NEW DELHI: Indian intelligence agencies now have credible evidence of their own that several hundred of the Chinese working in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir are People’s Liberation Army engineers. They are in the process of verifying if these Chinese military engineers are engaged in some sort of military construction like bunkers.
The startling confirmation that hundreds of Chinese military engineers are in PoK has come against the stout official denial by China that its military was not present on the Pakistan side of Kashmir. In the past, US intelligence has told India about Chinese military presence in PoK.
The Chinese are involved in hydel projects, realignment of Karakoram highway etc in PoK. Presence of Chinese military engineers in civilian construction activities undertaken by China in foreign countries is “unusual”, a source said. “They couldn’t be there just for civilian work,” he pointed out.
Sources said the inputs about Chinese military presence in PoK was part of an assessment presented by the Indian Army top brass to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh , defence minister A K Antony and other senior officials a few weeks ago.
Army leadership is believed to have pointed out the significant gap in the military capabilities of India and China, especially along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries. The stark differences in the logistical capabilities such as roads and air links along the border between the two armies were pointed out to the leadership. But most importantly, Army told the political leadership that the Chinese were capable of deploying some three dozen divisions, against India’s less than a dozen divisions, along the LAC in case of hostilities.
The Army leadership is believed to have pointed out the massive air force and ground force capabilities Chinese possess in the regions along the Indian border, while urging the government to step up its own efforts to pull up development of infrastructure.
Indian infrastructure development, almost fully stalled for three decades since the 1962 war, was revived only a few years ago. Even those projects – primarily building road links close the border and reviving abandoned airfields – have run into various issues.
On the military front, while the Army is raising two divisions, IAF has deployed Sukhoi-30s closer to the Chinese border. An Army demand for raising a dedicated mountain strike corps for the China border is yet to be approved by the government.
Army leadership pointed out that the PLA was capable of swift mobilization of troops from other parts of the country, and can sustain half-a-million troops along the border for several weeks. All these capabilities, and India’s own deficiencies, could lead to Chinese being more assertive, both on border and diplomatic issues, some believe.
One official said there is no “credible and sustained” evidence on ground to show that Chinese have become more aggressive, though there are hints of it. He pointed out that as the passes open up along the border and summer patrolling increase, “whatever change is there would be visible on the ground”. Many in the establishment do not buy into an alarmist assessment, saying while China’s actions are meant to send a clear signal to India about its economic might; it is not expected to itch for a military tiff with India. (The Economic Times)