As tensions persist along the China-India border, a recent report from the USA Office of the Secretary of Defense, published as the Annual Report to Congress, sheds light on significant developments in the region. The report particularly focuses on infrastructure expansion by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and troop deployments during 2022.
PLA’s Infrastructure Expansion
Since the violent clash in Galwan Valley in 2020, the PLA has maintained an enduring presence and continued to develop its infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). In 2022, China further intensified its military infrastructure development with notable initiatives including:
Underground Storage Facilities Near Doklam: The construction of underground storage facilities near Doklam in the border region is of significance. Such facilities can be used for the storage of military equipment, supplies, and potentially for securing critical resources.
New Roads Across Three LAC Sectors: The establishment of new roads across all three sectors of the LAC indicates a strategic focus on enhancing mobility, logistical support, and connectivity. This infrastructure allows for the swift movement of troops and resources in the region.
New Villages in Disputed Areas Adjacent to Bhutan: The creation of new villages in disputed areas close to Bhutan raises territorial concerns and may be a part of China’s broader territorial strategy in the region.
A Second Bridge Over Pangong Lake: The construction of a second bridge over Pangong Lake provides enhanced access and connectivity in the region, which could be critical for military mobility.
Dual-Purpose Airport in the Central Sector: The establishment of a dual-purpose airport in the central sector can serve both civilian and military purposes, further solidifying China’s presence and capability projection.
Multiple Helipads: The construction of multiple helipads suggests a focus on air mobility, enabling rapid troop deployment and resource movement.
Throughout 2022, China executed significant troop deployments along the LAC. These deployments included:
Western Sector: In the western sector of the LAC, one border regiment was deployed, supported by two divisions from the Xinjiang and Tibet Military Districts. These forces were backed up by four combined arms brigades (CAB) held in reserve. This concentration of troops demonstrates China’s commitment to securing its interests in this region.
Eastern Sector: In the eastern sector, as many as three light-to-medium CABs were deployed from other theater commands. Additionally, an extra three CABs were stationed in the central sector of the LAC. This widespread deployment indicates China’s preparedness and capacity to respond to potential border conflicts and disputes.
The situation on the China-India border remains intricate and dynamic. While recent diplomatic talks and disengagement efforts have resulted in withdrawals from certain areas, such as the Gogra-Hotsprings region, occasional clashes and incidents persist, reminding us of the ongoing challenges in managing this border dispute.
Monitoring these developments and negotiations remains vital as both nations seek to maintain security and assert their interests in the region. Further dialogue and international engagement are essential to defusing tensions and achieving a peaceful resolution to this long-standing border dispute.