China is building a bridge across the narrowest point of the Pangong Lake to link its North Bank to the South Bank, satellite imagery has revealed. This will enable quicker troop mobilization to counter India.
The bridge is being built over the part of the Lake in Eastern Ladakh which has been in Chinese occupation since the 1950s. While one-third of the Western part of the 134-km-long Pangong Tso is in Indian control, two-thirds of the Lake is under Chinese occupation. At its broadest point, the Lake is 5 km wide.
According to reports, the bridge is being built speedily with pre-fabricated sections near the PLA’s Khurnak base on the North Bank.
A report in The Print has quoted unnamed sources to state that the bridge will reduce the distance from Khurnak to Redok to just about 50 km. Redok is the PLA base which controls troop movements south of the Lake. So far, it requires a circuitous movement along the Eastern stretch of the Lake, a distance of about 180 km to reach Rudok.
Military observers infer this move as a step to reduce response time for troop mobilization to counter any Indian initiative such as the one in August 2020, when the Indian Army sprung a surprise on China by occupying the dominating ridgelines on the Kailash range south of Southern Bank of Pangong Lake. The Kailash ridgelines overlook Chinese troop deployment on the banks of the Spanggur Lake and Indian occupation of the heights threatened the Chinese.
The Indian move on the Kailash heights was a reaction to the face-off along the Northern Bank of the Lake after the Chinese PLA moved its troops up to a geographical point called Finger 4 in May 2020. Indian troops are deployed till Finger 4, and have traditionally patrolled further East till Finger 8.
The Indian position is that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) runs beyond Finger 8 just short of the PLA’s base at Sirijap, which it captured in the 1962 War. China claims that the LAC runs West through Finger 2 on the Indian side. PLA troops have traditionally patrolled till Finger Point 4.
The new bridge will enable quick mobilization by PLA to exercise greater military presence on the South Bank of Pangong Tso and beyond. This is the latest in a competitive build-up of infrastructure on both sides of the LAC.
China negotiated for Indian withdrawal from the Kailash range to pull back from Finger 4 to Finger 8 to end the face-off on the Northern Bank of Pangong Tso. But it since built a new road to link the Moldo garrison on the frontlines at the Spanggur Lake to the Rudok base in the rear to avoid exposure to Indian troop positions. The old road running along the banks of the Spanggur Lake was considered vulnerable to Indian positions.