‘China yet to disengage from LAC spots’

U.S.-based intelligence report documents 50 new encampments, bases and heliports in Ladakh

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.

The report, published on July 22, has documented 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 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. “Their significance is of course providing direct support to the forward encampments. 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.” The report noted that since May, China has been “accelerating efforts to secure its military presence and access to water rights along the Indian border.”

“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.

Following the four rounds of Corps Commander-level talks, the report noted that China has withdrawn some positions in Galwan Valley, Finger 4 area of Pangong Lake and Hot Springs. 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.” The report, however, suggested that “dramatic changes” to operating conditions in winter will test China’s forward deployments.

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