China’s construction of military infrastructure along its border with India suggests Beijing is considering military options amidst a territorial dispute between the two countries. China’s aggressive strategy will likely prompt India to respond in kind, leading to a greater concentration of military assets along their disputed border and increasing the risk of escalations and sustained conflict.
India and China share a border more than 3,440km (2,100 miles) long and have overlapping territorial claims. Their border patrols often bump into each other, resulting in occasional scuffles but both sides insist no bullet has been fired in four decades. Their armies – two of the world’s largest – come face to face at many points. The poorly demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC) separates the two sides. Rivers, lakes and snowcaps mean the line separating soldiers can shift and they often come close to confrontation. The most recent military tension was in Ladakh. Howwever, Soldiers from the two sides are also eyeball-to-eyeball in Nathu La, on the border between China and the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim
China is expanding and upgrading a large number of military facilities along its entire border with India as tensions continue to run high in the wake of the bloody clash between Indian and Chinese forces in June 2020, followed by the reported exchange of gunfire in late August. In 2017 India and China were engaged in a similar stand-off lasting more than two months in Doklam plateau, a tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan. India objected to China building a road in a region claimed by Bhutan. The Chinese stood firm.
Within six months, Indian media reported that Beijing had built a permanent all-weather military complex there. The satellite images revealed a massive military build-up on the Chinese side. Gun emplacements and helicopter pads have been identified as well as a massive complex of buildings. This construction, along with the deployment of new equipment in greater numbers, highlights how China has undertaken a serious effort to improve its capabilities close to” the border with India.
China and India are engaging in an air force buildup along their shared border. According to the article, the J-10 and J-11 fighter jets were part of an air brigade assigned to China’s Western Theater Command. It went on to quote a military expert, Song Zhongping, as saying that the PLA views stationing more advanced fighters along the Indian border as an “urgent” task. That is because, as Song pointed out, India itself has been deploying more advanced jets alongside its own border with India. “With India importing new jets, China will continue strengthening its fighter jets in the Western Theatre Command,” Song said.
The Chinese-Indian border is difficult terrain for aircraft to operate in because of its high altitude and extreme weather patterns. More advanced aircraft will help overcome these factors, although better training is also necessary. “China also needs to constantly train pilots and prepare them for high altitudes, and improve cooperation between the support team on the ground and pilots to make sure performance isn’t affected” in the difficult conditions, said Song, the Chinese military expert, to the Hong Kong–based South China Morning Post
India and China recently settled a 70-day standoff after Indian soldiers intervened to stop the advance of a road which was being built towards the disputed Doka La region. The standoff over PLA’s attempts to build a road close to the strategic narrow Chicken Neck corridor in North East ended after the Chinese military stopped the road building in the area which is also claimed by Bhutan and India agreed to withdraw its troops from the area.
“The traditionally peaceful Galwan River has now become a hotspot because it is where the LAC is closest to the new road India has built along the Shyok River to Daulet Beg Oldi (DBO) – the most remote and vulnerable area along the LAC in Ladakh,” says Ajai Shukla, an Indian military expert who served as a colonel in the army. India’s decision to ramp up infrastructure seems to have infuriated Beijing.
Earlier, The Times of India reported that the Indian government in considering building 50 new border outposts along the 3,488-kilometer-long Indian-Chinese border. According to the report, four additional battalions numbering over 4,000 troops would be deployed to the border area. The measure is expected to decrease tensions and improve coordination in the region. Yang Bian, a researcher at the Communication University of China, said that India’s military activities could create new threats for China.
China has also equipped the Sky Wolf Commandos, a branch of the PLA Special Operations Forces from the Western Theatre Command, with the QTS-11 system in their training, Weihutang, a column affiliated with the China Central Television (CCTV), reported. The Western Theatre Command looks after the security along the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.
China’s newly-opened rail line, which runs close to India’s boundary with Tibet in Arunachal Pradesh, has been used by China to transport People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops for the first time, reported in August 2021. The 435-kilometer rail line connects Tibet’s capital Lhasa with Nyingchi, a town located only a few kilometres away from the border. The newly opened Lhasa-Nyingchi bullet train has already been used for its first military mission carried new recruits of a combined arms brigade affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Tibet Military Command to an exercise field, signifying its importance for the Chinese military in moving troops and weapons to the border areas.
In August 2021, Lhasa Gonggar Airport opened its newly constructed Terminal 3 for operations on Saturday, marking a significant milestone in the remote region’s rapid infrastructure development that could significantly boost passenger and cargo transport, state-run Global Times reported. Tibet has five airports including at Nyingchi, Shigatse and Ngari located close to the Indian and Nepal borders.
The massive expansion of air, road and rail infrastructure is aimed at boosting civilian and military transportation considering Tibet is located close to Arunachal Pradesh in India, Nepal and Bhutan.
PLA equips ground unit along Indian border with US army-style combat gear
China has equipped a branch of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deployed along the Indian border with a powerful US-style integrated individual soldier combat system to prepare for a future “informatised warfare”, a media report has said. Informatised warfare, a term widely used by the Chinese military in recent years refers to the use of IT, digital and artificial intelligence applications in battlefield conditions.
The QTS-11 system, according to Chinese experts, is similar to the one being used by US soldiers. Hailed as the “strongest individual firepower in the world”, the QTS-11 system not only contains firearms but also a full digitalised integrated individual soldier combat system, including detection and communications, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert told state-run Global Times. “The individual soldier combat system is only part of the digitalised army, something countries are attempting to do. Developing the integrated individual soldier combat system adapts to informatized warfare in the future,” Song said.
The system, which includes an assault rifle and 20-millimeter grenade launcher, is capable of destroying antipersonnel targets. Each soldier equipped with the system is armed with a thermal imager and optoelectronic and positioning systems, the Global Times quoted a report by Science and Technology Daily. QTS-11 system weighs up to seven kgs.