New Delhi: China is building a second bridge over territory held by it in Pangong Tso, which is capable of carrying armoured columns, ThePrint has learnt. The development comes as the Ladakh stand-off between India and China enters its third year.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said the first bridge — whose construction was started at the end of 2021 and finished last month — is being used as a service bridge for the construction of the second.
“The first bridge is being used by the Chinese to station their cranes and bring over other construction equipment. The new bridge, right next to it, is bigger and wider than the one they finished construction of in April this year,” a source said.
When the construction of the new bridge was spotted less than three weeks ago, the source added, “the entire game plan of the Chinese was understood”.
The new bridge is being built from both sides simultaneously.
On 3 January, ThePrint reported that the Chinese were building a bridge at Pangong Tso, over territory held by it.
At the time, sources had said the bridge was being built with pre-fabricated structures to counter any August 2020-like operation of the Indian Army, which had led to India capturing dominating heights on the southern banks of the Pangong Tso.
The bridge was aimed at cutting down a 180-km loop from Khurnak to the southern banks through Rudok, sources had said. This would mean that the route from Khurnak to Rudok would come down to 40-50 km.
‘Multiple routes to counter possible Indian operations’
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,” the source quoted above said, explaining why the new construction is significant.
As reported last month, the Chinese have finished construction of the first bridge and are now building roads to connect it to one of its biggest military garrisons in the region, according to satellite images.
The bridges are part of a series of military infrastructure that the Chinese are building in eastern Ladakh.
While the India-China stand-off continued on the southern banks of Pangong Tso, the Chinese, between September 2020 and mid-2021, built a new road to its Moldo garrison, to circumvent the visibility arc of the Indian soldiers and equipment on top of advantageous heights.
Sources said that, with the new construction, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aims to have multiple routes to counter any possible operations by the Indian forces on the southern banks of the Pangong Tso in the future.
Even as the Chinese construction continues, government sources have said that India does not foresee fighting China again along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). However, they have made it clear that if Beijing tries to reignite tensions, New Delhi will offer a “muscular response” without worrying about the outcome.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)