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Better infrastructure across LoC worries India
Presence of Chinese troops in PoK adds to threat perception
Vijay Mohan in Drass

July 26
Twelve years after the Kargil War, the biggest challenge emerging in the mountainous theatre that had seen some of the most decisive battles fought in the history of high altitude warfare, is the large-scale development of infrastructure across the Line of Control that would enhance Pakistan’s logistic capability.

Also to be factored into the emerging threat perception is the presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Though the LoC has remained peaceful since the ceasefire that came into effect in 2003, construction of highways and rail tracks in the PoK continues. Besides an effective communication between Pakistan and China, this would also facilitate rapid troop movements into the PoK.

There have been reports that about 11,000 Chinese troops are stationed in the Gilgit-Baltistan regions of the PoK, where they are purportedly involved in infrastructure development, including areas along the LoC. The Gilgit-Baltistan region is reportedly simmering with internal unrest and has serious security implications for both Pakistan and China as it adjoins other provinces in western China that are also facing unrest.

Officially, the Army maintains that the presence of Chinese troops in PoK is not a cause of immediate concern at the moment as they are engaged only in development works. “This is an arrangement between two sovereign nations and it does not pose a threat to us,” General Officer Commanding 14 Corps, Lt Gen Ravi Dastane, said. He added that the LoC was well defended with more bunkers, better technical and aerial surveillance assets and the Army was capable of dealing with any situation.

Moving along the Batalik-Kargil-Drass axis, it is easy to see the vulnerability of the strategically critical NH-1, with peaks that were occupied by Pakistani forces within a stone’s throw. Further east, the Chinese presence and reported incursions across the LAC in Ladakh have been in the limelight for quite some time.

There are concerns in some quarters about the possibility of long term or permanent presence of Chinese troops in the PoK, increase in their numbers and the possibility of a gradual ‘hemming-in’ of Ladakh from the north and the east.

Another issue that arises is the impact that the presence of Chinese troops in the PoK and along the LoC would have on the Army’s operational planning and execution of operations in case of breach of peace. Though remote, military planners will have to factor in the consequences of Chinese troops getting caught in a crossfire in the eventuality of hostilities, even if a limited cross-border conflict. Top Army commanders responsible for this sector maintained that so far there has been no change in their operational planning.

Pak-China Camaraderie

The presence of Chinese troops in PoK has to be viewed in the larger perspective with a long-term view in the backdrop of the Sino-Pakistan strategic partnership, the Chinese designs in South Asia and their claims on Indian territory. “The Chinese may be there for development works at present, but things may turn out differently later,” an officer said. It is also felt that Pakistan might use the presence of Chinese troops as a shield or deterrence against an Indian response if it ups the ante along the LoC, revives pre-Kargil plan to open new routes of infiltration into northern Kashmir or increases the level of proxy war in Kashmir. 





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