China is building a bridge to link the north and south banks of the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh, new satellite imagery has revealed.
The bridge is coming up near the Khurnak Fort, one of the narrowest points of the 134-kilometre-long Pangong Lake.
The area around Khurnak Fort was occupied by China in June 1958. In the 1962 war, China expanded its control to the Sirijap Complex, further west of the Khurnak Fort. During the war, India had posts at Sirijap while the Chinese had a base at Khurnak. The 'Fingers' area, which was occupied by Chinese forces in May 2020, leading to the standoff that still continues at some places in eastern Ladakh, is further west of the Sirijap Complex.
Large bases of the People's Liberation Army have existed at Khurnak and Sirjiap since the 1960s. The map below shows the approximate location of Khurnak Fort, Sirjiap Complex and the Fingers area.
A report in ThePrint says that China is building the bridge to counter Indian military actions of the kind seen in August 2020, when the Indian Army, aided by troops from the Special Frontier Force, captured the heights of the Kailash Range overlooking Chinese positions along the bank of the Spanggur Lake, just south of the Pangong Lake.
The construction of the bridge will help China improve its military presence on the south bank of Pangong Lake.
According to the report, the construction of the bridge will cut down the 180-kilometre distance between the north and south banks of Pangong Lake through Rudok, a PLA base located at the eastern end of the lake. With the construction of the bridge, Chinese forces from the north of the Pangong Lake will be able to get to Rudok in a relatively shorter time as the distance between Khurnak and Rudok will come down to around 50 kilometres, the report says.
The Chinese have recently built a new road around the Spanggur Lake linking the Moldo garrison with the base in Rudok. The older road, which links Moldo to Rudok, runs along the southern bank of Spanggur Lake. It had become vulnerable after India occupied the heights of the Kailash Range in August 2020.
The construction of the bridge appears to have begun recently. It is being erected using prefabricated structures, the report says, citing sources in the defence establishment.
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