The eastern Ladakh border stand-off between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas

Keeping in mind the slow progress in resolving the ongoing military stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh, the Indian military is working on a long-term plan for infrastructure development that includes developing a route running “very close” to the entire Line of Actual Control (LAC), News18 has learnt.

Developing this route, highly-placed sources in the government told News18, will involve widening, improving and connecting existing roads along the LAC by filling in the gaps at places with new construction. The project, they said, would be long-drawn with this route, cutting across mountains and running north-west to southeast parallel to the LAC and providing connectivity between eastern Ladakh and the Northeast.

Securing Future

Sources said the ambitious proposal, which is at a conceptual stage, is part of the long-term plans to boost border infrastructure that can be used by civilians and faster mobilisation of troops when required.

“The plan would encompass identifying additional deployment areas for positioning of acclimatised troops for faster induction, construction of gun areas for artillery equipment and dual-use tunnels required to keep roads open in the peak of winters,” a source in the government said. “Creation of concrete underground shelters and construction of water supply and storage facilities are also part of the plans.”

Much of these plans were discussed in a series of meetings held in the Army’s Central Command headquarters in Lucknow last month on the military’s operational preparedness along the western and northern borders. Different operational scenarios were analysed in a war game during the event.

The discussions were presided over by Army Chief General MM Naravane and attended by senior officers of the three defence services. As per the Army, Gen Naravane also reviewed the deployment of the force’s formations on the western and northern borders as they are transitioning into a summer posture.

As per the sources, construction of additional helipads for inter-valley movement and establishing an adequate communication network architecture, including laying of fibre optic cables closer to the LAC and setting up additional civil mobile towers, are also under discussion as part of the infrastructure development plans.

Increased utilisation of local resources to include repair and recovery of vehicles, handing over certain construction works to the Military Engineer Services (MES)—which would engage local labour, thus boosting employment in the border areas—is also being discussed.

With summer approaching, which brings with it a limited work window of a few months, the focus would be on starting work on some of the major planned constructions at the earliest, the sources said.

Army To Continue Holding LAC, Strike Corps In Play

With a status quo at the Line of Actual Control presently after 15 rounds of military talks, the Army as part of its summer strategy will continue holding existing posts along the LAC and ensure that reserves are deployed in the vicinity in case of any emergency.

A full disengagement remains pending at the friction point of Hot Springs. Chinese troops continue blocking Indian patrols at Depsang Plains and Demchok—issues predating April 2020.

As per sources, elements of one of the Army’s Strike Corps would continue to be located in eastern Ladakh on a rotational basis. The Indian Army has four strike corps — including the I Corps based in Mathura, the II Corps located in Ambala, the XXI Corps based in Bhopal and the XVII Mountain Strike Corps located in Panagarh, all meant for offensive cross-border actions against the enemy. Two of them now face China.

Over three divisions-strength of troops were pushed into eastern Ladakh in the last two years for any counteroffensive that may have been required in case of any emergency.

A second source said the Chinese usually come prepared for slow negotiations which can go on for months or years.

“Any de-escalation at the LAC will take time, but as of now, confidence-building measures will continue to ensure no escalation,” the source said.