China’s military is allegedly constructing a bridge across Pangong Tso, a lake that spans a disputed Himalayan border region between northern India’s Ladakh state and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, the Times of India reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed Indian Army sources.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is allegedly constructing a bridge along a particular stretch of Pangong Tso called “Finger-8,” which is located along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The LAC is New Delhi’s official name for the unmarked Himalayan boundary separating India and China. The two nations have been engaged in a standoff in the Himalayas since June 2020, when a deadly skirmish broke out between their respective border regiments in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.
“The bridge is being constructed, with prefabricated structures, well within Chinese territory. But it will help the PLA move troops and weaponry much faster from the north to the south banks of Pangong Tso and vice versa,” an Indian Army source told the Times of India on January 3.
Media reports of #PangongTso allege a new bridge is under construction connecting the north & south bank of the lake, in turn enhancing road connectivity for #China's troops in the area, GEOINT of the area identifies the location & progress of the alleged structure https://t.co/b9budT3DZZ pic.twitter.com/IdBl5rkDhR
— Damien Symon (@detresfa_) January 3, 2022
“The Line of Actual Control (LAC) runs north to south at Finger-8 in the mountainous spurs region of the brackish 134-km [83-mile] long Pangong Tso, two-thirds of which is controlled by China as it extends from Tibet to India at an altitude of 13,900-feet,” the newspaper detailed.
China and India often refer to eight mountain spurs, or “fingers,” that jut out of Pangong Tso at regular intervals from west to east as markers to lay their respective claims to the body of water. New Delhi holds that the LAC stretches across Pangong Tso along “Finger 8,” i.e. further east, while Beijing insists the boundary crosses the lake at “Finger 4,” or further west.
The Times further claimed on Tuesday that the Chinese PLA is also building “new roads and helipads within its territory in the [Pangong Tso] region for faster troop mobility.”
Two major flareups in the latest India-China border standoff took place at Pangong Tso, first in May 2020 and again in August 2020. Roughly 250 Indian and Chinese border troops faced off near the mountain lake from May 5 to May 6, 2020, after China’s PLA “reportedly entered into Indian territory by crossing Finger 4,” India’s Scroll.in news site recalled on Tuesday. Four Indian soldiers and an estimated seven PLA troops were injured in the clash. From August 29 to August 30, 2021, Indian troops blocked what New Delhi described as a Chinese attempt to “change the status quo” of the LAC along the lake’s southern bank. Following the August 2020 military operation, India’s Army managed to deploy troops to strategically important peaks of Pangong Tso overlooking Chinese PLA camps.