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“Dual Use Villages” Part of China’s New Border Management Strategy On LAC

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China has a new border management strategy in place on the LAC with India and the “dual use villages” are an integral part of it .

Indian intelligence agencies says 628 such villages ( Chinese prefer to call them “border defence villages” ) have come up on the 3448 kms long LAC since 2017 in phases .

“ The process of commissioning and installation of these villages has been so well calibrated that it is only four years later now that the pattern is becoming clear,” said an intelligence veteran who have followed China’s border management closely during his long career.

But he is unwilling  to be named because he is not cleared to speak to media.

The Chinese , he told News9Live, started building these “dual use” or “Border Defence” villages after the long Doklam standoff , prior to which Delhi refused to join the BRI summit in Beijing and so did Bhutan.

“All hopes China had entertained of roping India into the BRI and opening up its huge market through the Himalayas were neutralized by India’s resolute stand at Doklam to oppose Chinese intrusions into Bhutanese territory. That is when the PLA decided to militarise the LAC with extended cantonments,” the intelligence veteran said.

The new villages built by China along India’s border are a cause of concern, India’s Eastern Army Commander Lieutenant General Manoj Pande has been quoted as saying recently .

The 2021 US defense department report to the Congress just mentions “ sometimes in 2020, the PRC built a large 100home civilian village inside disputed territory between the PRC’s Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh state in the eastern sector of the LAC.”   The report observed : “The PRC’s Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) Development Strategy is a key part of its defense sector reform.”

The Indian army was quick to point out that the “dual use” village  now constructed by the Chinese in Upper Subansiri district is claimed by India but has been in China’s adverse possession since 1959. Which also meant that no objections were raised when the Chinese started the construction in an area claimed by India.

“It has been built by China in an area that was occupied by the PLA after overrunning an Assam Rifles post in 1959 in an operation known as Longju incident along the frontier in Arunachal Pradesh,” said a military official.

The incident took place a few months after the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet, crossed into India in March 1959 and was later granted political asylum by New Delhi.

“It was at Longju in the Subansiri frontier division that the first armed clash took place between the PLA (2nd Company of 1st Regiment of Shannan Military Sub Command) and personnel of 9 Assam Rifles occupying the Indian post at Longju on August 25, 1959, which resulted in two Indian casualties,” according to a journal published by think tank United Service Institution of India in 2014. It added that Assam Rifles did not reoccupy Longju and instead set up a post at Maja, 10 km south of Longju, on August 29, 1959. The article in the journal was headlined ‘1962 War  The Unknown Battles: Operations in Subansiri and Siang Frontier Division.’

The dual use border defence villages have nice houses , clubs and roads within , all designed to look like a civilian settlement fitting into the local setting. But one former lieutenant general with long experience of the China border tactics says these villages are actually “extended cantonments” replete with storage facilities, reinforced bunkers and connecting roads and possibly tunnels in some places.

“ These are integrated civil-military facilities that will soon be populated by ex-soldiers, local militia and loyal Tibetan of mixed parentage who would serve as additional eyes and ears of the PLA,” the former lieutenant general said, but on condition of anonymity because he was not cleared to speak to media. “ These are strategic assets.”

Some high resolution images of these villages – some along the Torsa river valley on BhutanChina border and one newly built dual use village at Pangda opposite Arunachal Pradesh – is all that one has in public domain on them . The space firm Makar Technologies uploaded them .  Though they look like civilian villages in décor and apparent facilities, what gives them out as military assets is the reconnaissance towers all these villages are equipped with.

After eliciting views of military and intelligence veterans who have served on the LAC, it seems the “dual use” villages are meant to serve both an offensive and a defensive purpose.

The Chinese always dread Tibetan forces under Indian command like the Special Frontier Force as capable of penetrating their lines even in deep winter for behind-the-lines  strategic reconnaissance and possible sabotage operations during conflict.  “ A integrated network of  such villages can prevent penetration of special units and help intercept them,” says an ITBP veteran, again unwilling to be named for lack of media clearence.

But the former lieutenant general says these villages can hide regular combat soldiers for sudden surprise action against Indian forces . “ If several of such villages are closely connected, the strike units can gather in one village and swiftly move into another without detection for an across LAC operation,” he said. 

Intelligence sources say the six hundred plus dual use Border Defence villages can house up to 2,70,000 people . 

‘The villages look vacant now but over the next few months, they will all be populated with carefully selected and screened people like ex soldiers ,  people militia and select Tibetans of mixed parentage. The process of populating these villages will take a while  both because screening and security vetting takes time and because the Chinese want to conceal a big population movement,” said the veteran intelligence official. 

( first published by News9Live.Com)

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