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China ramped up troop presence, infrastructure along LAC in 2022: Pentagon report

WASHINGTON (PTI): China increased the deployment of forces and continued infrastructure build-up, including underground storage facilities near Doklam, a second bridge over Pangong Lake and a dual-purpose airport and multiple helipads, along the LAC in 2022 amid border tensions with India, a Pentagon report has said.

The Indian and Chinese troops are locked in an over three-year confrontation in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh even as the two sides completed disengagement from several areas following extensive diplomatic and military talks.

According to the 'Military and Security Developments involving the People's Republic of China' report 2023: "Since early May 2020, sustained tensions along the India-China border have dominated the Western Theater Command's attention."

"Differing perceptions between India and the People's Republic of China (PRC) regarding border demarcations along the

Line of Actual Control (LAC) combined with recent infrastructure construction on both sides, led to multiple clashes, an ongoing standoff, and military buildups along the shared border," the report released by the US Department of Defence this month said.

In 2022, China continued to develop military infrastructure along the LAC, the report said.

"These improvements include underground storage facilities near Doklam, new roads in all three sectors of the LAC, new villages in disputed areas in neighbouring Bhutan, a second bridge over Pangong Lake, a dual-purpose airport near the centre sector, and multiple helipads," it said.

China also deployed one border regiment, supported by two divisions of Xinjiang and Tibet Military Districts with four combined arms brigades (CAB) in reserve in the western sector of the LAC in 2022.

"China also deployed as many as three light-to-medium CABs in the eastern sector from other theatre commands and an additional three CABs in the central sector of the LAC. Although some elements of a light CAB eventually withdrew, a majority of the deployed forces remain in place along the LAC," it said.

In response to a skirmish in June 2020 between PRC and Indian patrols in Galwan Valley, the most violent clash between the two countries in 45 years, the Western Theater Command implemented a large-scale mobilisation and deployment of People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces along the LAC, the report said.

The Galwan Valley clashes on June 15, 2020 significantly strained the bilateral ties.

The Western Theater Command's deployments along the LAC will likely continue through 2023, it said.

The report said that negotiations between India and China "made minimal progress as both sides resisted losing perceived advantages on the border".

India has maintained that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas.

The report also says China has more than 500 operational nuclear warheads and will probably have over 1,000 by 2030.

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