A report by India today claims that China has completed fresh constructions near Mount Kailash to deploy surface-to-air missiles (SAM) based on the recent satellite images. Based on satellite imagery, the report claims that constructions began in April this year, and while completing its plan to circle India territories in that area, China has been heavily militarizing the region which is of high importance to both Buddhists and Hindus.
Details about the SAM site
The report claims that satellite imagery, as latest as 16 August, shows there is substantial military movement in the area. Experts believe that the HQ-9 SAM system can be seen in the images under tarpaulin covers. The pattern of the deployment indicates four platforms for four or eight SAB transporters erector launchers or TELs with three radar ramps.
The SAM site is located around 90 KMs from Indian borders. In case China feels the need, it can deploy a SAM system quickly at this location. PLA did a small construction in this location under the pretext of security and convenience of pilgrims that visit Mount Kailash. China had taken over the houses of Tibetans in this area in the name of infrastructure and razed them to erect hotels and facilities.
The India Today report claims that while the area was manned earlier by a section of People’s Armed Police, the recent constructions show a full-fledged garrison with many houses and hotels built around it.
Importance of Mount Kailash
Kailash Manasarovar is one of the most important religious sites for Hindus who travel there for pilgrimage. The sacred sites around this area find mentions not only in Hindu texts but also in the Buddhist scriptures. The site has now become a war zone with extensive military presence.
China’s psychological warfare by controlling access to Kailash
Back in the late 1950s, India had control over these areas, but when China occupied Tibet, it took over areas of Mount Kailash, Manasarovar and Eastern Ladakh. Now China has been trying to control access to these areas by closing roads that may provide easier access to these areas. It keeps access open via Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand that is considered the most challenging route all year round.
India has constructed a road to Lipulekh at the India-China-Nepal tri-junction. This 80-km strategic road constructed at the height of 17,000 feet above the sea level makes the journey to Kailash Mansarovar much shorter and smoother. However, this construction has irked Nepal, who claimed that India constructed the said road in the disputed territory. Nepal went ahead and issued a new political map raising claim over several territories in India. It is believed that China is backing the communist government in Nepal to act against India.
In May, China had released two videos of tanks rolling on the road close to Manasarovar. In June it released videos depicting deployment in territories it occupied in Tibet and India. It is believed that China sees these areas as a possible path that Indian Air Force may take during hostilities.
India-China standoff in Galwan Valley
A violent face-off took place between Indian and Chinese troops on the night of 15th and 16th June. India lost 20 soldiers while China did not release any official number. Since then, India has taken several steps to curb any dependence on China, including cancelling contracts with Chinese companies and banning Chinese apps that may have been collecting personal information of the Indian citizens. There is an anti-China sentiment in the market as well that is visible during festival shopping.