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China draws India into new talks with airspace violations while fortifying position in occupied eastern Ladakh

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(, Aug07’22) – With talks on deescalating the tense situation along India’s eastern Ladakh border with occupied Tibet being headed nowhere, China created a new reason to hold new talks on a new issue: flying its fighter jet very close to Indian troop positions at friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Meanwhile China has been fortifying its position in the close to 1,000 sq km of India-claimed territory in eastern Ladakh it had occupied since May 2020, building watchtowers, bunkers and other infrastructure there, said Indian media reports.

A Chinese fighter jet flew very close to Indian troop positions at one of the “friction points” along the LAC in eastern Ladakh in the last week of June, which triggered an immediate response from the IAF as per the standard operating procedures. This happened in the last week of June, as reported by the Jun 9.

Referring to this situation in eastern Ladakh, a report Aug 6 said that while there are two-three Chinese fighter sorties on an average per day near the LAC, there have been “at least two confirmed incidents” of the jets even flying over the stand-off or “friction” points since the last week of June.

All such incidents trigger activation of air defence measures by the IAF (Indian Air Force), which include scrambling its Mirage-2000 and MiG-29 fighters that have been forward deployed from their peacetime bases ever since the border row erupted with China over two years ago.

“There is no strict pattern as such but Chinese air activity, including by reconnaissance aircraft, has certainly gone up a lot all along the 3,488-km long LAC, especially in the eastern Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh sectors,” the report quoted an Indian source as saying.

The new development is seen as a direct result of China having systematically upgraded all its major air bases facing India like Hotan and Kashgar in occupied East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and Gargunsa and Shigatse in occupied Tibet over the last two years.

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India strongly objected to these recent airspace violations and breach of confidence-building measures by China during a special round of military talks between the two countries on Aug 2, the report said.

The Indian military delegation led by a Major General raised the need to curb the “provocative behaviour” of Chinese fighters flying close to the LAC during the meeting with his People’s Liberation Army counterpart at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point in eastern Ladakh.

An Air Commodore from IAF’s operations branch was reported to have been specially included in the Indian delegation to discuss the “heightened Chinese air activity” in the region since June, which has seen Chinese fighters often violate the 10-km no-fly zone CBM along the LAC.

The extended runways, hardened shelters or blast pens and fuel storage facilities at these airbases means the PLA-Air Force (PLAAF) can now deploy more J-11 and J-8 fighters, long-range bombers and reconnaissance aircraft there, the report said.

This is seen as having slightly offsets the advantage IAF has over the PLAAF, which suffers from a terrain constraint because the weapon and fuel-carrying capacity of its jets is limited due to the high-altitude and rarefied air in the occupied Tibetan region.

The report added that India, on its part, was keeping all its airbases facing the northern borders on a high operational alert, having inducted frontline Sukhoi-30MKI, MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar fighters there two years ago.

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Meanwhile, the Chinese military is fortifying its position inside Indian territory it has occupied since 2020, erecting watchtowers mounted with CCTV cameras at the Depsang Plains and Hot Springs in Ladakh, reported Aug 5, citing The Telegraph.

“Ground reports suggest that China’s army has continued with its constructions in the friction areas along the LAC,” an official of ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) – which guards the disputed Line of Actual Control along the India-China border – has said.

The report said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had erected more watchtowers at Hot Springs and the Depsang Plains in Ladakh where the Chinese were “said to be entrenched 18km inside India-claimed lines”.

The fortifications were stated to have been set up in areas where the Indian and Chinese militaries had been engaged in a standoff since May 2020. Though there has been some disengagement during talks, the Chinese have not fallen back from Depsang Plains and Hot Springs. The 16th round of military talks between the two countries, held last month, failed to achieve any breakthrough to restore status quo as of Apr 2020, the report noted.

The Telegraph has said China is estimated to have taken over close to 1,000 sq km of India-claimed territory in eastern Ladakh since May 2020.

A recent intelligence report was also cited as suggesting China had built new bunkers in “occupied” territory along the LAC and fortifying other infrastructure inside Indian territory in Ladakh.

“We are keeping a close watch. The ongoing constructions by the Chinese army (on the Indian side of the LAC) are in complete violation of the border agreement,” The Telegraph has quoted a defence ministry source as saying.


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