The Army conducted exercises with Bofors artillery guns along the Indo-China border over the past week. Though the force claims there is no tension between the neighbours at present, they were held in the backdrop of China building three model villages near the border with Sikkim.
China has indicated that it plans to initially settle people of Tibetan origin in these villages. However, sources say they have been cleverly constructed to also be used as bunkers. China has also been building infrastructure along its border with Arunachal Pradesh.
“A routine exercise was held with Bofors guns. There is no tension along the border now. It is peaceful. The exercise is a precautionary measure to build confidence among the local residents along the northern and eastern borders where we have deployed troops,” said Army officials.
Forces have been deployed in Lachen, Lachung and Thangu in north Sikkim and Sherathag and Kupup on the eastern border.
The Swedish-made FH77 Bofors guns can fire shells beyond 30km. They were inducted into the Army in the late 1980s and played a key role in ensuring victory during the Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999.
The guns are capable of firing three rounds in 12 seconds and were extensively used by the Army to dislodge Pakistani army regulars and militants from Indian peaks.
The guns also proved their mettle during Operation Parakram in 2001, firing 80-90 rounds every day that inflicted heavy damage on enemy posts. “Bofors guns are crucial for maintaining firepower superiority at high altitudes where neither fighter aircraft nor helicopters can provide support,” an Army source said.
Sikkim shares about 226km in the east and the north with China.
The Army takes the lead on the border, ITBP and SSB also have a mandate to guard the area. SSB also patrols the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders.