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China yet to disengage from most LAC spots, says new report

China is yet to either fully disengage or dilute its extensive military build-up at most points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), according to a new assessment of satellite images by Stratfor, the United States-based intelligence platform.

Also read: LAC standoff | India, China hold border dialogue, set for more military talks

The report, published on July 22, has documented the presence of 50 new Chinese encampments, support bases and heliports built by China across the LAC in the Ladakh sector.

These include 26 new Chinese encampments, 22 new support bases and two new heliports, underlining the unprecedented scale of the Chinese build-up on its side of the LAC.

The build-up, India believes, has gone against past commitments to keep the peace on the border. The 1993 agreement on peace and tranquility said both sides “will keep its military forces in the areas along the line of actual control to a minimum level compatible with the friendly and good neighbourly relations between the two countries.”

Also read: No business as usual with China: Indian envoy in Moscow

This was reaffirmed in the 1996 agreement on confidence-building measures, which said both sides “shall reduce or limit their respective military forces within mutually agreed geographical zones along the line of actual control in the India-China border areas to minimum levels compatible with the friendly and good neighbourly relations between the two countries.”

The constructions were “a mix of permanent and semi-permanent positions,” Sim Tack, the author of the report, who is a military analyst at Force Analysis and Stratfor, told The Hindu.

“Some of these have been hosted at existing permanent infrastructure, while others have been established new and consist mainly of large tent camps, vehicle depots, and artillery positions,” he said. “We distinguished between the encampments and support bases primarily based on size and type of activity that we observed. Their significance is of course providing direct support to the forward encampments, whether that is by sending supplies, reinforcements, or providing medical services or even artillery fire. They are further behind the flashpoints on the LAC, but an important element of China’s deployment as they project military strength to deter Indian counteraction.”

Also read: Days of disengagement: On India-China LAC standoff

The report noted that since May this year, China has been “accelerating efforts to secure its military presence and access to water rights along the Indian border near Ladakh.”

“But while it appears Beijing has largely achieved this objective for now, the harsh Himalayan winter could again escalate its standoff with India by challenging China’s ability to maintain a presence throughout the disputed territory,” it said, noting that “over 10,000 Chinese troops have flooded into the disputed area on the Indian border” this summer.

Watch | India-China stand-off on the LAC: A Timeline

Following the four rounds of Corps Commander-level talks, the report noted that China has withdrawn some positions in Galwan Valley, Finger 4 area of Pangong Lake and Hot Springs. At the same time, most of Beijing’s forward positions remained as they were, with four new support bases still present on what India sees as its territory in an area west of Finger 8.

These “limited drawdowns”, the report said, “have so far had little impact on China’s greater military advancement in the border region”, noting that “Chinese troops still maintain a significant presence just kilometres away from Indian positions, effectively upholding Beijing’s deterrent.”

Also read: LAC standoff | India reviews progress of disengagement talks

The Stratfor report suggested that “dramatic changes” to operating conditions in winter will test China’s forward deployments. “As winter begins to settle in November, the entire region will once again be covered in deep snow, which will make a continued build-up of both Chinese infrastructure and troops in Ladakh difficult,” it said.

“Beijing may be planning to carve out several positions in the region for its troops to wait out the winter months, though freezing temperatures, icy roads and reduced visibility due to snow will still severely limit China’s ability to resupply or reinforce these troops via ground or helicopter operations. This, in turn, may provide India with opportunities to exploit reduced Chinese mobility during the winter or heading into spring.”

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2020 5:13:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/china-yet-to-disengage-from-most-lac-spots-says-new-report/article32186068.ece

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