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Shaksgam Valley: Why Indian Army is worried with China road at 16,000 ft in Shaksgam Valley

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The Indian Army is set to analyze the military implications of China’s construction of a road in the Shaksgam Valley. This move comes amidst concerns that Beijing’s physical occupation in the region could potentially threaten Indian defenses in the Siachen Glacier area. The 5180 square kilometers of Indian territory in the Shaksgam Valley was illegally ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963.

India recently lodged a strong protest against the Chinese road construction, both in Delhi and Beijing. The road is believed to be part of an alignment that aims to link the Karakoram Highway to the Upper Shaksgam Valley, which borders the Siachen Glacier. This new road passes through the 16333 feet Aghil Pass and could provide an alternative route to the Karakoram Pass via Upper Shaksgam and further to the Khunjerab Pass in the Northern Areas of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

The construction of this road is a matter of serious concern for India. If China extends the road to the Upper Shaksgam Valley, it would pose a dual threat to Indian positions on the Siachen Glacier from both Pakistan in the South and China in the North. It is logical to assume that the Indian Army will need to plan long-term defenses to address Chinese expansion in the Occupied Shaksgam Valley.

While the current road construction is a patch between two potential alignments in the long term, it is evident that China aims to connect Lower and Upper Shaksgam Valley through roads and military outposts. This move is seen as an attempt to pressure Indian Army positions on the Siachen Glacier and Saltoro Ridge. However, the area is largely glaciated, with high mountains on all sides, and is dominated by the K2 peak and the Concordia complex.

India has raised the issue of the Shaksgam Valley in the Special Representative Dialogue on Boundary Resolution. The last meeting was held in December 2019. Despite Indian Special Representative Ajit Doval’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of BRICS in South Africa on July 24, 2023, the SR dialogue has been largely inactive since the Chinese PLA transgressed in East Ladakh in May 2020, disregarding all bilateral agreements. The clash between Indian troops, led by Colonel Santosh Babu, and the PLA at Galwan on June 15, 2020, further strained relations between the two countries.

India has lodged at least two protests in the past two years against road construction in the Shaksgam Valley. These actions demonstrate India’s commitment to protecting its territory and ensuring that road construction is halted in the illegally occupied region.

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