China doubles its air bases, air defences along Indian border: Report

Border tensions are part of a much larger effort by China to assert control over its border regions

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China has doubled its number of air bases, air defence positions and heliports near the Indian border over the past three years.

New Delhi: China has more than doubled its total number of air bases, air defence positions and heliports near the Indian border over the past three years. According to a report, China has shifted its strategic objectives after the 2017 Doklam crisis that played out between China and India in a part of east Sikkim.

Stratfor, a leading global geopolitical intelligence platform, has spelt out the details of the Chinese expansion in its yet-to-be-released report. The report outlines China’s military-infrastructure build-up through a detailed analysis of satellite images of military facilities. As per the report, that has a direct bearing on India’s security.

“The timing of the Chinese build-up of military facilities along the Indian border, just prior to the ongoing Ladakh standoff, suggests that the border tensions were part of a much larger effort by China to assert control over its border regions,” says Sim Tack, a Senior Global Analyst with Stratfor and the author of the report.

Significantly, China’s upgrade of its military infrastructure is far from complete. “The expansion and the construction of military infrastructure are in most cases still underway. So the Chinese military activity, that we see along the border with India today, is only the beginning of a longer-term intent,” the report says.

The consequences of this for India, which had a violent face-off with China in eastern Ladakh in May, seem clear. And, ”once finished, this infrastructure will provide support for an even greater intensity of Chinese operations.”

New military positions near borders

According to the report, China started constructing at least 13 entirely new military positions near its borders with India. This includes three air bases, five permanent air defence positions and five heliports. ”Construction on four of those new heliports started only after the onset of the Ladakh crisis in May,” it says.

Chinese military expansion along India-frontier includes creation of air bases, electronic warfare facilities, heliports and air defence sites.

China’s military build-up along the India frontier, the report says, is part of a bigger strategy. It might be similar to the country’s goals in the South China Sea. Beijing has dredged land around tiny coral atolls to develop full-fledged air bases and Naval facilities in the Sea.

Several countries in the Asia-Pacific belt have categorically rejected Beijing’s claim that the area lies within its jurisdiction.

In May this year, India, which champions the freedom of navigation in international waterways along with the United States said, ”the South China Sea is a part of the global commons and India has an abiding interest in peace and stability in the region.” This remark of India might have irked Beijing, which is wary of India’s close strategic partnership with Washington.

Additional runways and aircraft shelters

Meanwhile, while applying the same strategy along its land frontier with India, ”China aims to discourage Indian resistance or military action during future border disputes by ostentatiously demonstrating its ability and intent to engage in military confrontations.”

Key in attempting to expand its military dominance in the area is China’s emphasis on building up its air power. ”The Chinese military is currently building four similar air defence positions within existing air bases and other facilities. This includes additional runways and aircraft shelters. It will help obscure the true presence of combat aircraft at these bases from observation.”

India and China continue talks at multiple levels to try and disengage forces along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. The latest round of talks between Generals of both sides on Mondo on the South Bank lasted approximately 13 hours. There are no immediate indicators of any break through.

About 20 Indian soldiers including a Colonel and an unknown number of Chinese troops were killed in the Ladakh clash. However, India for its part has pre-empted a similar move in South Pangong where it presently dominates Chinese positions. Both sides continue to jostle for the high-ground on both banks of the Pangong Lake.

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