SOURCE: JOYDEEP GHOSH/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
The 255 km long Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road also called Sub-Sector North Road, is a strategic all-weather road in eastern Ladakh in India, close to the Line of Actual Control with China. It connectsLeh, capital city of Ladakh with the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) post next to Depsang Plains via the villages of Darbuk and Shyok along the Shyok River Valley. The work started slowly with 220-km long stretch between Shyok and DBO built between 2000 and 2019 by Border Roads Organisation.
The road was meant to reduce travel time between Leh and DBO from 2 days to just 6 hours. Indeed this road would have given Indian Army a strategic advantage whenever it wanted to defend the Depang Plains and DBO area, with the LAC being just 10 kms away. The road itself is about 5 – 6 kms further away from Depsang Plains, north of the Depsang Bulge, a 900 sq. kms area.
The road was important but when China unilaterally moved forward occupying positions west of LAC (one of which led to the infamous Galwan clash)in early March 2020, situation has changed and China has not only managed to capture the entire area till its 1959 claim line (China captured over 2000 sq.kms area) but has virtually sealed off most of Depsang Plains and Depsang Bulge area from Indian Army denying the access to many patrol points.
Since then talks have happened between China and India for disengagement and de-escalation but in all places till date if any agreement has happened it happened only after India conceded to Chinese control over those areas and the creation of buffer zones were mostly done on India claimed and India controlled territory.
But China is adamant to not even talk about areas it already controls in Depsang Plains and Depsang Bulge area. It says it wont even talk about these, the only talk that can happen is if India agrees to creation of a buffer zone of 15 kms entirely on India claimed and India controlled territory of Depsang Plains and Depsang Bulge area. India may say a lot, but fact is in the end it will have to surrender to Chinese demands thus making the DSDBO road useless since Chinese will have visual access and full artillery fire controlon the road. Even building a tunnel on the road wont help.
The Daulat Beg Oldie Advanced Landing Ground is the highest airstrip in the world. A gravel airstrip it was first activated just before the 1962 China India war, but after the war it remained unused after 1966 when a earthquake damaged the airstrip. But in 2008 it was restarted with AN 32 landing at DBO in 2008.
The DBO ALG has since then seen several C 130 J SH landings but after the 2020 incident when captured over 2000 sq. kms of area, China virtually has full fire control over the ALG. While there were regular landings till the 2020 incident, since then virtually no landings have taken place on the ALG. The ALG is now under 24/7 Searcher UAV surveillance.
Since the area, where the DBO ALG is located is too close to the LAC and is sandwiched between Siachen glacier and LAC, it holds immense strategic importance. But, unfortunately it has remained virtually unused since then due to risk of being exposed to Chinese surveillance and artillery strikes. All this makes the airstrip virtually useless in times of any further strife. As such both DSDBO road and DBO ALG are now useless for Indian Army or Indian Air Force.
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