India-China talk disengagement, PLA beefs up on LAC with more missiles, rockets and howitzers
Although India and China have completed nine rounds of military talks on disengagement in the Eastern Ladakh theatre, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is showing no signs of de-escalation along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC), reinforcing artillery guns, self-propelled howitzers and surface-to-missile units in Tibet.
According to Indian national security planners, the PLA is engaged in fresh deployment and relocation of both troops and heavy military equipment in all the three sectors with fresh constructions of revetments (sloped protection against ordnance) in the finger areas of Pangong Tso.
There is evidence with South Block to indicate fresh deployment of 35 heavy military vehicles and four 155 mm PLZ 83 self-propelled howitzers in sheds around the Shiquanhe PLA camp, just 82 kilometres from the LAC across Chumar in Eastern Ladakh.
Additional deployment of vehicles, heavy equipment and new construction work was observed last month near the Rudok surveillance facility, 90 km from the LAC, with four new large sheds and partition quarters for troops. Both Rudok and Shiquanhe are in the occupied Aksai Chin area.
According to Indian army commanders, there has been a marginal increase, new revetments and relocation of deployments between finger four and finger seven on the north bank of Pangong Tso. It was the Chinese PLA’s aggression on finger the 4 mountainous spur on the northern banks of Pangong Tso on May 5, 2020 that led to escalation of military tensions along the LAC.
While induction of 20 military vehicles and equipment has been nobserved around the Piue radar site, 16 km from the LAC, the PLA is also strengthening positions around Spanggur Tso with induction of more firepower and troops in late December 2020.
“The PLA is strengthening all along the 1,597-km LAC in Ladakh with a view for long-term deployments. The fortifications around Spanggur Tso are designed to support Moldo Garrison in Chushul area with Indian Army dominating heights in Kailash Ranges,” said an official in the know of the military deployments.
The PLA has also moved a surface-to-air missile (SAM) unit near the PLA camp in Lhasa, 228 km from the Indian border, to protect the one-time seat of 14th Dalai Lama with some 30 vehicles moving the military equipment under camouflage in the second half of January 2021.
Fearing an Indian Air Force (IAF) attack in Tibet’s hinterland, the PLA has deployed SAM units and anti-aircraft guns around all major towns along the LAC.
While a new military shelter comprising 4-5 barracks has been observed across the Lipulekh pass in the middle sector, the presence of PHL-03 multi-barrel rocket launchers (MBRLs) at Rubinkha PLA camp just 23 km from the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction is a matter of serious concern because PLA is continuing its push in the strategic area. The PHL-03 MBRLs is a Chinese copy of the Russian Smerch rocket system with the Indian Army.