China is continuing to upgrade roads opposite eastern Ladakh as well as strengthening alternative approaches around its Moldo garrison opposite the south bank of Pangong Tso, according to official sources. In addition, as winter sets in the high-altitude areas, a series of tents and shelters are under construction along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), they added.
The width of the Hot Springs-Mobda La road, opposite eastern Ladakh, has been upgraded from 5m to about 13m since the stand-off began in May 2020, one source said citing intelligence inputs.
A new road of over 1 km from Hot Springs-Mobda La is also being constructed, which is about 14 km east of Patrolling Point (PP)-17 in Gogra-Hot Springs, the source said, adding the road is likely to be an alternative approach route.
Early September, India and China had announced disengagement from PP-15 in Gogra-Hot Springs marking a step forward to end the stand-off since May 2020.
The two sides have since agreed to hold the 17th round of Corps Commander talks very soon to discuss remaining areas.
Road construction and upgrading has also been reported towards the north-east of Spanggur Tso, the source added. Officials said this is part of efforts by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China to reduce their vulnerability near the Spanggur Tso as noticed at the height of tensions on the south bank of Pangong Tso at the end of August 2020 when the Indian Army deployed tanks and troops on mountain peaks in the Kailash range giving it a direct view of the Spanggur gap.
In addition, construction activity in the general area of Rudok is also continuing, including near the Domar helibase, another source said. New tents and material for containerised accommodation has also been observed in Domar, the source stated. At Rudok, which is a major PLA camp, opposite eastern Ladakh and about 60 km from the LAC, there has been an addition of 80-90 tents and sheds, to the 150 existing couple of months back.
Such activity has been ongoing across the LAC, the source said stating that a large number of tents under camouflage have been observed just few kilometres ahead of Sirjap on the north bank of Pangong Tso as also a large number of temporary tents observed around PLA camp, Lhasa, which is just over 200 km from the border.
A large number of tents, sheds and habitat have been constructed in the last two months and more are underway. Similar expansion of habitat has been observed opposite the strategic Sub-Sector North (SSN), the second source added.
India too has been playing catch-up to upgrade infrastructure and a series of projects have been completed in the last two years and the pending ones are being prioritised. On Friday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a 120-metre-long Class 70 bridge on Shyok river on D-S-DBO Road at an altitude 14,000 feet, which allows the Army to move its heavy tanks and artillery.
In addition, the Advanced Landing Ground at Nyoma in Eastern Ladakh and very close to the LAC is planned to be expanded to operate fighters.
While India maintains that friction points at Demchok and Depsang still remain, China has refused to accept them as legacy issues predating the 2020 stand-off. Beijing had welcomed the disengagement at PP-15 as “a positive development”, but reiterated that it would not accept India’s demand for restoration of status quo prior to the stand-off saying that “the status quo of April 2020… was created by India’s illegal crossing of the LAC”.
Demchok is one of the two mutually agreed disputed areas in eastern Ladakh, while Depsang is one of the eight friction points in the area. In Demchok, there are varying claims in the ChardingLa area.
China has undertaken massive construction in the Depsang area, threatening Indian positions at Burtse and Raki Nala well inside Indian territory and further Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) by bringing Chinese troops closer to the 255-km-long crucial Darbuk-Skyok-DBO road. Depsang is also close to the Karakoram pass overlooking the strategic Saltoro ridge and Siachen glacier.