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India ups guard on China border
Tezpur base gets Sukhois; coming next 2 mountain divs
Ajay Banerjee/Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Guwahati, June 15
Ramping up capabilities along the Sino-Indian border, the Indian Air Force today placed its front line all-weather fighters, Sukhoi-30 MKI, at Tezpur in Assam which is located at a central point between Bhutan, Tibet, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Ths comes within weeks of the Union Cabinetís decision to raise two new mountain divisions along the Chinese border. Apart from this, the Border Roads Organisation is carrying out a Rs 2,341 crore reconstruction in J&K to provide all-weather connectivity to Leh and other strategic areas bordering China in Himachal Pradesh. A sum of Rs 2,400 crore is also being spent to provide road connectivity in areas of Arunachal Pradesh.

A defence source in Tezpur said the four SU-30 MKI aircraft, which were formally inducted today, had been flown in on June 13. The air base, which is not far from India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh, is expected to host a full squadron of Sukhoi fighter aircrafts in near future.

With formal induction of Sukhoi aircraft, Tezpur air base became the third destination of these fighter aircrafts in the country after Lohegaon in Pune and Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. The runway in Tezpur Air base was recently upgraded and extended from 9,000 ft to 11,000 ft. Runways of Jorhat and Chabua air bases of the IAF in Assam are also being upgraded and extended. The British Royal Indian Air Force constructed Tezpur airfield in 1942 during Second World War. It was subsequently developed into a full-fledged Air Force base in 1959. For the last 25 years this base had been home to the MiG-21 fleet, which was used extensively to train rookie pilots for the IAF.

SU-30, one of the best aircraft in the world, has capabilities to endure long flights with mid-air refuelling capability. A full squadron, consisting of 20 odd aircraft, will be located at Tezpur to allow fighters to patrol or defend areas in the sensitive northeast.

The proposed Army mountain divisions will be stationed along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and areas bordering China. Each division has a strength of 10,000 to 13,000 troops trained in specialised warfare. The Army already has 10 divisions dedicated to mountain warfare and another infantry division for high-altitude operations. The air assets of the divisions would include helicopter gunships and attack choopers.

The IAF is also readying five advanced grounds in Arunachal Pradesh to ensure landing of big transport planes for faster induction of troops. Also, a dozen new helipads are being constructed.

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Boundary talks with China in Aug
Ashok Tuteja writes from Yekaterinburg (Russia)

India and China will hold the next round of talks on the lingering boundary dispute on August 7 and 8 in New Delhi, official sources said here on Monday.

The announcement coincided with a meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had with Chinese President Hu Jintao shortly after his arrival here in this Russian city on a three-day visit to attend the Brazil-India-Russia-China Summit and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit to be held tomorrow.

Special representatives of India and China have so far held 11 rounds of talks on the border issue but are yet to achieve a breakthrough in their negotiations. National Security Adviser MK Narayanan on the Indian side and Chinese vice foreign minister Dai Bingguo are the special representatives on the two sides. The talks between them began following a visit to China by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in June 2003.

Asked if they were satisfied with the negotiations so far held with China, Indian officials said though the talks were progressing satisfactorily, much more could be done to hasten the process of resolving the boundary dispute.

On comments made by Fali Homi Major, who recently retired as Indian Air Force chief, that China was a bigger threat than Pakistan, the officials said Defence Minister AK Antony had already clarified the position on the issue.

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