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China builds watchtowers inside India-claimed lines

Intelligence experts fear Beijing's plan to create a new status quo on the frontier by claiming ownership of territory they have occupied
The Chinese are estimated to have taken over close to 1,000 sqkm of India-claimed territory in eastern Ladakh since May 2020.
File picture
Imran Ahmed Siddiqui


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The Chinese army has erected additional concrete watchtowers, with several CCTV cameras atop them, inside India-claimed lines at the Depsang Plains and Hot Springs to keep an eye on Indian troop deployment, sources in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have told The Telegraph.

“Ground reports suggest that China’s army has continued with its constructions in the friction areas along the Line of Actual Control,” an official of the ITBP, which guards the China border, said.

“It has recently built more watchtowers at Hot Springs and the Depsang Plains, where the Chinese are said to be entrenched 18km inside India-claimed lines.”

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Last month, the 16th round of military talks between India and China had failed to achieve any breakthrough, with the Chinese said to be reluctant to restore status quo as of April 2020, that is, before the latest border incursions in eastern Ladakh.

Indian military veterans and intelligence experts have expressed fear that the Chinese plan to create a new status quo on the frontier by claiming ownership of territory they have occupied.

In July last year, the Chinese had for the first time built observational posts fitted with CCTV cameras inside India claimed lines, the ITBP official said.

“We then erected makeshift (unmanned) watchtower poles with digital cameras fitted on them to track Chinese army movements,” he said.

A recent intelligence report suggested the Chinese had built new bunkers in “occupied” territory along the Line of Actual Control and were fortifying other infrastructure they had constructed inside India-claimed lines 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,” a defence ministry source recently told this newspaper.

“It’s shocking that they are continuing with them despite the two countries’ armies holding talks to resolve the border standoff.”

The Chinese are estimated to have taken over close to 1,000 sqkm of India-claimed territory in eastern Ladakh since May 2020.

So far there has been “partial” Chinese disengagement from the Galwan Valley, Pangong Lake and Gogra, but at the price of Indian troops retreating inside Indian territory by an equal distance to create demilitarised “buffer zones”.

The upshot is that the Chinese still remain within India-claimed lines at these places while New Delhi faces accusations of capitulating and handing the Chinese more territory on a platter.

Hot Springs and the strategically crucial Depsang Plains have witnessed no disengagement, with the Chinese refusing to budge.

China has for months been building roads and settlements for its troops within India-claimed lines on the Depsang Plains and elsewhere, reports say.

“The Indian army too

has fortified its positions and additional forces are being

deployed,” an army official said.

In May, a ground assessment suggested the Chinese were building a second bridge on the Pangong Lake, having constructed one in January.

After satellite images showed the first Chinese bridge in January, India’s foreign ministry had played it down, saying the activity was happening in areas under “illegal occupation by China for around 60 years” — that is, not on the territory encroached on since May 2020.

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