Faced with the Chinese army’s infrastructure and galloping capability-building on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) across Ladakh, security considerations have compelled New Delhi not to activate its advanced landing grounds (ALGs) at Fukche and Chushul in the eastern part of the region.
Instead, the Indian Army will be inducting an armoured brigade, including 18 T-72 tanks in the area to deter any muscle flexing by Beijing.
And in the wake of China enhancing its air capability in the region, India will rely only on the newly-built Nyoma airstrip on the banks of the Indus in eastern Ladakh to tackle any hostile moves by China. Top government sources pointed out that New Delhi could no longer depend on the ALGs at Daulat Beg Oldi, Fukche and Chushul in eastern Ladakh as they are under direct observation by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and could be easy targets if hostilities break out.
The airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldi can be used only to drop supplies from aircraft and helicopters due to its high altitude (16,700 feet), low oxygen and high winds. To connect this airstrip, the government has cleared an ambitious plan to tunnel through the glaciated Saser La, on the right side of the 25,000-foot-high Saser Kangri peak in eastern Ladakh.
While the defence ministry offers a baffling argument of democracy versus dictatorship to justify the slow progress of road infrastructure-building in Ladakh, the Chinese army operates no less than five ALGs across the LAC.
The Chinese army has two regiments of 16,000 troopers at Qizil Jilga (40 km from the LAC) and Shiquanhe (50 km), two battalions of 2,000 men at Rudok (22 km) and Spanggur (8 km) and a company of 120 soldiers at Old Demchok, just 1 km from the LAC. Besides, Beijing has five civilian
India has airbases in Leh, Thoise and now, Nyoma. A dusty track links Daulat Beg Oldi with Demchok in eastern Ladakh to carry supplies to the posts on vigil against the PLA.