The Indian Air Force (IAF) has deployed a second squadron of SU-30 MKI combat fighters in the North-East region of India; to further enhance its capabilities viz-a-viz China. The frontline combat fighter planes will be used for offensive and defensive purposes, according to the IAF; and the SU-30 MKI will be stationed in Chabua air Base, Assam. This will be the seventh SU-30 MKI squadron of the IAF to be deployed.
In order to commemorate the formal induction of the SU-30MKI, for the protection of the north-east region, the combat jets carried out a fly-past. It may be noted that the first squadron SU-30 was deployed in 2009 in the Tezpur area of Assam. According to sources, repeated trespassing from the Chinese across the Sino-Indian border has led to the deployment of the SU-30 squadron in the region. The Tezpur and Chabua districts are vulnerable areas as they lie close to the border and frontline fighters like SU-30 are crucial to maintain security and act as a necessary deterrent. Capable of carrying nuclear weapons and tailor-made for Indian specifications, the Su-30 MKI is a variant of the Sukhoi Su-30 and is jointly-developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Corporation and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the IAF.
The Indian Defence ministry has been taking note of the rapid development of infrastructure by China on its side of the border. The mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030 kilometre (650 mile) unfenced border with China. The India-China border along Arunachal Pradesh is separated by the McMahon Line, an imaginary border that is now known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). While China gave up its territorial claim over the Indian state of Sikkim in 2003, it still claims that a vast stretch of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to them. According to the defence ministry, there have been about 350 violations by Chinese soldiers in the western, middle and eastern sectors of the border since 2008.
Last year, India had also mulled over the possibility of deploying its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in the Northeast, close to its border with China, to enhance its military preparedness. The move was triggered by a report from the Pentagon which suggested that China had moved its new advanced long range CSS-5 missiles closer to its border with India and developed contingency plans to shift airborne forces to the region at short notice. India had started procuring land in North-West Bengal and adjoining states for deployment of these missiles and was considering the deployment of the 2,000 kilometer range Agni-II and 350 kilometer range Prithvi III surface to surface ballistic missiles close to the Chinese border.
The current stand of India is that it does not want to be threat-centric but at the same time, the Indian forces must be capable to ward off threat. Since most of China’s defence developments and capabilities are keep under wraps, it makes it incumbent on India to augment its defence preparedness. India has been renovating its air-bases in north-east region and has been working on developing over 70 strategic roads along the Sino-Indian border. India already has strategic air bases at Baghdogra, Hashimara and Cooch Behar to counter China while other important bases in this sector are located in Chabua, Guwahati, Jorhat, Kalaikunda and Agartala in north east India.