Amidst ongoing consolidation of its military positionsas well as the up gradation and modernisation of air bases facing India, China continues to build troops shelters along the Ladakh frontier 17 months after military confrontation began. In a recent surveillance and intelligence report, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has built new modular container-based accommodations for its soldiers in at least eight more forward locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) opposite eastern Ladakh, sources said.
In the south, the newly-constructed troop shelters are found in Tasigong, Manza, Churup, Hot Springs, and Chang La near the Karakoram Pass in the north and Wahab Zilga near the Karakoram Pass in the north. According to a source, containers are arranged in seven clusters at each location. As a result of these new shelters, China has constructed many more similar habitats since the military standoff erupted last April/May, and clearly demonstrates its intent to keep troops in the frontlines for a while.
A senior officer said that while the PLA is feeling the heat of its combat deployments at Ladakh, it has also been forced into extensive construction and indefinite forward deployments. The PLA troops’ morale has been affected because it costs money. He added that Chinese soldiers were not used to working in the harsh mountainous terrain. In eastern Ladakh, both India and China continue to maintain around 50,000 soldiers each, supported by howitzers, tanks, and surface-to-air missile systems in the ‘immediate depths’.
The uneasy calm has been due to both armies rotating their troops due to the harsh terrain and oxygen deprivation in the high-altitude area, as well as deploying aircraft and drones to keep an eye on each other. China has also developed several new airstrips and helipads along the 3,488-km-long LAC that stretches from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, apart from upgrading its major air bases like Hotan, Kashgar, Gargunsa (Ngari Gunsa), Lhasa-Gonggar and Shigatse to accommodate additional fighters and bombers.
Aside from several other anti-aircraft systems, the PLA has deployed two S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries of Russian origin to counter any air strikes from India. Another source said it is currently testing a S-400 system-related phased array target acquisition radar at Gargunsa. In addition to shipping S-400s to India this year, an agreement with Russia inked in October 2018 calls for it to receive a total of 5 of the aircrafts by the year end.