China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has, for the first time, commissioned new, modern barracks for soldiers and to station heavy artillery close to the disputed Sino-India border in the Ngari region of Tibet as part of its “preparations for war” and “concealment,” a state media report has said.
The permanent barracks have been constructed in the backdrop of ongoing border tension, replacing older, temporary housing facilities for PLA’s border troops in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
It’s possibly the first confirmation of satellite imagery released earlier this year, which suggested massive construction activity near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ngari including for an aircraft base in Ngari prefecture.
Though not confirming PLA deployment numbers, the report and the photos give an indication of the deployment size – which is clearly large.The new facility is located at an altitude of nearly 15,000 feet and could be close to one of the primary battle fronts during the 1962 Sino-India war.
The Ngari prefecture borders India, Nepal and China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and is considered TAR’s most remote region; it is the prefecture with the lowest population density in China. Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar are located in the prefecture.
Part of the Demchok area, a flashpoint in the Sino-India boundary dispute, is in the prefecture
The report by national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) did not share details about how long it took to build the barracks or when construction started, but said several new construction techniques were used to build the facilities, indicating a short construction time.
The PLA released multiple photos of the new facility, showing the sprawling complex including massive buildings and facilities for keeping artillery guns.
“While facilitating the daily life of officers and soldiers to the greatest extent, the new generation of barracks also highlights the concept of service and preparation for war,” the report released on October 2 in Mandarin said.
Giving details, the report said “…stairs and corridors in the dormitory area of officers and soldiers have been widened to facilitate the rapid assembly of personnel; the war preparation material warehouse and garages have been seamlessly connected to facilitate the rapid loading and dispatch of troops in emergency situations.”
The report added that the commissioning of the new generation of barracks will also help shorten the plateau adaptation-period needed by recruits and reduce the incidence of altitude sickness among guards and soldiers.
“…in view of the high-cold and high-altitude environment of the plateau, the design and construction of the new generation of barracks focusses on heat preservation, energy saving and concealment.”
Diplomats and military commanders from the two countries have held several rounds of talks to defuse the tension at the boundary and disengage troops since the current standoff began in May.
The latest virtual meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs, held last week, provided both sides an opportunity to review the situation along the LAC and to hold “frank and detailed discussions” on developments since the body’s last meeting on August 20, India’s external affairs ministry said in a statement.
Both the Indian statement and a readout in Mandarin from China’s foreign ministry said the two sides “positively evaluated” the outcome of the sixth military commanders’ meeting on September 21.