China is ramping up its military positions, including airbases and air defence units, along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh amid the border standoff with India that has been on since May last year, sources said.
Sources in the security establishment said China has been building additional airbases, runways and heliports along the LAC which could give them an edge over the Indian Air Force in the event of a conventional military conflict.
“An intelligence report suggests that China is building additional air bases, heliports and air defence units near the Line of Actual Control as part of rapid expansion of Chinese military infrastructure in the region,” said an Intelligence Bureau official.
A retired lieutenant general said China had better military infrastructure and, with additional airbases and air defence units, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army can deploy more fighters from its several airbases.
“Rapid expansion of China’s military infrastructure, especially air infrastructure, is a cause of concern. It gives them a slight edge in the event of a military conflict,” he said.
The IAF has also enhanced deployment of frontline jets, attack helicopters and transport fleet in its key bases along the LAC besides battle tanks, missile systems and frequent sorties by its combat aircraft.
“China has also been aggressively ramping up its air and military infrastructure in other disputed areas along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. This raises the risk of escalations and sustained conflict in these regions too, apart from Ladakh,” the veteran said.
The intelligence report has also revealed that armies of China and Pakistan have been conducting regular joint patrols in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Beijing is also said to be helping Islamabad set up multiple surface-to-air missile launch sites and a missile defence system in the region.
“As per the intelligence report, an increase in Chinese air activities has also been observed in PoK. There is a closer cooperation at military and economic level between the two countries in the region amid the ongoing border standoff and prevailing tension between India and China,” said a defence ministry official.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh had earlier hinted at the collusive threat from Pakistan and China amid the ongoing border standoff in Ladakh. India shares a 7,000km-long border with these two countries.
“We have got reports that construction activities are in full swing for setting up military infrastructure with the help of the Chinese army at several locations in PoK. The construction work for the installation of a surface-to-air missile defence system was being carried out by Pakistan Army and the (Chinese) People’s Liberation Army near Lasadanna Dhok of PoK,” said another IB official.
Joint reconnaissance has also been noticed regularly between the Chinese PLA and Pakistani troops in forward locations like Deolian and Jura in PoK.
According to the intelligence report, Chinese aircraft have been landing in Skardu in PoK for refuelling. The Skardu airbase is located around 100km from the Leh airbase on the Indian side. In the past Pakistan had conducted joint air exercises with China at the Skardu airbase.
Despite opposition from New Delhi, both Islamabad and Beijing are also building the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that traverses through the PoK which connects both the countries.