITBP/Army and the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) troops, the official said.
Two other ITBP sectors under the NE frontier are located at Gangtok (Sikkim) and Tezpur (Assam). Keeping in view the operationalisation of the huge ITBP establishment from Itanagar, the security establishment is also looking at ensuring a dedicated air and road connectivity from the hinterland in order to ensure unobstructed and quick movement of troops, logistics and other essential items.
In view of frequent incursions and transgression bids taking place along the 3,488 km-long border, ITBP had similarly created a frontier headquarter in Leh in Ladakh after shifting it from Chandigarh. The decision is being implemented and Leh at present has an ITBP sector command headed by a DIG rank officer.
China has been objecting to any development of infrastructure along the LAC and setting up of border outposts at locations along Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh leading to instances of stand-offs between the two sides.
India has been wary of road development and other infrastructural facilities coming up across the border on the Chinese side and wants to ramp up developmental work on its side. The proposed new ITBP BOPs in Arunachal Pradesh are being created to reduce the distance between two border posts on this frontier marred by harsh weather conditions like snow blizzards and treacherous mountainous terrain.
About 80,000 personnel strong mountain-warfare trained force was raised in the wake of the 1962 Chinese aggression and its border posts are located at heights of 9,000 feet to 18,700 feet in heavy snow and oxygen depleted air.