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SOURCE: THE PRINT

China has more than doubled its air bases, air defence positions, and heliports near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since the 2017 Doklam crisis, indicating its intent to increase military posturing in border disputes with India in the future, a new report by a leading global geopolitical intelligence platform said Tuesday.

Beijing’s military push is leading to long-term regional tensions with India sustained beyond the two countries’ recent standoffs in eastern Ladakh, said the Stratfor report.

Titled A Military Drive Spells Out China’s Intent Along the Indian Border, the report has been authored by Stratfor’s senior global analyst Sim Tack, with satellite imagery from @detresfa, a Twitter user known for satellite imagery expertise.

The report said China’s intensified development of military infrastructure on the Indian border suggests a shift in Beijing’s approach to territorial disputes.

“The 2017 Doklam crisis appears to have shifted China’s strategic objectives, with China more than doubling its total number of air bases, air defense positions, and heliports near the Indian border over the past three years,” it said.

It noted that the upgrade of China’s military facility has “sharply increased” particularly over the last two years, leading to the deadly 15 June clash in the Galwan Valley.

Speaking to ThePrint on why China is following this aggressive policy, Tack said he believes the scale and and timeframe of this development, which has clearly accelerated in recent years, shows a calculated strategy on Beijing’s part.

“Beijing is executing this strategy from a position of strength, and while the outcome of future political or military disputes is difficult to predict, they are establishing the support structures that will put them in a stronger position when those come around,” he said.

Since the Doklam crisis, Tack said in his report, China has started constructing at least 13 entirely new military positions near its borders with India, including 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 current Ladakh crisis in May, said the report.

It was reported earlier that China was ramping up its military presence, including near Doklam.

China’s approach similar to its SCS strategy
In his report, Tack observed that these long-term developments have greater significance beyond the deployments China made in its previous border standoffs with India.

China’s strategy aims to confront India while leaning on broad support infrastructure, which provides Beijing with a tremendous ability to mobilise forces into disputed border areas, he noted.

“Such an approach is similar to China’s strategy in the South China Sea, where a buildup of permanent defense facilities supports Chinese localized military superiority and significantly raises the potential cost of military opposition to Beijing’s maritime claims in the region,” wrote Tack.

“In applying this same strategy on the Indian border, 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,” he added.

The report also noted that China’s main focus was on improving its air offensive and defensive positions along the LAC.

Chances of direct confrontations
The report also took note that New Delhi too is on a major infrastructure push along the LAC.

The efforts by both India and China to translate these capabilities into dominance during future border disputes will raise the possibility of direct confrontations, it said.

“And with strong logistical structures supporting frontline forces on both sides, such incidents could rapidly devolve into greater military engagements between the two nuclear-armed neighbors,” the report added.

It was reported last week that tensions in eastern Ladakh could eventually result in increased permanent deployment of forces in the sector, in what could be termed as the “LoC-isation” of the LAC.