India and China race to build along a disputed border

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India is constructing many roads and bridges in the Ladakh region.

India and China are trying to exclude each other along their disputed Himalayan border.

A new road to a high passage of the Indian Air Force is said to have been one of the main triggers for clashes with Chinese troops last month, killing at least 20 Indian soldiers.

255 km (140-mi) Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road – winds through a mountain that passes the world’s highest airstrip more than 5,000 meters above sea level in the Ladakh region, after nearly two decades It ended last year. Of work. Its completion may increase India’s ability to rapidly pursue men and motherhood in conflict.

The June 15 clash in Ladakh’s Galvan Valley gave rise to concerns that tensions could escalate between the two nuclear powers. They have never agreed to the exact position of their 3,500 km border, and their forces – the world’s largest two – face to face at several points along the rough, inaccessible terrain.

Disputed china-india border map


Both India and China have devoted money and manpower to build road, rail connectivity and airfields along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – isolating them in the region as well as modernizing their military hardware.

India’s recent building construction, including the DSDBO road, brings disrepute to China – but China has been busy building on the border for years. Both sides look at the other’s construction efforts as calculated to gain strategic advantage, and tensions erupt when a major project is announced.

In the summer of 2017, neighbors were brought to a stand-off on the Doklam plateau east of Ladakh. That collision was also on the build – this time China attempted to extend a border road near a triangular junction between India, China and Bhutan.

India caught a catch

The completion of the DSDBO road, which connects the important Daulat Beg Oldi runway – put into use back in 2008 – strengthened India’s ability to move equipment quickly, to the regional capital, Leh. The All Weather Road is about 20 km from the Karakoram Pass and runs parallel to the LAC in East Ladakh.

India has deployed men for a long time at Daulat Beg Oldi, but before the runway is reactivated and the road is completed, the men there can only get supplies through helicopter drops, and nothing else Can be removed, the runway has been converted into a cemetery for equipment. “.

Additional roads and bridges are now being built to connect the road to inland supply bases and border outposts on the LAC, allowing Indian patrols to move forward and shift strategic mobility in the area.

Daulat Beg Oldi runway on the mountainImage copyright
Indian Air Force Forces / Pilots

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India has landed heavy transport aircraft on Daulat Beg Oldi, the world’s highest airstrip.

Despite the recent skirmishes, India has indicated that it will continue to improve its infrastructure. It is in the process of transferring 12,000 workers to the border in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, as well as all areas that border China.

After years of neglecting its infrastructure, India is trying to develop its border regions to neutralize China’s logistical advantage. It has started a huge road and railway construction program in the area.


A total of 73 strategic roads and 125 bridges with various zones have been approved on the Indian side of the LAC. But progress has been slow. So far only 35 roads have been completed – the main ones being Ghatibagh-Lipulekh in the state of Uttarakhand and Dumping-Yangtze in Arunachal Pradesh. Another 11 are to be built by the end of this year.

Delhi has also approved nine “strategic” rail lines – including Misamari-Teng-Tawang and Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh sections. They run along the border with China and allow the Indian Army to be in a position of heavy armor.

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India has accelerated the construction of roads along its border with China.

In terms of aviation facilities, India has around 25 airfields with LAC but its recent focus has been on expanding its network of Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs).

In 2018, India announced that it would modernize eight existing ALGs and develop seven new ones near the border. Sukhoi-30 advanced fighter jets and Chetak helicopters are stationed at Chaubua, a major Indian Air Force base in the state of Assam, on the eastern side of the border with China. That base has recently been renovated and modernized.


India’s capacity continues to expand at Chabua Air Force Station in Assam, close to disputed territory with China near Arunachal

9 July 2020

Satellite image of Chabua Air Force Station on 9 July 2020

27 October 2018

Satellite image of Chabua Air Force Station on 27 October 2018


Although there has been improvement in recent years, India’s building construction efforts are being hampered by rugged areas, land acquisition problems, bureaucratic delays and budget shortfalls.

And it takes a lot of catching up to do.

China’s head-start

China has been putting its famous construction capabilities to use in recent years by building air bases, cantonments and other physical infrastructure along the frontier.

Beijing began building roads in the Himalayan region in the early 1950s and now has an extensive road and rail network in Tibet and Yunnan Province.

Major infrastructure along the India-China border


Since 2016, China has placed bets by increasing connectivity in areas near its border with India, Bhutan and Nepal.

It is working on connecting the old Xinjiang-Tibet Road to National Highway G219, which runs almost the entire China-India border. A concrete road between Meadowg and Zayu near the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India – which China claims – will be completed by the end of this year.

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There is also a new railway line under construction connecting Tibet’s second largest city of Shigatse – near the Indian border to Chengdu via Ningchi.

Another rail link is planned between Shigatse and Yadong, a trading center next to Sikkim, a Himalayan state in north-east India where clashes between Indian and Chinese troops took place in early May.

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China has built high-speed rail lines in Tibet despite treacherous terrain

China has a dozen airspace in front of India, five of which have dual-use airports in Tibet, meant for both civilian and military purposes.

It is building three new airports there and upgrading the all-weather Gongagar Airport in Shigatse, Nyari Gunsa and Lhasa by adding underground shelters and new runways.

A surface-to-air missile battery and advanced fighter jet are reportedly stationed at the Ngari Gunsa airfield, located 4,274m (14,022) feet above sea level, about 200 km from Pangong Lake .


The high-altitude Ngari Gunsa Airfield has received significant upgrades in recent months with the construction of new taxiways and parking ramps.

2 July 2020

Satellite image of Ngari Kunsha Airport in China.  2 July 2020.

26 March 2020

Satellite image of Ngari Kunsha Airport in China.  26 March 2020.


In terms of air power, military experts say India has a relative advantage, as China’s bases are usually higher than the LAC, where thin air means the jets can carry less fuel and payload .

Doubts on border infrastructure

Improvements in these infrastructures on both sides have been done with one primary objective – to allow rapid movement of troops and military hardware along the border in case of a full-scale conflict.

A 2019 study by the Center for New American Security stated, “When these ambitious infrastructure projects are completed, a large number of Indian forces in some important sub-cinemas are without fear or being physically blocked For fear of being able to move freely. ” .


India long relied on extensive development, believing that improving infrastructure along the border would give impetus to the Chinese movement inside Indian territory in the event of conflict. But it is moving away from that logic.

The two countries have fought only one war, in 1962, when India suffered a humiliating defeat.

Chinese military vehicles during a recent drillImage copyright
China Ministy Online

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China demonstrated its logistics capability during a recent military drill

Rajeshwari Pillai, a partner at the Observer Research Foundation, described India’s infrastructure construction as “primarily a defensive response as China’s infrastructure represents a threat, as it allows the Chinese military to engage in offensive operations” And allow the army to rapidly focus at any point “is a dispute”.

“India’s poor infrastructure means it has always faced difficulties in defending against China’s encroachments,” Ms Pillai said.

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China denies trespassing, as is the case when India is accused of withdrawing from the line. Over the past three decades, several rounds of negotiations have failed to resolve border disputes.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media highlighted how quickly the military was able to mobilize for a recent drill near India’s border using its efficient transport network.


“The military as a whole has the ability to project its power anywhere in China and to show the ability to send reinforcements to remote locations, including high places, took scale and short time,” said a veteran of the Chinese military. Times.

A large number of new roads, railways and bridges are visible on either side of the border, with more face-to-face scope between Indian and Chinese troops in the future.

BBC Monitoring analyzes and reports on TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook. Graphics by the BBC Visual Journalism Team.

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