HomeNewsTroops on India-China border

Troops on India-China border

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India and China build up troops, armored vehicles and fighter jets on border ahead of new military escalation

India is one of China’s rivals that Beijing is most wary of. India is a nuclear-armed military power and its population of 1.38 billion people gives it one of the largest armies on the planet. Their rivalry has much to do with the border dispute they have maintained since 1962, when the two countries – which share a 3,500 kilometer border – fought a war on the high peaks of the Himalayas that Beijing won.

Tensions between the two powers have been rising amid reciprocal accusations of military buildup and the construction of war infrastructure along the sensitive Line of Actual Control (LAC), the vague de facto border between India and China where both countries have transported tens of thousands of troops along with artillery, tanks and fighter jets in a prolonged movement that has turned this point into one of the hottest in the world.

The latest allegation has come from India, where government sources have revealed that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has deployed two dozen J-11 and J-20 fighter jets at its Hotan airbase in the eastern Ladakh sector near India. The J-20 is China’s most advanced fifth-generation fighter jet and is one of the stealthiest, so it can evade Indian radar surveillance and missile defense systems. India, on the other hand, assures that this fighter has never participated in an open conflict, so its capabilities remain unknown.

India has also moved its war machine by placing its fleet of Sukhoi-30MKI, MiG-29 and Mirage-2000 fighters in border air bases to face any possible escalation with the Chinese Air Force. India’s deployment also includes surface-to-air missiles, radar and increased drone monitoring. This weekend, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe accused India of being solely responsible for the increased tension along the LAC border line, but at the same time sent a reassuring message that “China and India are neighbors, and maintaining a good relationship satisfies the interests of both countries.”

Despite the rearmament that the area has undergone in recent years, on paper the two armies are prohibited – based on a 1996 agreement – from firing weapons, using tanks and combat vehicles as well as howitzers and flying military aircraft within ten kilometers of the LAC boundary line. However, China’s construction of military infrastructure near the border is of concern in New Delhi, which has announced in recent hours that its Army will conduct maneuvers this year with the U.S. Army at 9,000 to 10,000 feet altitude to increase the operability of its forces in high-altitude areas.

Indian media have reported that Beijing is building new airports and bases near its territory, allowing it to conduct flights at lower altitudes. A U.S. general recently called the capabilities Beijing is deploying in the area “alarming.” In recent years, the Chinese Air Force has been upgrading these military bases with new bunkers and longer runways. “In the past the Chinese used to maintain MiG-21 class fighters there, but now they have been replaced by more capable and sophisticated and more numerous aircraft,” said the same sources quoted by Eurasian Times.

India’s defeat in the 1962 war left scars that are still open. That conflict meant for India the loss of the Aksai Chin region in the sensitive Kashmir region, a key area for the Chinese authorities as it connects Xinjiang province with western Tibet. The two countries attempted a rapprochement in 1993 when they agreed to the creation of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The point of greatest border tension between China and India came in 2020, when Beijing first sent fifth-generation J-20 aircraft close to the territory to Hotan Air Base in China’s Xinjiang province. The June clash that year in the Galwan Valley left 20 Indian soldiers dead and was one of the worst in 45 years.

As if that were not enough, last week India denounced that China is building a second bridge on the Pangong Tso Lake, near the border, which would allow it to transport tanks and armored vehicles, speeding up the deployment of troops to the area thanks to this new infrastructure, which would be 450 meters long. India accuses Beijing of building this bridge in areas that have been under illegal Chinese occupation since the 1960s.

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