According to reports and satellite imagery, China’s People Liberation Army (PLA) seems to be building a new bridge across the disputed Pangong Tso in Ladakh. While the bridge itself is in China’s own territory in Khurnak, the infrastructural development should be of concern to India.
Media reports of #PangongTso allege a new bridge is under construction connecting the north & south bank of the lake, in turn enhancing road connectivity for #China's troops in the area, GEOINT of the area identifies the location & progress of the alleged structure https://t.co/b9budT3DZZ pic.twitter.com/IdBl5rkDhR— Damien Symon (@detresfa_) January 3, 2022
The construction of the bridge has been going on for over two months now, and is just 25-30 km from the LAC.
WHY IS CHINA CONSTRUCTING THE BRIDGE?
The Print reported citing sources that the Chinese side would be able to counter India from its strategic point at Kailash Heights through the bridge. They will also be able to avoid an August 2020-like operation by the Indian security forces.
India captured strategic heights on the Kailash range in August 2020 that overlooked the Chinese Moldo garrison. It is located near the Southern banks of Pangong Tso. This gave the Indian side negotiating power during disengagement talks following the Chinese occupation of a few areas inside Indian territory in 2020.
China's frenzied construction of a long bridge connecting Lake Pangong's northern and southern banks only highlights India's folly in vacating the strategic Kailash Heights. The bridge is aimed at preempting any new operation of the type India pulled off at the Kailash Heights.— Brahma Chellaney (@Chellaney) January 3, 2022
However, the Indian side vacated the Kailash Heights as part of the disengagement agreement.
The bridge is not the only Chinese overture near the border with India. As 2021 came to an end and a new year began, China seemed to be bent on sending out passive-aggressive messages.
1. THE LAND BORDER LAW
China’s new law on its land borders came into effect on January 1, 2022. While this may be a domestic law, it does impact India as it forms part of China’s psychological warfare or lawfare. By giving the land borders issue a law, the Chinese government aims to shape the public opinion in China and in the opposing country.
In other words, it aims to legitimise its claims. Moreover, the law also encourages the development of villages near the LAC. In future, China can claim the areas outside its purview citing Chinese settlement.
2. RENAMING AREAS IN ARUNACHAL PRADESH
On December 31, 2021, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece Global Times wrote that China had standardised the names of areas in ‘Zangnan’, the Chinese name for Arunachal Pradesh. This provoked a strong rebuttal by the MEA, which said that the sovereign status of the area doesn’t change with a few names being renamed by China.
Arunachal Pradesh has always been, and will always be an integral part of India. Assigning invented names to places in Arunachal Pradesh does not alter this fact: MEA on reports that China has renamed some places in Arunachal Pradesh in its own language pic.twitter.com/OADXp9v98u— ANI (@ANI) December 30, 2021
3. GALWAN VALLEY FLAG PROPAGANDA
A Chinese state-affiliated media Twitter account and Global Times tweeted a video of the Chinese PLA apparently marching and unfurling the Chinese flag in Galwan valley, which falls under Indian territory. However, experts said that the video doesn’t seem to have been shot in Galwan valley.
??China’s national flag rise over Galwan Valley on the New Year Day of 2022.This national flag is very special since it once flew over Tiananmen Square in Beijing. pic.twitter.com/fBzN0I4mCi— Shen Shiwei沈诗伟 (@shen_shiwei) January 1, 2022
The video was soon called out for spreading propaganda. In response, the Indian security forces also posted pictures from Galwan valley holding the Indian tricolour.
4. EXCHANGING SWEETS
It is ironic that the flag propaganda video came soon after Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged sweets at LAC as a gesture of goodwill. Global Times in fact wrote an entire article on the incident, which reads more like a horoscope for Indo-China 2022 relations.
5. SENDING WARNING LETTERS TO INDIAN POLITICIANS
If the above wasn’t enough, the Chinese Embassy in Delhi shot off letters to a few MPs including a Union minister registering their strong opposition over their visit to a dinner event hosted by the Tibetan Parliament in exile.
One can only wonder what new stunt China plans to pull next.