China is building a new structure connecting the north and south banks of Pangong Lake after completing its old bridge last month, satellite images have shown. The new structure looked visibly broader than the earlier bridge already completed.
Work on the under-construction adjacent structure that ran parallel to the older one seemed to have begun sometime between late March and early April this year.
Imagery showed simultaneous construction on both the north and south banks of the lake. The location of the new structure is strategically important to Chinese ground forces operations in the region. The new bridge will likely be supported by a network of new roads also currently under construction in the area.
The Government of India has termed the Chinese construction near eastern Ladakh ‘illegal’. “The government has taken note of a bridge being constructed by China on Pangong Lake. This bridge is being constructed in areas that have continued to be under the illegal occupation of China since 1962. The Government of India has never accepted this illegal occupation,” Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan told Parliament earlier this year when the construction was first reported.
India and China have held several rounds of military-level talks as well as diplomatic meetings to resolve the border standoff between the two sides. However, these engagements have failed to stop new construction near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at several locations. Publicly available commercial satellite imagery has provided evidence of China expanding an infrastructure network at several key locations along the border spanning from Ladakh to Sikkim.
According to China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, foreign ministers of BRICS nations, including India and China, are expected to meet on May 19. Next month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are also expected to attend the 13th BRICS summit virtually.
Overview of the new bridge at Pangong Lake.
Experts believe that the Chinese bridge is a key part of the Chinese efforts to prevent an August 2020-like situation. Indian armed forces exploited the slow response of the Chinese and conducted a surprise operation that resulted in gaining control of critical positions on the Kailash heights.
The new bridge is expected to cut down the time Chinese forces would take to move assets to permanent positions at Rutog. The additional width of the new parallel structure indicated an increased capacity to transport heavier machinery and military vehicles from one end of the Pangong lake to the other.