The Chinese fighter jets including the J-11 continue to fly close to the Line of Actual Control. There have been instances of violation of the 10 Km Confidence Building Measure (CBM) line in the region in recent times. The fighter jets are still trying to irritate Indian soldiers stationed in Eastern Ladakh even after discussions at the Corps Commander level, as they have repeatedly flown close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC). In the past three to four weeks, Chinese aircraft have been regularly flying near to the Line of Actual Control, which is perceived as an effort to test the Indian defense system in the region.
According to reports, the Indian Air Force has taken decisive action in response to these provocations by deploying its most lethal fighters, such as the MiG-29 and Mirage 2000, to modern facilities from which they can quickly counteract Chinese actions. The Indian Air Force has been mobilizing its own fighter jets to counter the threat posed by Chinese aircraft, but it appears that the People’s Liberation Army is uneasy about the IAF’s upgrade of its Ladakh sector infrastructure, which will allow it to monitor Chinese activities deep inside of areas under their control, according to the sources. The Indian Air Force is handling the situation in a very responsible manner, taking no chances in order to neutralize the danger and prevent any further escalation.
After the Chinese attempted to unilaterally change the status quo on the LAC in April–May 2020 period, India has likewise been moving very quickly to improve its military facilities in Ladakh. Around June 24–25, a Chinese fighter jet went dangerously close to a flashpoint in eastern Ladakh, which marked the beginning of Chinese fighter jet provocations. They claimed that following it, there were several CBM breaches between the two sides along the LAC close to the Chumar area, and they have continued ever since.
Yet another round of military commanders’ meetings—the 16th in the series—between India and China last week has failed to defuse tensions between the two sides along their Himalayan borders. During the 12-hour-long interaction on July 17, the commanders only agreed to “maintain dialogue through military and diplomatic channels and work out a mutually acceptable resolution to the remaining issues at the earliest”.
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Inhabited Village at Doklam:
In a worrying sign for India, new satellite images show that a village constructed by China in Bhutanese territory near Doklam is now fully occupied with “cars parked at the doorstep of virtually every home”, as part of its salami-slicing tactics. The first reports of the construction of the Chinese village “Pangda”, which is around 2 km within Bhutan, first appeared in 2020. The new satellite images show that China is moving its men into the village to solidify its claim on the disputed territory.
The satellite images accessed by the NDTV show the village constructed is around 9 km east of Doklam, where the India-China standoff took place in 2017. The news report said China has also constructed a motorway from the village along the Amo Chu River that will give China a direct line of sight to the Siliguri corridor, which connects India’s Northeast to the rest of the country at Chicken’s Neck. The satellite images also show China is nearing the completion of a second village and starting the construction of another village in the Amo Chu river valley.
“Construction and development by China within the occupied territories of Bhutan adjacent to Doklam could become a future threat to India’s interests in the region, this activity also underlines China’s ability to extend its borders uncontested,” tweeted Damien Symon, a geospatial intelligence researcher at Intel Lab.
China has also been constructing villages around the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh to beef up its defenses and also to put pressure on India in the disputed area. These villages will help China to strengthen the weakening border force by balancing the outflow of residents and promises China better to border surveillance and patrols through a network of herders.
Last year the Pentagon, in a report to the US Congress, said that in 2020 China had build a large 100-home civilian village inside the disputed territory between China’s Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern sector of the LAC.
China’s other activities at the border:
China is building a new highway near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that will run through the disputed territory of Aksai Chin and the existing flashpoints in Eastern Ladakh. The move by China has caught the attention of the Indian defense and security establishment who are keenly following the development. The planned highway will connect Xinjiang province with Tibet. While the road link will enhance China’s strategic connectivity in the region, it will cause concerns for India, the South China Morning Post reported.
Being referred to as the G695 national expressway, the highway is part of China’s newly unveiled national program. Essentially, the programme aims to build 345 new infrastructure projects, totaling 4,61,000km of highway and motorway, by 2035. The highway will give China another access point to quickly mobilize and move troops to forward locations at the LAC when required. It will also ensure smoother logistics management for the troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) posted along the LAC
Sources in the Indian defence and security establishment said that they have seen the reports and are monitoring the developments. They said the highway is part of the larger infrastructure build-up that China is doing along and near the LAC. However, they pointed out that India has also ramped up its border infrastructure build up which includes new roads and tunnels besides others which eases the life in border villages and swift movement of military personnel.
G695 will be the second highway that China has built in the Aksai-Chin region, after G219 was completed by 1955. The decision to build G695 culminates in long-standing discussion and dialogue in China to enhance its connectivity across the strategically important locations of the LAC. According to the report, the proposed highway is supposed to “run through southern Tibet’s Cona county – which lies immediately north of the disputed India-Tibet border demarcated by LAC. It will also pass through Kamba county, where China holds an important military camp and Gyirong county near the Nepal border.
While concrete details remain unclear, the highway may also reach areas that have been the central flash points of the more than 24-month India-China border standoff — Hot Springs, Depsang Plains, and the Galway Valley. It was at the Galway Valley where soldiers from both India and China clashed in 2020, leading to deaths on both sides.
Military observers believe the standoff along the LAC in Ladakh will continue in the months ahead since Beijing will not take any decision before the crucial meeting of the CCP—the 20th National Congress. The meeting is likely to be held in November and is expected to see President Xi Jinping secure a third term in power. An unfavourable move in the border row with India could become an impediment to this.“Any expectation of a positive movement on disengagement [on the LAC] appears unlikely before the CCP meeting. The Chinese side is neither going to resolve nor escalate matters till the meeting,” Even the joint statement issued after the July 17 meeting stated that both sides will continue to hold talks and had no intention of escalating the problem
Major General S.B. Asthana (retd), a military leader with over 40 years of experience, says the chances of a resolution before the CCP meet were bleak. “Any decision by the PLA at this point does not suit Xi Jinping. If the PLA, for instance, takes an aggressive stance and India reacts strongly, then Xi Jinping may have problems getting re-elected [for a third term]. He will not take any risk. since the PLA had entrenched itself in eastern Ladakh, it was unlikely to retreat.
India wants the PLA to go back to its pre-April 2020 position as part of a comprehensive disengagement plan, but China remains hardened on its position. In the rounds of military commanders’ meetings last year, the Chinese side had accused India of making “unreasonable and unrealistic demands” and hoped that New Delhi “will not misjudge the situation” in the border areas. In response, India stated that “unilateral attempts by the Chinese side to alter the status quo” had created the border problem and that the Chinese side had not proposed any “forward-looking proposals” to resolve the problem.
An Indian military analyst said the stalemate in eastern Ladakh was unlikely to end soon as the onset of winter soon after the CCP meeting would render the weather conditions highly harsh for either side to launch any offensive. “If any kinetic action has to happen, we can expect it only in the next camping season—April-May,” the expert said, requesting anonymity.