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India reopens air force base near China border

Source: PTI
May 31, 2008 14:17 IST
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The Indian Air Force on Saturday reopened an old air base in the mountainous Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir that was closed 43 years ago.

An AN-32 transporter plane carrying Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (Western Air Command) P K Barbora landed at the Dawaltbaigh Oldi air strip around 8.50 am after flying from Chandigarh.

The air base was set up in 1962 during the Indo-China war and closed in 1965.

Barbora had last week said that the operationalisation of the base would demonstrate to the world that India is capable of manning an airfield at such a high altitude.

The air base overlooking the strategic Karakoram pass is just 8 km south of the Chinese border. IAF plans to carry out regular AN-32 transport aircraft flights from here in the future.

"It is a part of our efforts to improve air maintenance of far-flung posts in the region bordering China and Pakistan," IAF sources said.

Besides, IAF's MI-17, MI-26 helicopters, Chetak and Druv helicopters can land at the helipad to ferry much-needed supplies to troops deployed in the region.

The air base was operational in 1962 when China launched an attack on India. An IAF AN-12 aircraft flying from Chandigarh on October 20, 1962, came under fire as Chinese troops launched an aggression in chip-chap valley in Aksaichin belt in Ladakh.

The Dawaltbaigh Oldi air strip is strategically located on ancient trade route connecting Ladakh in India to Yarkand in Xinjiang, China.

The IAF now plans to revive airfields in Chushul and Fukche along the Indo-China border, sources said.

Besides, India plans to construct a 608-km road network along the Line of Actual Control bordering China and Pakistan.

Before 1962, the place used to be a stopping point for traders traveling along the Silk Route. After the 1962 war, both India and China sealed their borders.

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