China has surreptitiously undertaken a large military infrastructure upgrade in the central, Sikkim, and eastern sectors with the simultaneous strengthening of surface-to-air missile sites, an increase in unmanned aerial vehicle numbers, and an expansion of airbases in Tibet while the world’s attention has been focused on Beijing’s hostile moves on the line of actual control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh and its tense stand-off with India, according to people familiar with the matter. While Hindustan Times has already reported the PLA’s force accretion in East Ladakh, something that reduces the chances of the status quo ante being restored at friction points, Indian military commanders are concerned about the build-up across the LAC, from Kaurik Pass in Himachal Pradesh to Fish Tail I and II in Arunachal Pradesh. Military commanders and national security planners who spoke on condition of anonymity said that over the past month they noticed the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) engage in road construction at Churup village right across Kaurik pass in the central sector and that it has placed new container housing modules around Tunjum La, north of the contested Barahoti plains in Uttarakhand, just 4km from the 565km LAC in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Shiquanhe, a garrison depot 82km from Demchok LAC with Gar Gunsa airport, has become a hub for Beijing’s relocation of troops and heavy equipment. The position of Shiquanhe is such that it can serve as the main logistics supply depot from Demchok to Barahoti plains, Indian military planners said. The situation in the eastern sector is no different, with an electronic warfare unit being deployed at Nyanglu, 60km from the Arunachal Pradesh border, in an old 1962 war PLA camp. This unit is a strategic support force with four counter space jammers, possibly oriented towards Indian GSAT communication and commercial satellites, the military planners said. India has also noticed redeployment of troops at Yebi with heightened PLA surveillance at Bum La. The PLA’s intelligence and surveillance activity has picked up all along the 3,488km LAC with specific focus being noticed across Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and the Galwan sector in East Ladakh, the military planners added. Evidence of this heightened surveillance comes in the form of the construction of communication towers at Change, 27km from the LAC and north of Cebu La in Sikkim.
The Chinese have also speeded up the strengthening of depth areas with new missile transporter erector launchers seen at the surface-to-air missile site in the Kashgar airbase, 475km from the western sector LAC, Indian military commanders said. The Kashgar and Hotan bases are patrolling the skies in Aksai Chin with both the military bases showing the presence of heavy transport lift planes. There have been fresh troop and equipment dugouts under camouflage nets reported from Kangxiwar, 112km from the LAC across Karakoram Pass. The number of military UAVs has increased at the Hoping airbase in Shigatse, opposite the Sikkim sector, with military logistics capacity being increased at the Lhasa airbase. The massive road-communications-surveillance upgrade all along LAC indicates that the PLA could open other fronts on the LAC if the worst-case scenario materializes in East Ladakh. In the wake of this, India’s national security planners are closely monitoring the movement of the military dialogue between the two armies while keeping troops on high alert even in the central and eastern sectors.