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China Building Bridge Over Pangong Tso


Various media reports suggest that China has started building a bridge over Pangong Tso lake in eastern Ladakh. Although the construction is taking place within the Chinese territory in Khurnak (the narrowest part of the lake), it is very close to the Line of Actual Control. It will connect the north and south of the Pangong Tso lake, thus giving China more access to both sides.

Tensions have been simmering between India and China for over two years over the 135-km long Pangong Tso lake which falls partly in the Ladakh region and partly in Tibet. 

News website The Print quoting sources in the defence and security establishment said, “the bridge is being built with pre-fabricated structures to counter any August 2020 like operation of the Indian Army in future, which led to the capture of dominating heights in the southern banks of Pangong Tso.”

  • The bridge will cut down 180 km loop from Khurnak to the south banks through Rudok
  • China doesn’t want India to use any of these heights in Pangong Tso to launch a special operation against it
  • Many argue India should have simply asked China to vacate from all the points they have intruded.

China building a bridge over Pangong Tso isn’t surprising given what it has been up to since the deadly Galwan valley clash in 2020 in which 20 Indian Army soldiers were martyred.

Be it China’s continuous attempts of entering into the Indian Territory or be it trying to capture crucial heights in Ladakh. The move seems to be a very calculated Chinese attempt to strengthen their defences. 

These new Chinese structures are part of an effort to consolidate Chinese defences to deny the Indian army any room for offensive operation in the Pangong Tso area as had happened after the July 2020 clashes in Galwan.

A bit of history

After the July clashes in Galwan valley, India mounted a Special Operation using the Tibet dominated Special Frontier Force. The Indians took possession of some heights which made Chinese positions secured through incursions in Pangong Tso untenable.
That is why China agreed to disengage from Pangong Tso so that India did the same and gave up the vantage points gained through the special operations.

Many in the Army argue that India should withdrawn from these heights only after China vacated from all the positions it had intruded into — in Hot Springs, Demchok, Depsang Plains and Ghogra. They argue that the Chinese agreed to move back from Pangong Tso because their position had become untenable as India took over certain heights.

However, India agreed to a pull out on Pangong Tso and surrendered the gain it made through the August operation. Now India has few cards to get the Chinese to pull back from intrusion points in Demchok,Depsang, Hot Springs and Ghogra.

What is China up to?

The Chinese are strengthening their defences in Pangong Tso to ensure that

  1. The Indian Army should not be able to use any of these heights in Pangong Tso to launch a special operation against the Chinese positions in that area.
  1. India is pushing for an early disengagements through negotiations .. Already thirteen rounds of talks have taken place, the 14th round of talks is supposed to take place in January, however, the Chinese are not too keen on an early date as India is.  

Suspecting that India could object to new defence structures, the Chinese want to start building these before the next round of talks take place. 

Development-A big deal

It is a big deal because the Chinese PLA will have better access to the south side of the Pangong Tso Lake and movement of their troops and material will become easier, said Retd Air Vice Marshal BK Murali. 

“As far as India is concerned it is a setback because the adversaries can access our areas in case there is tension between the countries. The complete narrative of Chinese building a bridge falls around this–they have better access now. This has happened just 8 kms east of finger-8 area which falls in the Chinese territory but still close to the perceived LAC.”

This comes after the Chinese suffered a setback when the Indian troops occupied all the heights in the Kailash range which was strategically disadvantageous to the PLA.  

China fears Indian offensive posture

Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Ata Hasnain said the constriction of the new bridge is a clear indicator on how differently China views India as a result of the overall Indian handling of Ladakh since April 2020.

“China’s construction of the new bridge by the PLA in the vicinity of Rudok at the shortest width of the Pangong Tso lake, is a step  to cut down on response time in the contingency that an offensive action into the Spanggur Bowl or at the Kailash Range is undertaken by the Indian side. All these years China never feared an Indian offensive posture which could require a quick counter or riposte. Now it does, the new bridge speeds up response in no small way. Induction of large quantum of Indian mechanised forces and the Kailash Range operation at the end of Aug 2020 is reflective of India’s new strategic confidence,” said Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Ata Hasnain. 

India may raise this issue at 14 Corps commander level talks to counteract Chinese objections to Indian military infrastructure works.

Courtesy – News9live

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