A Shenyang J-11 (unauthorised copy of Russian Su-27) at Hotan airbase

During the 2017 Doklam standoff, Chinese and Indian troops were placed on high alert over a dispute near the Bhutanese border

After the 73-day face-off in Doklam between India and China in 2017, China started strengthening its airbase adjoining the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) deploying fighter jets at Nagri Gunsa Airport (Ngari Gunsa), just 200 km from Pangong Tso in Ladakh.

During the 2017 Doklam standoff, Chinese and Indian troops were placed on high alert over a dispute near the Bhutanese border. Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a standoff in Doklam from June 16, 2017, after India stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army. The face-off ended on August 28, 2017.

Defence experts associated with China believe that there are 14 airfields in total in three sectors--northern, central and eastern. Recently, a report by the US Air Force's China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) has revealed that China has deployed 36 aircrafts at the Hotan airbase of Xinjiang in addition to Nagri Gunsa Airport, including 24 J-11, six J-8 fighter, two Y-8G transport aircraft, two KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft, two MI-17 helicopters and CH-4 drones.

According to experts, China's Hotan, Yarkant and Kashgar air bases are close to Ladakh and if there is a war, China can use them against India. This year, a report by Howard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs said, "The most important PLAAF forward air bases and airspace near the Indian border areas, which will be important in combat operations, are located at Hotan, Lhasa / Gongagar, Nagri-Gunassa and Jigze., where China's fighter jets are stationed."

"Under the radius of these air bases and airspace are Kashmir, Northern India and North-East India. There is no blast pen the airbases of Ngari-Gunsa and Xigaze, so the Indian Air Force could destroy fighter jets deployed at these airbases in China during retaliation. At the Lhasa airbase, China has recently designed a rigid blast pen to protect up to 36 aircraft.

China has a total of around 2,100 fighter jets, including J-10, J-11 and SU-27.

On the other hand, India’s nuclear strategy, which has traditionally focused on Pakistan, has now increased emphasis on China, and Beijing is now in the range of Indian missiles, according to a report. The report said that this posture has likely been reinforced after the 2017 Doklam standoff. 

An analysis of India’s nuclear forces published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on July 20 by Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda makes this observation. The authors said, "While India’s primary deterrence relationship is with Pakistan, its nuclear modernization indicates that it is putting increased emphasis on its future strategic relationship with China. All the new Agni missiles have ranges that indicate their primary target is China. This posture is likely to be reinforced after the 2017 Doklam standoff, during which Chinese and Indian troops were placed on high alert over a dispute near the Bhutanese border. Tension remained high in 2019, with troop injuries on both sides of the border."

"The expansion of India’s nuclear posture to take a conventionally and nuclear superior China into account will result in significantly new capabilities being deployed over the next decade, which could potentially also influence how India views the role of its nuclear weapons against Pakistan," they said.

"According to one scholar, “we may be witnessing what I call a ‘decoupling’ of Indian nuclear strategy between China and Pakistan. The force requirements India needs in order to credibly threaten assured retaliation against China may allow it to pursue more aggressive strategies – such as escalation dominance or a ‘splendid first strike’ – against Pakistan”," the report said.