Exercise Buland Bharat: With eye on China, military and border-guarding forces recently concluded monthlong joint combat drill in northeast

Team India Sentinels Thursday 4th of May 2023 04:11 PM

An artillery gun in action during Exercise Buland Bharat. (Photo: Indian Army) 

New Delhi: The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force recently concluded a monthlong joint combat exercise in the northeast with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Sashastra Seema Bal, sources in the defence and security establishment revealed, on Thursday. The exercise took place at Mandala high-altitude area in Arunachal Pradesh.

The exercise was codenamed “Buland Bharat” (roughly translated as “Exalted India”)

The sources said: “The security forces have conducted a monthlong training in Arunachal Pradesh, wherein men and machines were tested in simulated war conditions at the high-altitude area and extreme weather conditions.”

They added that the combat drill included integrated surveillance and firepower training exercises at Arunachal Pradesh’s Mandala High-Altitude Firing Ranges. Further, they said radars from ground-based and air assets were also tested to analyse the direction and strength of firepower from infantry and artillery.

Notably, Mandala is about 215 kilometres from Bum-la, which is a pass between India and Tibet. Bum-la is 37 kilometres from India’s Tawang town and 43 kilometres from the Tibetan fort-monastery Tsona-dzong. During the 1962 India-China war, Bum-la witnessed one of the fiercest battles in the sector.

They also revealed that “uninterrupted communication on multiple media” was also tested at long distances.

A fortnight earlier, on April 22, when the exercise was going on, the Tezpur-based IV Corps, also called Gajraj Corps, in a tweet had said: “Artillery, Infantry, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and also the Special Forces conducted day and night training for integrated surveillance and application of fire to maximize destruction at target. [sic]”

India steps up combat drills

It may be mentioned that since the clash between soldiers of the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army in Tawang’s Yangtse area, in December 2022, India has stepped up its combat exercises and vigilance in the eastern sector.

This is the fifth such joint combat drill between the military and the CAPFs, which has been carried out since the December incident in the Tawang sector. In the earlier drills, the Border Security Force also took part.

While the Army and the Air Force are categorized as armed forces and come under the defence ministry, the ITBP, SSB, and the BSF come under the Union home ministry as components of the central armed police forces (CAPFs).

It may be mentioned that the ITBP is tasked with guarding India's border, also known as the line of actual control (LAC), with China-controlled Tibet – a major part of which is disputed between New Delhi and Beijing. The SSB guards India’s borders with Nepal and Bhutan while the BSF guards the border with Pakistan in the west of the country and Bangladesh in the east.

Tension between India and China along the LAC has been particularly high since the Chinese troops intruded into Indian territory and squatted on it in the Galwan valley, eastern Ladakh, in 2020. This resulted in a deadly clubs-and-fists brawl, in June 2020, which left 20 India soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers dead, although China claims only four of its soldiers were killed. Many more were injured from both sides.

Since then, the two countries embarked on a military build-up on their respective sides. Currently, both countries are maintaining a deployment of tens of thousands of troops and a large number of military hardware facing each other. Several rounds of senior-level military-to-military talks and diplomatic efforts have failed to resolve the stand-off between the two countries.

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