China’s new road cuts travel time to Karakoram Pass, raises red flags in Delhi
Satellite imagery and communication intercepts along the 3,488 kilometre Line of Actual Control (LAC) shows that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is undertaking a significant road and building infrastructure upgrade across Karakoram Pass and Aksai Chin to ramp up military capacities and capability against India.
It is quite evident from the surveillance data available to conclude that despite Beijing’s verbal commitments of mutual military disengagement and de-escalation from friction point on Ladakh LAC, the PLA has no intentions of troop or equipment withdrawal from the area.
While the government is tight-lipped about the developments, the number of military vehicles and troop hutments have increased along the 597-km Ladakh LAC with a number of fresh dug-outs indicating that the PLA is prepared for a long haul with Indian Army.
Indian officials said what was a matter of serious concern was that China has built an alternative 8-10 metre wide road to Karakoram Pass that would shorten the distance to the strategic gateway into Daulet Beg Oldi sector by two hours.
“Nearly all the kutcha (unmetalled) roads have been surfaced in the Aksai Chin area with the axis being widened for bigger vehicles carrying heavy equipment,” said a senior military commander.
The Chinese infra building activity has also increased in depth areas with a new logistics depot that will have an underground petroleum and oil storage facility coming up at Golmud. The new depot is nearly 1,000 km from the LAC but is linked to Lhasa via Tibet Railway. It will enhance the capacity and capability of the PLA to deploy in Tibetan border with India for a long time and feed the troops in case of a worst-case scenario.
While there is continuous activity on Sikkim border, the new concern is the building of two new underground facilities at the Pang Ta air base across Arunachal Pradesh. The PLA uses underground tunnels inside mountains for housing aircraft rather than blast pens on the air bases. A similar tunnel park has been noticed at Lhasa Gonggar air base with an increase in the number of military aircraft.
The 1962 Xinjiang military command town of Kangxiwar across Karakoram Pass and on the banks of Karakash River is being revived with a direct highway connectivity to Hotan, a critical air base of PLA Air Force for dominating the restive Uighurs and a launch pad of fighter operations in case of a worst case scenario in East Ladakh. Hotan is located 320 kilometres from the Ladakh LAC.