Amid the ongoing military standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, Indian agencies are closely monitoring the development of a Chinese air base in Shakche. Once developed, this military base could strengthen China’s hand along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Speaking to India Today, senior government sources said the Shakche air base is being rapidly developed further into a military airbase fit for fighter operations. These developments precede the military standoff triggered between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) last year.
China realised that the Indian Air Force (IAF) was able to move into the conflict zone much faster than the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). This realization is believed to have prompted the PLA to begin developing the air base in Shakche.
The Chinese are reportedly building a new air base between Kashgar and Hogan in order to ease PLA Air Force’s fighter combat operations.
According to sources, India has been monitoring as many as seven bases of the PLA Air Force since May of last year.
China has upgraded a number of these bases in recent years, including but not limited to the construction of hardened shelters, extension of runways and deployment of additional manpower.
India is keeping a close eye on three PLA Air Force bases opposite eastern Ladakh – Kashgar, Hotan and Ngari Gunsa. Other Chinese airbases on the radar of Indian agencies include Shigatse, Lhasa Gongkar, Nyingchi and Chamdo Pangta.
“Satellites and other forms of surveillance are being used to keep an eye on the seven Chinese military bases which are situated in Xinjiang and Tibet Autonomous Military Region,” said top government sources.