‘China laying cables to bolster communication at Ladakh flashpoint’

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Leh: Two Indian officials said Chinese troops were laying a network of optical fibre cables south of Pangong Lake in Ladakh, suggesting they were digging in for the long haul despite high-level talks aimed at resolving a stand-off there.

Such cables, which would provide forward troops with secure lines of communication to bases in the rear, have recently been spotted to the south of Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh, a senior government official said.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to questions on the matter, while defence officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Thousands of Indian and Chinese troops backed by tanks and aircraft are locked in an uneasy stalemate along a 70 km-long front to the south of the lake.

A third Indian official said on Monday that there had been no significant withdrawals or reinforcements on either side since the foreign ministers of the two countries met last week. “It is as tense as earlier,” he said.

Above Leh, Ladakh’s main city, Indian Air Force fighter planes flew throughout the morning, their engines booming and echoing across the valley surrounded by brown, barren mountains.

“Our biggest worry is that they have laid optical fibre cables for high-speed communications,” the first official said, referring to the lake’s southern bank, where Indian and Chinese troops are only a few hundred metres apart at some points. “They have been laying optical fibre cables on the southern bank at breakneck speed,” he said.

Indian intelligence agencies noted similar cables to the north of the Pangong Tso Lake around a month ago, the second government official said. The first government official said the authorities were alerted to such activity after satellite imagery showed unusual lines in the sand of the high-altitude deserts to the south of Pangong Tso.