China continues its belligerence; Carries on expanding its infrastructure along LAC

The bridge under construction is in Chinese territory and for operational planning the Indian Army will have to take this into consideration.

The distance between the two nearest points is around 200 kms – PLA garrison at Kurnak fort on the North Bank and Moldo on the South Bank. (File/AP)
The distance between the two nearest points is around 200 kms – PLA garrison at Kurnak fort on the North Bank and Moldo on the South Bank. (File/AP)

The year 2022 is going to be more challenging for the Indian Army, as China refuses to move back and continues its activities in Eastern Ladakh. The armies of both countries have been locked in a standoff since April/May2020.

Now, according to sources, “China is building a bridge in Eastern Ladakh and this bridge is expected to connect the North and South Banks of Pangong Tso.  Once this bridge is in place, it would help the movement of the Chinese PLA (People’s Liberation Army) troops as well as their heavy equipment between the two sectors faster.”

Where is the construction going on?

“The new bridge between both banks situated to the closest points will help in bringing down the movement time between the two sectors. It will now be 3-4 hours as compared to 12 hours now. This new bridge is located almost 25 kms ahead of the Line of Actual Control (LAC),” explained one of the sources quoted above.

And, the distance between the two nearest points is around 200 kms – PLA garrison at Kurnak fort on the North Bank and Moldo on the South Bank. The construction has been going on for some time and once ready will cut down the distance by around 140-150 kms.

How was the PLA moving earlier?

One of the biggest advantages of the new bridge is that it will bring down the inter-sector movement easier and faster. Why? “The new bridge will provide a direct and immediate axis. And, earlier the troops of PLA were taking a roundabout crossing the Rudok County and now new piers are in the process of being constructed,” the source added.

Is the bridge on the Chinese side?

Yes, said sources. The bridge under construction is in Chinese territory and for operational planning the Indian Army will have to take this into consideration.

More about Pangong Tso

One third of the 135 km long boomerang shaped lake located at an altitude of over 14,000 feet is held by India. It is a glacial melt, and has mountain spurs of the Chang Chenmo range jetting down and these are known or referred to as fingers.

According to sources, the North bank, the initial point where the clashes had erupted in May 2020, has higher differences in perception of LAC compared to the South bank. The tensions on the South Bank had taken place in August in the same year.

For the Indian Army, they got a tactical advantage over the Chinese troops in August on the South Bank of the lake when it occupied several peaks which had been lying vacant since 1962. This meant that the Indian Army gained a greater view of the Moldo area. Also, the Indian side set up posts which were facing PLA positions on the ridgelines of Finger 4 on the North bank.

As part of the first phase of disengagement both India and China had agreed to complete disengagement on the North and South Banks of Pangong Lake in February 2021.

While the Indian Army holds a permanent position near Finger 3 — the Dhan Singh Thapa post, on East of Finger 8 the PLA has a base. And, South Bank of Pangong leads to the Chushul sector and Kailash range.

China has upped its infrastructure since the August action by the Indian Army and alternate roads are coming up away from the Indian line of sight. According to reports, construction work behind the main confrontation points in Aksai Chin, had been intensified by the Chinese side.

View of a former Indian Army General

Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Kargil war veteran and defence analyst Maj Gen Ashok Kumar, (Retd), says, “An article published in 2013 laid down so-called Chinese territorial priorities in ascending order, based on broad timelines. At the time of its publication, it wasn’t taken very seriously since China was still ‘biding its time and hiding its strength’. However, events have kept pace with the predictions and if the Americans are to be believed may even overtake them, if collective and corrective measures are not undertaken.”

As per the article, Chinese intentions were:

(a)       Taiwanese unification (2020-25)
(b)       South China Sea Islands (2025-30)
(c)       South Tibet (2035-40) or Arunachal Pradesh in India
(d)       East China Sea Islands (2040-45)
(e)       ‘Outer’ Mongolia (2045-50)
(f)        Recover territory seized by Russia (2055-60)

“Generally, the Dragon is said to have a clear vision of its intended actions into the medium term and a reasonably clear vision of the long term. It has already started working on all its intended aims- some clear while some still in haze. What concerns us the most is actions on our borders which took on a more threatening shape from 01 Jan 22 with the implementation of the Land Border Law. Through this, China has converted the long festering territorial dispute into a sovereignty dispute, almost foreclosing peaceful means of resolution,” Gen Ashok Kumar opines.

“Combined the above with attempts to rename 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh, and a sharper story comes into focus. What needs to be taken note of includes two very important aspects: one is the language chosen for the public naming i.e. Tibet with which China has attempted two things which is to integrate the native Tibetan population reinforce their beliefs and linkage with Arunachal Pradesh as Southern Tibet. Secondly, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs deliberately announced the renamingcouple of days after the passing of the land boundary law, to affirm the seriousness of its claims. Already in 2017, six places had been renamed. Normally, the renaming of places falls in the domain of State governments or Home Ministry of Central Govt but by choosing Civil Aviation Ministry, China has attempted to internationalise the issue in Arunachal Pradesh as these names may be referred by International flights or Chinese flights going to other countries as reference points along navigational routes, even to the extent of renaming airstrips, heliports or airfields comes in these locations. They have chosen residential areas, rivers and mountain passes in a deliberate manner in order to depict the entire geography as their own,” he adds.

In conclusion he says, “Whether we believe or not, this action should not be seen from the prism of routine activities and a deep insight is needed to respond. Land boundary law, renaming of places in Arunachal Pradesh in Tibetan Language by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs and infrastructure development in contested lands, even the construction of the allegedly controversial bridge connecting the banks of Pangong Tso has the potential to trigger an avoidable conflict between the two countries.”

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