New Delhi: Amid military standoff with India, China is building a bridge across Ladakh’s Pangong Lake. Security experts said that the construction of the bridge by China is a matter of “great concern” for India.
Bilal Kuchay, writing in Al Jazeera, said that the 400-metre-long and 8-metre-wide bridge being constructed near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between the two nuclear powers, was spotted through high-resolution satellite images, Indian media reported last week.
Pravin Sawhney, a defence expert and editor of Force magazine, said that the building of the bridge by China is a “part of their grey-zone operation which is done below the war threshold level”.
“While presenting the threat of war, they will continue with their grey-zone operations which is what they are doing by building up the bridge. The overall military threat will keep increasing, it will not decrease,” Sawhney told Al Jazeera.
India’s foreign ministry said the bridge is being constructed in areas that have been “under the illegal occupation by China for around 60 years now”, adding that the Indian government was “monitoring” the construction activity “closely”.
India and China are locked in a military standoff along the LAC in the Ladakh region since April 2020, when the two sides accused each other of trespassing.
The tensions also led to a spike in the construction of military infrastructure on both sides of the disputed border, said Kuchay.
According to Indian media reports, more than 100 projects were completed by India’s Border Roads Organisation in 2021, most of which are closer to the border with China, reported Al Jazeera.
New Delhi-based security expert Ajai Shukla told Al Jazeera said the bridge is a part of Chinese infrastructure along the LAC “so that they can move well, move quickly and deploy their forces quickly”.
“That is the standard Chinese way of border management,” he said.
According to Shukla, the Chinese are “able to deploy quickly” while India “takes too much time to do it”.
However, a former Indian army officer who had served for years in Ladakh, told Al Jazeera the area where the bridge is being constructed has been under Chinese control even before the 1962 war with India.
India and China fought a war over disputed border areas in 1962. Since then, the two nations have not been able to agree on their 3,488-km-long (2,167-mile) border.
“They (Chinese) secured this area in 1959. The LAC is further 25 km (15 miles) away from the bridge. It is very much in the vicinity of the old international border,” the retired official, who did not want to reveal his identity, told Al Jazeera.
“In modern militaries, such bridges or anything that is fixed can be destroyed by surface-to-surface missiles or air-to-ground missiles. There are countermeasures and I don’t think it’s going to make a huge difference but certainly, better connectivity helps everybody.”
India and China have been engaged in a standoff since April-May 2020 over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in multiple areas including the Finger area, Galwan Valley, Hot springs, and Kongrung Nala. The situation worsened after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in June 2020.
New Delhi and Beijing have been engaged in holding talks on the Line of Actual Control in the Eastern Ladakh area to resolve the standoff. So far, 14 rounds of talks have been held.
The talks led to some disengagement of troops from several friction points along the LAC, but not all of them. The talks have also failed to reach any agreement over the frontier.