The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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China fear boost to airbase

Hasimara, Oct. 12: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided to upgrade the Hasimara airbase, the 2,017-acre IAF station about 30 km from Jalpaiguri town, by deploying advanced fighter aircraft and setting up another radar unit.

The move comes in the wake of reports that China is trying to boost its presence in the Indian Ocean taking advantage of friendly ties with countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“Nearly 80 per cent of world trade is carried out through the Indian Ocean and, as such, India has a greater authority in this region than China. Now they are trying to get control over the region so that they can have some say in world trade,” said Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of Hasimara airbase Air Commodore K.K. Nohwar.

He added that China has undertaken a long-term plan regarding the Indian Ocean, much to “our worries”.

“We are well aware of China’s efforts. The Hasimara airbase, in view of its strategic location, is expected to play a key role in future if war breaks out. This airbase is the gateway to the Northeast and is very close to China and Bangladesh,” Nohwar observed during a programme celebrating the IAF’s 71st anniversary early this week.

As part of the air force’s plans, an advanced radar unit is being set up here for better surveillance. “And it’s a matter of time before we accommodate all types of advanced fighter aircraft here. Besides, we are deploying another squadron here to strengthen our base,” the AOC said.

The chief operations officer, Group Captain R.S. Randhawa, seemed more concerned. “A number of Chinese military camps is being set up in border areas that come under the air power of Hasimara airbase. Satellite pictures show China is deploying her military force in Gordong, Hopang, Donzong and Nagchuka, mainly in the Tibetan region,” he said.

Officials at the base are concerned over the “Chicken’s Neck” corridor that links north and south Bengal. “If our enemies strike this point, the entire Northeast will be cut off from the rest of the country. The Hasimara airbase has to be well-equipped so that in case of future conflict, it can be operated for both purposes, strike and air-defence,” Nohwar said.

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