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SOURCE: Times Now Digital

While India and China continue to hold talks with a view to dial down tensions along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, the Indian Army has already begun preparing for winter deployment in the region in the event that an early resolution is not forthcoming. Both armies, reportedly, have around 50,000 troops in the region along with tanks, artillery and aerial assets. 

The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) incursion into Indian territory at the LAC will be of particular concern to India owing to the strategic 255-km long Darbuk-Shyokh-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) all-weather road that has been under construction for two decades now. 

The road holds great strategic value primarily because it connects Leh to the Karakoram Pass that divides Ladakh from China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The conflict that has ensued along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh has not stopped India’s efforts to complete a road that poses a significant threat to China. 

Located just 10km from the LAC in India’s northernmost corner, the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) is crucial for the Indian Army in its management of the border and forward areas near Aksai Chin, the Chip Chap River and Jiwan Nalla. 

Upon construction, the DSDBO road will, reportedly, reduce travel time for troops moving from Leh to DBO to just six hours. A military outpost was created in DBO following China’s occupation of Aksai Chin, with a combination of the Indian Army’s Ladakh Scouts and paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) forces stationed there. 

The DBO also houses the world’s highest airstrip built originally during the Indo-China war of 1962 but then abandoned until 2008. In 2008, the Indian Air Force revived the project turning it into one of its Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) along the LAC, having landed an Antonov An-32 aircraft and subsequently a C-130J Super Hercules transport plane here.

The DBO area was at the heart of tensions between the two nations in April 2013 when a Chinese deployment intruded around 19km into Indian territory. The stand-off lasted three weeks and only came to a close when Chinese troops finally agreed to retreat to their original positions. However, despite the Chinese having no historical claim to the area, it continues to be central to one of the longest-running border disputes in the world. 

There are also other important considerations. Lying west of the DBO is an area where China meets Pakistan in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, once part of the erstwhile Kashmir principality. The region is sensitive because it is also where China is currently constructing the critical China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.