China keeps border issue on simmer, puts up new troop shelters and deploys S-400 at LAC

China keeps border issue on simmer, puts up new troop shelters and deploys S-400 at LAC

China keeps border issue on simmer, puts up new troop shelters and deploys S-400 at LAC

The tension at the Line of Actual Control between the People's Liberation Army of China and the Indian Army is simmering away and China seems to be stoking the flames even further.

Latest surveillance and intelligence reports show that China has built new modular container-based accommodations for its soldiers at at least eight forward locations along the LAC.

The shelters were installed in locations near Tashigong, Manza, Hot Springs and Churup among others.

In addition to the shelters, the PLA has also deployed two Russian-origin S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries, apart from several other anti-aircraft systems, to tackle any air strikes by India.

Here’s a look at what’s happening at the LAC:

China’s increased activity at LAC

In recent times, China has stepped up activity at the 3,488-km LAC, stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh — from accommodations, adding arsenal, carrying out night exercises and even developing several new airstrips and helipads.

In a bid to consolidate its military positions at the LAC, China has built modular container-based accommodations in a number of high-altitude forward areas.

According to people in the know, the shelters have been constructed in the areas of Wahab Zilga near the Karakoram Pass in the north to Piue, Hot Springs, Changa La, Tashigong, Manza and Churup. China has constructed many such shelters since border tensions escalated in 2020.

People familiar with the developments told PTI that the PLA has been feeling the heat of the Indian response to it "misadventure" in the region last year and that the Chinese military has been forced to go for long deployments and boost infrastructure in the region.

They said the Indian response to the Chinese actions last year, particularly after the Galwan Valley clashes, surprised the neighbouring country and that it deployed troops in areas where it never used to earlier.

"Our strategy is hurting them. They are reacting to our response. We have forced PLA to go for forward deployment and boost infrastructure," said one of the people.

Moreover, China has also deployed S-400 anti-aircraft systems at Hotan air base in Xinjiang and Nyingchi air base in Tibet. The potency of the anti-aircraft system is such that it can target a fighter 400 kilometres away.

An IANS report also stated that the PLA recently carried out a night battle exercise at over 16,000 feet in the Xinjiang region. Ever since India strongly reacted to China’s unilateral attempts to alter the status quo in eastern Ladakh, the PLA has been rapidly enhancing military infrastructure at the LAC.

According to a source, "It is also currently testing a `Big Bird’ phased array target acquisition radar associated with the S-400 systems at Gargunsa."

India has also strongly responded to the Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh and deployed around 50,000 troops, frontline fighter aircraft, anti-missile systems, artillery guns and other heavy military equipment near the LAC.

As per an India Today report, troops stationed along the LAC were supplied with sophisticated equipment like the Sig Sauer assault rifles, MP9 pistol guns and Carl Gustaf rocket launchers.

A report by The Print, citing sources said that the Indian Air Force too has deployed assets ranging from transport aircraft like AN32, C-130J and C-17, to helicopters, including Apaches and Chinooks, besides fighters, including Rafale. The deployment also included surface-to-air missiles, radars and increased surveillance duty.

India has also ramped up construction of tunnels, bridges roads and other critical infrastructure in eastern Ladakh and other areas along the LAC.

Border standoff

The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on 5 May last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area in which 20 Indian soldiers, including Commanding Officer Col B Santosh Babu, were killed in action.

This was the first time since 1975 that Indian soldiers had died in a clash on the India-China border, and the episode marked a shift in the nature of the stand-off.

The Indian side claimed that they had, in retaliation, killed at least 25-40 troops and injured another 60 Chinese PLA troops. In February of this year, China confirmed that four of its soldiers were killed during the bloody Himalayan border clash.

Diplomatic response

As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in Gogra area last month.

In February, the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in line with an agreement on disengagement.

However, last week, China blamed India for the deadly Galwan Valley clashed which had resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian Army soldiers.

India rejected China’s claims saying that the neighbouring country’s aggressive behaviour and unilateral attempts to alter the status quo in eastern Ladakh disturbed peace between the two countries.

“We reject such statements. Our position with regard to developments last year along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh has been clear and consistent. It was the provocative behaviour and unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter status quo in contravention of all our bilateral agreements that resulted in serious disturbance of peace and tranquillity," the Ministry of External Affairs said.

With inputs from agencies