China is back in North Doklam with Armoured Vehicles, Helipads and Observation Tower

The Doklam conflict between Indian and China may have been resolved but the Chinese activity in the area has not gone down. A report in The Print claims that China has almost completely taken control of the northern side of the disputed plateau.

Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat had said a few days ago that China had been keeping its troops in North Doklam. “This is disputed territory between Bhutan and China. There has been a reduction in the strength of Chinese troops there. But there is the possibility that they could come back (in force) after the winter. We have to wait-and-watch,” he said.

The Print report says satellite images from December 10 show concrete posts, seven helipads, new trenches and several dozen armoured vehicles close to the point where the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops were locked in a 72-day confrontation last year.

TOI had reported on December 11 that 1,600-1,800 Chinese troops had virtually established a permanent presence in the Doklam area, near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction, with the construction of two helipads, upgraded roads, scores of pre-fabricated huts, shelters and stores to withstand the freezing winter in the high-altitude region.

“These are first images that show the extent of the Chinese deployment at Doklam – and indicate a likely permanent PLA deployment, retaining the capability to construct the contested road at short notice,” says the Print report.

The report says there is at least one complete mechanised regiment of possibly ZBL-09 IFVs or infantry fighting vehicles, and there is also a strong possibility of another mechanised regiment under camouflage nets.

“There is a very tall observation tower, at least two storeys high, constructed with cement concrete less than 10 metres from the most forward trench occupied by the Indian Army,” says the report. “The elevation profile of this tower suggests that it can observe the entire Gnathang Valley from Kupup to Zuluk. The entire movement of the Indian Army beyond Kupup can also be very clearly observed by the PLA.”

The report says a large number of fighting posts have been created on almost every hillock on North Doklam plateau, and numerous areas have been dug out, possibly to accommodate troops under camouflage at a later date.

“At least seven new helipads have been constructed with permanent cemented round bases. The diameter of the helipads is 25 metres, suggesting that the largest helicopters in the PLA inventory will be able to land here,” the report says.




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