May 28, 2022 - 8:05 am

A Second Bridge Being Built By China Across The Pangong Tso

    The Ministry of External Affairs confirms reports of a second bridge being built by China across the Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh, not far from the site of one of the most intense friction points in the border standoff that began in May 2020. It could help the Chinese military to quickly mobilise its troops in the region, according to satellite imagery and people familiar with the development. Although the fresh bridge construction is beyond India’s black LAC claim line and within Chinese Green claim, the double span link will increase the PLA capacity to deploy on both banks of the saltwater lake with the road loop to military base at Rudog being reduced to a direct link. 

    The construction of a double-span bridge connecting the north and south banks of Pangong Tso by the Chinese Army in the Khurnak Fort area, occupied by the PLA in 1959, is part of the frantic military infrastructure upgradation carried out by Beijing across the 3488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India. The 135-km long Pangong Tso, a landlocked lake that is partly in the Ladakh region and partly in Tibet, has witnessed tensions between India and China since May 2020. The earlier bridge could only bring in soldiers and lighter vehicles. The new one is actually bigger in size and wider. This means that they are looking at faster induction of not just troops and vehicles but even armoured columns, explaining why the new construction is significant.

    The second bridge, which is still under construction, is a permanent structure. The second bridge is being constructed parallel to the first bridge, which is narrower and was completed in April this year. The first bridge is being used to move equipment such as cranes needed to build the second one, according to experts who analysed the latest high-resolution satellite imagery of the site. After completion, the second bridge will allow swift movement of armoured vehicles between the north and the south banks of the lake.

    China has been focusing on strengthening its military infrastructure after Indian troops captured several strategic peaks on the southern bank of the Pangong lake in August 2020 after the Chinese PLA attempted to intimidate them in the area. India too has been constructing bridges, roads and tunnels in the border regions as part of overall efforts to enhance military preparedness. It is learnt that China has recently completed the construction of the first bridge in the area. 

    The potential threat that the PLA poses to Indian Army with its constant border nibbling tactics gets amplified with the possibility of defence hardware supply lines from Moscow to India getting disrupted with President Vladimir Putin focused on Ukraine war and Europe. With Atmanirbhar Bharat plan in defence manufacturing slated to take normal conception and gestation period, India needs to tie-up fast with countries like France and US to ensure that the hardware and ammunition supply is not disrupted due to Russia’s Ukraine war.

    While several friction points stand resolved, discussions are on regarding three remaining areas. India and China have held 15 rounds of military talks so far to resolve the eastern Ladakh row. As a result of the talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process last year on the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and in the Gogra area. India has been consistently maintaining that peace and tranquillity along the LAC were key for the overall development of the bilateral ties. Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the Line of Actual Control in the sensitive sector. While the cold warriors in Indian military bureaucracy and national security planning still see the US through the prism of the 1971 war and its relationship with Pakistan and China in the past, the threat from Beijing is growing by the day with Russia its declared “no limits” ally. India must keep its options open and exercise them

Questions and Answers Questions and Answers

Question : When was the Khurnak Fort area occupied by the PLA?
Answers : 1959
Question : The second bridge will allow swift movement of what between the north and the south banks of the Pangong Tso lake?
Answers : Armoured vehicles
Question : What has India been constructing in the border regions?
Answers : Bridges, roads and tunnels
Question : How many rounds of military talks have India and China held?
Answers : 15