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India to Start Civilian Flights Near Disputed Border With China

© AFP 2021 / DIPTENDU DUTTAChinese soldier (L) and an Indian soldier stand guard at the Chinese side of the ancient Nathu La border crossing between India and China.
Chinese soldier (L) and an Indian soldier stand guard at the Chinese side of the ancient Nathu La border crossing between India and China. - Sputnik International
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India has decided to open up its military airport near the disputed border with China to civilian flights. Its nationalists have applauded India’s resolve to develop its region near the border as a counterbalance to Chinese interest and influence.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot taxies a newly commissioned Tejas or Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) on a runway in Bangalore during a ceremony in the southern Indian city. (File) - Sputnik International
India on Track to Unveil Most Advanced Version of Tejas LCA
New Delhi (Sputnik) –  India’s decision to utilize its newly constructed Tuting military airport near the China border for civilian flights is being hailed by Narendra Modi supporters as indicative of the current Government’s resolve to stare down China.

India now wants to develop its frontier region as a tourist destination so that it can populate remote areas close to Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the de facto border with China is called. Starting civilian aircraft in a frontier region may have deeper significance in terms of counterbalance Chinese aggression in frontier region.

But the truth is more prosaic. The landmark 1996 India-China agreement on maintaining peace and tranquility on the border contains no provisions about civilian flights near the border. The 2005 protocol that further defines the 1998 only prohibits military flights 10 km from the LAC.

The newly constructed Tuting ALG is just 18 miles away from LAC and is the second Indian town on the River Siang (Yarlung Tsangpo in China).

The ALG at Tuting was inaugurated by Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Pema Khandu in the presence of Eastern Air Command chief C Hari Kumar. The ALG has been upgraded with a full-fledged runway and all the associated facilities and will be also used for civilian purpose as well.

“With ALGs being operationalised in Tuting, Mechuka, Aalo, Pasighat, Ziro and Vijoynagar, it will now boost connectivity within the state apart from providing vital impetus to the state’s tourism industry and contribute to the local economy,” says Khandu. 

Apart from Tuting, the IAF will permit a regular flight to Pasighat as well. In August this year, the Sukhoi-30MKI made its first landing at Pasighat which is 62 miles from the China border. The Pasighat landing strip had remained unused since the Sino-Indian war of 1962. The previous Government had taken the decision to reactivate all unused air strips along the China border in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

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