Saturday, May 25, 2024

China continues LAC infrastructure build-up 4 years into face-off, shows latest sat imagery | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Four years into the face-to-face military confrontation in eastern Ladakh, which also triggered tensions all along the Line of Actual Control, there has been no let-up in the way China continues to build border infrastructure and dual-use ‘Xiaokang’ villages, strengthen military positions and deploy additional aircraft at its air-bases facing India.
Latest satellite imagery, intelligence reports and other inputs show this ongoing Chinese activity in all the three sectors of the 3,488-km LAC, stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, defence and security establishment sources told TOI.
“People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is relentlessly consolidating its military positions and support infrastructure in various depth and staging areas along the LAC, including near the buffer zones created after troop disengagements in eastern Ladakh,” a source said.
China, for instance, recently completed construction of a road from the north of Samzungling to the Galwan Valley, providing the PLA with a 15-km shorter alternate axis to rapidly build-up troops in the area.
A no-patrol buffer zone was created around Patrolling Point-14 in Galwan Valley three weeks after the violent clash in which 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops were killed there on June 15, 2020.
Similarly, sources said, PLA has been progressively strengthening military and transport infrastructure to the rear of the other buffer zones on both banks of Pangong Tso, including the Kailash range, and Gogra-Hot Springs, all of which have largely come up in areas that India considers its own territory.
PLA has also been focussing on last-mile connectivity through roads, bridges, tunnels and helipads to its forward positions, while also constructing new bunkers, camps, underground shelters, artillery positions, radar sites and ammunition dumps in other stretches of the LAC. “This increased PLA activity is especially being seen in the eastern sector, across Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and Naku La in north Sikkim,” another source said.
India, of course, continues to match the PLA with “mirror military deployments”, while it has also majorly cranked up infrastructure and capability development along the frontier, as earlier reported by TOI.
China has also offset some of its air combat disadvantage due to high-altitude terrain constraints by deploying additional fighters, bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and drones after upgrading its airfields like Hotan, Kashgar, Gargunsa, Shigatse, Bangda, Nyingchi and Hoping, among others, with new and extended runways, hardened shelters, fuel and ammunition storage facilities.
Latest inputs, for instance, show two new JH-7A fighter-bombers and three Y-20 heavy-lift aircraft, among others, deployed at Hotan in Xinjiang to add to the almost 50 J-11 and J-7 fighters, five Y-8 and Y-7 transport aircraft and KJ-500 AEW&C (airborne early-warning and control) aircraft already present there.
Sources say new Chinese dual-use ‘Xiaokang’ border villages are also regularly being built and older ones being “populated” along the disputed stretches of the LAC, especially in the eastern sector, to reinforce PLA positions as well as lay claim to territory.
China has been building as many as 628 such border defence villages to fortify the borders of the Tibetan Autonomous Region with India and Bhutan over the last few years, as earlier reported by TOI.
“All this clearly indicates PLA will continue to permanently station troops in forward locations along the LAC, even if eventually there is some sort of disengagement at the two major persisting face-off sites at Depsang and Demchok in eastern Ladakh,” a source said.
It was on May 5-6 in 2020 that dozens of Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in the first major clash that erupted on the north bank of Pangong Tso after the PLA’s well-planned multiple incursions into eastern Ladakh caught India off-guard initially.
Four years later, there are currently 50,000 to 60,000 PLA troops with heavy weaponry forward deployed in the western (Ladakh) and central sectors (Uttarakhand, Himachal) as well as 90,000 soldiers in the eastern one (Sikkim, Arunachal).

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