In an important move, the Indian government is planning to revive the policy of training and arming population in border areas. Imparting military training to people living along the India-China border could become an important part of India’s multi-pronged effort to check repeated incursions into the Indian territory by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The revived initiative is understood to be part of the new Modi government’s strategy of securing India’s border areas. The government is trying to improve infrastructure and access in the border area, which will improve communications for civilian as well as defence purposes.
This policy to arm and train people in border areas started after the India-China war in 1962. While still used in Jammu and Kashmir in the form of village defence committees, the practice was discontinued in 2001.
Inspired by the success of Seema Sashastra Bal (SSB) that now guards the India-Nepal border, the move to impart military training fits in well with the government’s strategic plan to help more and more people settle in border areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh by bolstering infrastructure. The details are being discussed, but reliable sources indicated that the idea is to train people living in border areas in vigilance and combat so that they can defend the borders, if the need be.
The initiative comes at a time when the leaders of India and China have signalled their resolve to expand the canvas of relations between the two countries. India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari was in China last week to participate in the joint celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Panchsheel. This visit, while well received in China, was marred by reports of fresh incursions by Chinese troops into the Indian territory in Ladakh. Additionally, there were reports of the publication of a new map that showed Arunachal Pradesh and disputed parts of Jammu and Kashmir as parts of the Chinese territory.
But despite these off-and-on jitters, the India-China relations seems to have acquired a new maturity and resilience. India’s Army Chief General Bikram Singh is currently on a four-day visit to China in an effort to bolster greater military-to-military trust between the two Asian giants.
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