India and China, both nuclear powers, have been engaged in military level talks to diffuse ongoing tensions following a violent clash on 15 June, the worst in nearly 50 years, that resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops.
China’s People’s Liberation Army has built a floating dock, tents and huts in the contested Pangong Tso district of Ladkah; unverified satellite images released by private agency Maxar Technology suggest. The satellite imagery shows 40 new prefabricated tents erected at finger 6 of the Pangong Tso, which is almost 8 kilometres inside India’s border with China.
Different parts of Pangong Tso are marked as Finger 1 to Finger 8. India claims that the loosely demarcated border between the two countries, known as the Line of Actual Control, passes near Finger 8 while China claims that its side of the border stretches to Finger 4. Troops from both sides conduct patrols between Finger 4 and Finger 8 on a regular basis.
Defence sources in New Delhi told Sputnik that China’s People’s Liberation Army also brought more boats (8-10 belonging to an elite group of the PLA Navy) to patrol the lake that divides the two countries in eastern Ladakh.
Each boat can carry 10 troops at a time and each tent can accommodate a dozen soldiers, claimed the sources. The additional infrastructure buildup at finger 5 and finger 6 includes a floating dock, boats and huts.
The development comes ahead of forecast harsh cold weather in Ladakh during which it would be almost impossible to move troops or equipment to the high-altitude Line of Actual Control. Sources claimed China could be preparing for the long haul before winter begins in October.
China’s Tibet military command recently conducted artillery exercises in high-altitude areas to test the army’s long-range precision strikes and fire-assault capabilities in plateau environments, said Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, on Thursday.
Last week, India rejected China’s claim that its forces had completely disengaged at three contested sites in Ladakh region where 20 Indian soldiers were killed on 15 June in a violent face-off over infrastructure build-up.
Disagreements between the two Asian giants over the disengagement process come to fore on Thursday with the Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong alleging that “if one side unilaterally delimits the LAC as per its own understanding during negotiations, that could create new disputes, and would be a departure from the original purpose of clarification of the LAC”.
Nevertheless, the military build-up by the two sides continues as the Chinese army has reportedly deployed around 50,000 troops in the Aksai Chin region. Mirroring the Chinese build-up, India has also deployed its T-90 missile-firing tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and a full troop brigade (4,000 men) to Daulat Beg Oldi, which is close to the Karakoram Pass that connects India and China over the Himalayas.