'China was building military infra amid Doklam talks'

'China was building military infrastructure along LAC amid attempts to repair bilateral ties post-Doklam'

Modi and Xi had held the first “informal summit” at Wuhan in central China in April 2018. Credit: AP/PTI/file photo.

China started building at least 13 new military positions along the disputed boundary with India during the period when the two sides were trying to mend the bilateral relations, which were strained by June-August 2017 military stand-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan.

A report by the leading geopolitical intelligence platform, Stratfor Worldview, revealed that China started construction of at least 13 new military positions, including three air bases, five permanent air defence positions and five heliports near its Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India after the 72-day-long standoff at Doklam in Bhutan in 2017.

It was the same period when New Delhi and Beijing had a series of engagements, including between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“The 2017 Doklam crisis appears to have shifted China’s strategic objectives, with China more than doubling its total number of airbases, air defence positions, and heliports near the Indian border over the past three years,” Sim Tack, a military analyst, wrote in a report on Stratfor.

The report indicated that China stepped up construction of military infrastructure along its LAC with India in the months leading to April-May this year, when the current stand-off in eastern Ladakh started.

An infographic published by Stratfor Worldview along with the report indicated that China had just one heliport and one air defence site near its disputed boundary with India in Tibet in 2016. But it substantially expanded and upgraded its military infrastructure in the area after the 2017 stand-off between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in western Bhutan.

China in 2019 not only built four air-bases and four air defence sites, but also a heliport and an electronic warfare station near its LAC with India.

Modi and Xi had held the first “informal summit” at Wuhan in central China in April 2018. They had built on the “positive momentum” and held three other bilateral meetings on the side-line of multilateral conclaves at Qingdao, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires by December 2018. New Delhi had agreed with Beijing after the meeting in Buenos Aires that the series of engagements between the leaders had brought about a “perceptible improvement” in the bilateral relations.

The Prime Minister had the second “informal summit” with the Chinese President at a seaside resort near Chennai in October 2019.

The report by the Stratfor Worldview, however, revealed that China was expanding military infrastructure even when it was continuing engagements with India.