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China constructing bridge to connect Pangong Tso (lake)

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    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    5th Jan, 2022


China is constructing a bridge in eastern Ladakh connecting the north and south banks of Pangong Tso (lake), which will significantly bring down the time for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to move troops and equipment between the two sectors.

Important facts about the Bridge

  • The bridge is located in China’s territory. 
  • Construction of the bridge is taking place on the Chinese side. However, it is 25-30 km away from India’s claim of Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • The new bridge is between the closest points on two banks,
    • North Bank: On the north bank, there is a PLA garrison at Kurnak fort.
      • Historically a part of India, Khurnak Fort has been under Chinese control since 1958.
    • South Bank: On the south bank at Moldo, and the distance between the two is around 200 km.

India’s say in the region

  • India holds one-third of the 135-km-long boomerang-shaped lake located at an altitude of over 14,000 feet. 
  • The lake, a glacial melt, has mountain spurs of the Chang Chenmo range jutting down, referred to as fingers.
  • The north bank, which has much higher differences in perception of the LAC than the south bank, was the initial site of the clashes in early May 2020, while tensions on the south bank flared up later in August.
  • The Indian Army got a tactical advantage over the PLA on the south bank in August-end by occupying several peaks lying vacant since 1962, gaining a dominating view of the Moldo area. 
  • On the north bank too, the Indian troops set up posts facing PLA positions on the ridge-lines of Finger 4.

What about the Indian Army?

  • The Indian Army would have to factor the bridge in its operational plans.

How is it a significant development for China?

  • Reduction in distance: The new bridge, which is around 500 m, will bring down the movement time between the two sectors from around 12 hours to three or four hours.
  • Quick access to the Chinese army: The bridge still connects the north and south banks of the Pangong Lake, allowing the Chinese army quick access to both sides.

About the lake

  • Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake is an endorheic lake spanning eastern Ladakh and West Tibet. 
  • It is divided into five sublakes, called 
    • Pangong Tso
    • Tso Nyak
    • Rum Tso (twin lakes) 
    • Nyak Tso
  • Approximately 50% of the length of the overall lake lies within Tibet China, 40% in Ladakh India and the rest is disputed and is a de-facto buffer zone between India and China. 
  • During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. 
  • It has a land-locked basin separated from the Indus River basin by a small elevated ridge, but is believed to have been part of the latter in prehistoric times.