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Home / World / The race of India and China build on a contested border

The race of India and China build on a contested border

Men building the train

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India is building a number of roads and bridges in the Ladakh region

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

New roads to a high-altitude Indian air base are said to have been one of the main players for a clash with Chinese troops last month that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.

The 255 km (1

40-mile) Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road – a mountain pass to the world’s highest airstrip more than 5,000 meters above sea level in the region of Ladakh – ended last year after almost two years of work. Its completion could increase India’s ability to move men and matter quickly in conflict.

The June 15 conflict in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley has raised concerns that tensions between the two nuclear powers could escalate. They never agreed on the exact position of their 3,500km border, and their armies – two of the largest in the world – come face to face at many points along the rough and displaceable terrain.

Controversial map between China and India


Both India and China have dedicated money and manpower to building roads, rail links and airfields along the Current Line of Control (LAC) – the de facto border separating them – as well as to modernizing their military hardware in the region.

India’s recent building work, including the DSDBO road, seems to have been done by China – but China has been built along the border for years. Both sides tend to watch each other’s construction efforts as they move calculated to gain a tactical advantage, and tensions clear up when announcing a major project.

In the summer of 2017, neighbors were brought to a stop on the Doklam plateau, far east of Ladakh. This confrontation was also over construction – this time China tried to extend a cross-border road near a tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan.

India plays catch

The completion of the DSDBO road, which connects the crucial Daulat Beg Oldi airfield – which was re-used in 2008 – with the regional capital Leh, has strengthened India’s ability to move equipment quickly. The all-weather road is located about 20km from Karakoram Pass and remains parallel to the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

India has long had men stationed at Daulat Beg Oldi but, before the reactivation of the airstrip and the completion of the road, the men there were able to obtain supplies only by helicopter drops, and nothing could ‘removed, and turns the airstrip into a’ graveyard for equipment. ‘

Additional roads and bridges are now being built to connect the road with internal supply bases and border notices on the LAC, allowing India’s patrols to go further and change lanes. tactical dynamics in the area.

Plan on the Daulat Beg Oldi mountain plane

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India landed heavy transport aircraft at the world’s highest airstrip, Daulat Beg Oldi

Despite the recent fighting, India has signaled that it will continue to improve its infrastructure. It is in the process of moving 12,000 workers from the eastern state of Jharkhand to build roads along the border in Lakhakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, all areas bordering China.

After years of neglecting its infrastructure, India is trying to develop its border lands to neutralize China’s logistical advantage. He began a vast program of road and rail construction in the region.


A total of 73 strategic roads and 125 bridges were sanctioned across different sectors on the Indian side of the LAC. But progress has been slow. So far only 35 roads have been completed – the main ones being Ghatibagarh-Lipulekh in Uttarakhand state and Damping-Yangtze in Arunachal Pradesh. Another 11 are planned to be built by the end of this year.

Delhi has also approved nine “strategic” railway lines – including the Missamari-Tenga-Tawang sections and the Bilaspur-Mandi-Manali-Leh sections. They move along the border with China and allow the Indian military to carry heavy armor in position.

Military personnel on the China-India border

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India is accelerating road construction along its border with China

In terms of aviation facilities, India has about 25 airways along the LAC but its recent focus has been on expanding its network of Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs). ).

In 2018, India announced that it will modernize eight existing ALGs and also develop seven new ones near the border. Sukhoi-30 advanced fighter jets and Chetak helicopters are deployed in Chabua – a major Indian Air Force base located in the state of Assam, along the eastern section of the border with China. That base has been renovated and recently modernized.


India continues to expand capacity at Chabua Air Force Station in Assam, near its disputed territory with China near Arunachal Pradesh

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 October 27, 2018


Although it has improved in recent years, India’s building efforts are still hampered by rugged land, land acquisition problems, bureaucratic delays and budget constraints.

And it has a lot to do with what you do.

The initial head of China

China has been putting its renowned construction capabilities to use in recent years by building a network of air bases, cantonments and other physical infrastructure along the border.

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

Key infrastructure along India-China border


Since 2016, China has increased shares by increasing connectivity to areas near its borders with India, Bhutan and Nepal.

It is working to connect the old Xinjiang-Tibet Road with the G219 National Highway, which runs almost the entire China-India border. Concrete roads between Medog and Zayu near India’s Arunachal Pradesh state – which China claims – are due to be completed by the end of this year.

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There is also a new railway line being built in Shigatse – the second largest city in Tibet – with Chengdu via Nyingchi, near the Indian border.

Another rail link is planned between Shigatse and Yadong, a trade hub near Sikkim, a Himalayan state in northeastern India, where an exchange between Indian and Chinese troops took place in early May.

Tibet rain line

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China builds high-speed railways in Tibet despite deceptive land

China has about a dozen airfields in India facing, and five of them are dual-use airports in Tibet, meaning for both civilian and military purposes.

It is building three new airports and upgrading the all-weather Gonggar airport to Shigatse, Ngari Gunsa and Lhasa by adding underground shelters and new carriageways.

A battery of surface-to-air missiles and advanced fighter jets are reported at Ngari Gunsa airfield, located 4,274 m (14,022) feet above sea level, about 200km from Pangong Lake.


Ngari Gunsa High Altitude Airport has received a significant upgrade in recent months with the construction of a new taxiway 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 generally further away from the LAC and at a higher altitude, where thinner air means jets can carry less fuel and load.

Suspicions on border infrastructure

This infrastructure improvement on both sides is designed with one main goal in mind – to allow the rapid deployment of troops and military hardware to the border in the event of a large-scale conflict.

“Once these ambitious infrastructure projects are completed, a large number of Indian forces will be able to move more freely in certain critical sub-theaters without fear of being weakened or physically blocked,” noted a 2019 study by the New American Center for Security. .


India has long been held back by extensive development, believing that improving infrastructure on its side of the border would facilitate Chinese movement within Indian territory in the event of a conflict. But we are moving away from that reasoning.

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

Chinese military vehicles during a recent drill

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China Ministy Online

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China demonstrated its logistical capability during a recent military exercise

Rajeswari Pillai, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, described India’s infrastructure construction as “primarily a defensive response because China’s infrastructure poses a threat, as it could allow the Chinese army to engage in offensive operations. and allows it to quickly concentrate forces at any point where there is a dispute ”.

“India’s weak infrastructure has meant that it has always had difficulties in defending against China’s attacks,” Ms Pillai said.

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China refuses to step in, as does India when it is accused of raising the line. Several rounds of talks in the last three decades 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 their efficient transportation networks.


“The scale and short time it took to complete the mobilization showed that the army has the ability to project its power anywhere in China quickly and send reinforcements to remote locations, including high elevation,” a veteran of the nameless Chinese army told the state-run Global Times.

As a large number of new roads, railways and bridges appear on both sides of the border, there is plenty of room for more face-to-face between Indian and Chinese troops in the future.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyzes news from TV, radio, the 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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