Shaksgam Valley, China (Agencies): China’s recent construction of a road in the Shaksgam Valley, along the borders of the Chinese province of Xingjiang and Pakistani Kashmir, has reignited tensions in the region. The Indian army is reportedly analyzing the strategic impact of the new road, which enters the lower Shaksgam valley from the Aghil Pass. The road’s endpoint is a mere 30 miles from the Indian position over the Siachen Glacier.

The Shaksgam Valley, part of the larger Trans-Karakoram tract, has been a contentious issue since its transfer by Pakistan to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) under the 1963 Sino-Pakistan Agreement. This transfer, regarded by India as illegal, has fueled longstanding territorial disputes in the northern areas of Pakistani Kashmir and Ladakh.

The Trans-Karakoram tract has become a focal point of geopolitical significance, mainly due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The CPEC, a flagship project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), aims to connect China’s Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port through a network of energy, logistics, and transportation-related infrastructure projects.

However, the corridor passes through territories of Pakistani Kashmir, particularly Gilgit-Baltistan, which makes the Chinese-funded project unacceptable to India. This latest road construction in the lower Shaksgam Valley through the Aghil Pass has added another layer to the complex web of territorial disputes in Northern Ladakh.

The new road extending closer to the Siachen Glacier, a region of strategic importance for India due to its high altitude, which provides a dominant military position, directly challenges India’s security interests in the India-Pakistan-China trisection near Siachen.

India has consistently opposed Chinese infrastructure projects in the area, viewing them as a violation of its territorial integrity. The emergence of a second Chinese road intersection in the Karakoram, this time through the Aghil Pass in the Shaksgam Valley, represents a significant development.

China’s actions in the Shaksgam Valley can be interpreted as a move to assert its permanent claim over the territory, to reduce its reliance on the Khunjerab Pass for the CPEC, and to neutralize India’s strategic advantage in the Karakoram and Trans-Karakoram tract.

The implications of this development are concerning for India, as it brings twin threats in close proximity to the Siachen Glacier. With China now asserting its presence in the north of the valley and Pakistan maintaining its military presence to the west and south, India faces a complex security challenge that requires careful navigation and strategic planning.

The situation is compounded by the ongoing conflict between India and China in the Depsang plains sector just to the East of Siachen, which has witnessed unprecedented mobilization by both sides since the Galwan conflict in June 2020.

By Media

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