New Delhi: At the heart of a recent stand-off between India and China was the area surrounding Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh, one of the highest landing strips in the world. And now, within 100 miles of Daulat Beg Oldie, India is going to open a new air base at Nyoma. The air strip was last used in the 1960s, but was reopened in India in 2008.
In April, Chinese soldiers entered Indian territory at Daulat Beg Oldie and set up a group of nests, refusing to retreat for three weeks.
The area they had camped in was crucial for giving China's People's Liberation Army access to remote regions.
It took extensive negotiations between military commanders and diplomats of both countries to end that incursion.
Today, Air Force Chief NAK Browne said that the Nyoma airfield, strategically located in South Easten Ladakh where it overlooks a highway that's used by the Chinese army, will be expanded into a full-fledged airbase, allowing fighter planes and heavy transport aircraft to land here.
Nyoma is located at a height of 13,000 feet; India stopped using it after the war with China in 1962, but reactivated it in 2010.
Air Marshal Browne said he expects Nyoma to be completely operational by 2016-17. Nyoma will be used to station fighter jets and provide logistical help to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Ladakh Scouts which patrol the Line of Actual Control or de-facto border with China.
India is also upgrading all the seven Advance Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh. All of them will be equipped for night landing, the Air Chief said.
These are not full-fledged air bases but landing strips which can be used to drop off troops and supplies. Some can be used for refueling fighter jets. The ALGs were deactivated after the 1962 India-China War. Developing them at a cost of nearly Rs 700 crore is part of the exercise to rapidly build infrastructure along the India-China border.