In the face of an increasingly aggressive PLA, the Army is stepping up surveillance capabilities in the Eastern Sector, from new Artificial Intelligence-enabled software to track Chinese patrol movements to integrating a range of ground and air-based sensors that look deep across the Line of Actual Control.
As part of a multi-pronged strategy, road infrastructure is being dramatically improved, particularly in the sensitive Tawang area, with a network of bridges and tunnels that will reduce reliance on air assets to assist soldiers in all weather situations.
Senior Army officials gave an inside look at new capabilities, saying that not only are all existing surveillance assets being deployed but that younger officers have been charged with developing bespoke systems specifically tailored to the needs of the Tibet border.
Last year, area domination patrols and visits by senior PLA officials across the border increased in the Tawang sector, a pattern that was also witnessed in Uttarakhand and Sikkim. As previously noted, this has caused concern in some cases, such as the Barahoti incident in Uttarakhand in late August, when transgressing PLA forces caused infrastructure damage.
Establishments like the division surveillance centre at Rupa, which receive real-time photographs and inputs of PLA movements along the LAC, are critical to the reaction to such provocations. To design a reaction strategy, the inputs - from UAVs, helicopter-based sensors, ground radars, and satellite feed - are gathered and analysed.
The image that emerges in the command centre is eye-opening, from the number of intruding troops to the cars they drive and the infrastructure that is being built beyond the border. Officials claim that this results in a faster reaction time, which can help to reduce violations.
"We are leveraging technology to improve our knowledge of the issue without increasing our deployment. Our main focus is sensor fusion; our ground and air-based sensors are being combined, and we're always working to increase our capabilities "According to Maj Gen Zubin Minwalla, commander of the 5 Mountain Division stationed in Rupa, Arunachal Pradesh, which is responsible for Tawang's defences.
The Army is also developing unique methods in-house to aid in this increased surveillance. An AI-enabled programme that separates signatures picked up by battlefield surveillance radars is one initiative that is now being validated through trials by advanced soldiers.
The programme classifies signals to determine if soldiers, vehicles, or animals are moving and transmits real-time updates to the command centre, allowing it to develop a reaction. Another device being developed is a portable surveillance system that can be deployed across the border that counts the number of transgressing soldiers and their method of transportation, passing the information to higher commanders for counter-action.