The Indian military delegation led by a Major General raised the need to curb the “provocative behaviour” of Chinese fighters flying close to the LAC during the meeting with his People’s Liberation Army counterpart at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point in eastern Ladakh on Tuesday, sources said.
An Air Commodore from IAF’s operations branch was specially included in the Indian delegation to discuss the “heightened Chinese air activity” in the region since June, which has seen Chinese fighters often violate the 10-km no-fly zone CBM along the LAC, as earlier reported by TOI.
China boosted air bases facing India in last two yrs
A fresh round of talks between India and China were a notch lower than the Lt-General-rank corps commander talks, which were last held on July 17, without any concrete progress on disengagement and de-escalation of the troop stand-offs at Patrolling Point-15, Demchok and the largest one at the strategically-located Depsang Bulge area.
China is also indulging in aggressive behaviour in the Taiwan Strait, with multiple firings of ballistic missiles and its fighters crossing the “median line”, after US speaker Nancy Pelosi visit to the region earlier this week.
In eastern Ladakh, while there are two-three Chinese fighter sorties on an average per day near the LAC, there have been “at least two confirmed incidents” of the jets even flying over the stand-off or “friction” points since the last week of June.
All such incidents trigger activation of air defence measures by the IAF, which include scrambling its Mirage-2000 and MiG-29 fighters that have been forward deployed from their peacetime bases ever since the border row erupted with China over two years ago.
“There is no strict pattern as such but Chinese air activity, including by reconnaissance aircraft, has certainly gone up a lot all along the 3,488-km long LAC, especially in the eastern Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh sectors,” a source said.
This is a direct result of China having systematically upgraded all its major air bases facing India like Hotan, Kashgar, Gargunsa and Shigatse over the last two years. The extended runways, hardened shelters or blast pens and fuel storage facilities at these airbases means the PLA-Air Force can now deploy more J-11 and J-8 fighters, long-range bombers and reconnaissance aircraft there.
This slightly offsets the advantage IAF has over the PLAAF, which suffers from a terrain constraint because the weapon and fuel-carrying capacity of its jets is limited due to the high-altitude and rarefied air in the region.
India, on its part, is keeping all its airbases facing the northern borders on a high operational alert, having inducted frontline Sukhoi-30MKI, MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar fighters there two years ago.