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4 Sukhois at Tezpur to counter China buildup

June 16, 2009

Rajat Pandit

The Economic Times

16 Jun 2009


NEW DELHI: India has finally added some much-needed military muscle in the eastern sector by basing its latest "air dominance" Sukhoi-30 MKI

fighters there, in a move to counterbalance China’s buildup of military infrastructure in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and south China.


The strategy to progressively base Sukhois in the North-East to counter China, as was reported by TOI almost two years ago, came to fruition on Monday after four of the jets formally touched down at Tezpur airbase in Assam. ‘‘ Tezpur will have two Sukhoi squadrons (36 jets) in the near future. Next, we are looking at Chabua, also in Assam, to base these fighters as and when they come in,’’ said a senior IAF officer.


"Sukhois will bolster our capabilities against China, which has at least four airbases in TAR and another three-four in south China for operations against India,’’ he added.


Moreover, with much-improved logistics through multiple air, road and rail links along the 4,057-km Line of Control , China can move a couple of divisions (15,000 troops each) to the border within a month. India has been quite tardy in countering these moves, with only 10 of the 73 all-weather roads earmarked for construction along the Sino-Indian border to improve troop mobility being completed till now.


While the propensity in India is to underplay the threat posed by China, it remains a clear and present one. Beijing , for instance, has around 60 launch pads for nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles near Delingha and Da Qaidam in central China, which clearly target north India and south Russia.


Induction of Sukhois at Tezpur and other airbases will clearly inject some credibility into India’s ‘‘ active deterrence’ ’ posture against China, especially since the 3,500-km Agni-III missile will be ready for operational deployment only by 2011. Fully-loaded Sukhois, with a cruising-speed range of 3,200 km, after all, will be able to strike high-value targets inside China after taking off from Tezpur.


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