With China’s unwavering friend Russia embroiled in the Ukraine conflict, India must consider ways to avoid further disruptions in its military hardware supply lines from Moscow, as it faces a rising danger from the PLA across the LAC.
The Chinese Army’s construction of a double-span bridge connecting the north and south banks of the Pangong Tso in the Khurnak Fort area, which was occupied by the PLA in 1959, is part of Beijing’s frantic military infrastructure upgrade across the 3488-kilometer Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.
Despite the fact that the new bridge is outside India’s black LAC claim line and within Chinese Green claim, the twin span link will allow the PLA to deploy on both sides of the saltwater lake, reducing the road loop to the military base at Rudog to a direct link.
The PLA overran the entire north banks of the Pangong Tso on October 22, 1962, after the three Indian Army posts at Srijap complex, west of the new bridge and east of finger eight, were attacked by the Red Army the day before as a military response to Prime Minister Jawahar Kaul Nehru’s forward policy. This is part of the official 1962 war history.
The frenzied pace of building throughout LAC demonstrates Beijing’s single-mindedness and unwavering determination to preserve its territory and, in the worst-case scenario, constitute a direct long-term danger to India. The Chinese speed of military modernization is significantly better than that of India, which is sometimes slowed by military-civilian bureaucratic red tape.
The building of a tunnel beneath Shinku La on the Ladakh-Himachal Pradesh border for an alternate all-weather route to Leh for speedy army deployment even during peak winters is a classic example of delays on the Indian side. Due to a disagreement between the Border Roads Organization (BRO) and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) over the length of the tunnel and whether it should be linked to a national highway route, the decision to build the tunnel under Shinku La has been on hold for the past four years. It is understood that the problem has been resolved in BRO’s favour, and that a decision on the Shinku La tunnel will be made soon.
With President Vladimir Putin concentrating on the Ukraine crisis and Europe, the potential danger that the PLA offers to the Indian Army with its continual border nibbling tactics is magnified by the risk of defence hardware supply lines from Moscow to India being interrupted. With the Atmanirbhar Bharat plan for military manufacture set to take a normal conception and gestation period, India has to form quick alliances with nations like France and the United States to guarantee that the supply of hardware and ammunition is not affected by Russia’s Ukraine conflict.
While the Modi administration is in talks with both nations about participating in the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative by forming a joint venture in India, the process is anticipated to take time owing to bureaucratic bottlenecks and fiefdom battles. The Chinese danger is genuine, and the Modi government cannot be caught off guard as the Jawahar Lal Kaul government in 1962, when information incorrectly indicated that the PLA would not militarily respond to India’s forward policy in Aksai Chin.
The bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Modi and US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the QUAD summit on May 24 is significant in this regard, as Washington is eager to work with New Delhi to ensure that the military hardware supply chain is not disrupted. When PM Modi visited with President Emmanuel Macron in Paris earlier this month, France expressed similar sentiments.
While the cold warriors in India’s military bureaucracy and national security planning continue to perceive the United States through the lens of the 1971 war and its historical relations with Pakistan and China, the threat from Beijing is rising by the day, with Russia as its stated “no boundaries” friend. India needs to keep its options open and use them when the time comes.