The Cause of Concern

According to a report filed by TOI, China has been unnerved by India’s slow but steady improvement in border infrastructure for faster mobility of its troops and weapon systems in forward areas over the last few years.

Challenging The Dragon

India may still have a long way to go in matching China’s border infrastructure, leave alone the stark asymmetry in terms of military forces and capabilities, but is now increasingly challenging the dragon’s dominance in road and air connectivity in disputed high-altitude stretches along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. This has certainly irked China.

Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie Road

One of the triggers for the ongoing troop confrontations in eastern Ladakh, for instance, is India’s completion of the 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) road last year and its fresh move to build some additional feeder link roads and bridges.

Fresh Challenges

The overall situation along the LAC is still far from adequate. Only 35 of the 73 “strategic’’ all-weather roads, with more east-west lateral links as well as better access routes to strategic peaks and valleys, identified for construction almost two decades ago, have been fully completed till now.

Chinese Might

China has assiduously built an extensive military infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region, which includes 14 airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads. China is now also constructing underground hangers and parking bays for its fighters by digging tunnels into mountains at some of the airbases, as was reported by TOI earlier.

Point of Focus

As reported by ET, China continues to maintain a hold over Ladakh’s Galwan river area - a flash point for the 1962 war - as multiple rounds of ground-level talks have failed and the Indian army being instructed to follow standing orders that prevent the use of force for evicting intruders along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

China Ups The Ante

The Chinese stranglehold over the valley has been strengthened over the past few weeks with over 5,000 PLA troops in position along the LAC, several of them patently inside Indian territory. While the army is refusing to comment on the situation, sources indicate that the Chinese deployment is even larger on its side of the border to support the intruding troops.

Multiple Narratives

According to one version, China now has three times the troop levels in the area as compared to India, though sources say the ratio is still favourable to the defensive force. Heavy vehicles and even suspected mobile artillery are visible near the border, with sources saying that the strong deployment is part of a 'well planned move' and not a standard face off that has escalated.

Strategic Standoff

As first reported by ET, the Chinese side has brought in forces that were deployed at a nearby exercise to contest the strategic Galwan valley. While according to the Chinese side, the immediate provocation was the building of a bridge and road, the massive build up suggests that the intention is to permanently occupy the valley.

India Stands Its Ground

The value of the area is high for India as the Galwan river comes close to the strategic Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road that was completed late last year. Chinese presence in the Galwan valley poses a threat to the road that is vital for servicing troops deployed in Sub Sector North and close to the Karakoram pass. While the Indian side has built up force strength, including deployment of troops from other areas and stepping up surveillance activities, instructions on the ground have not changed—no use of force or arms is allowed to push back the Chinese intrusion.