May 2022
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Proposed China-Pak road makes demilitarisation in Siachen difficult
New Delhi, The Indian Army continues to maintain highest standards of operational preparedness in Eastern Laddakh to resist any misadventure of the Chinese PLA. At the same time, China, with its all-weather ally Pakistan, plans to mount more pressure on India.

China is looking forward to develop new border crossings with Pakistan that would boost its military interoperability against Indian Army in Ladakh as well as in Kashmir. Currently, China and Pakistan are only connected through Karakoram Highway.

According to the plan, a road is going to be built connecting Yarkand in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's Muzaffarabad. The road would connect Shigar, Skardu and Astor districts of Gilgit Baltistan before finally reaching Muzaffarabad in Pak-occupied Kashmir.

UNI has learnt that the proposal for this new road was first discussed in 2016, when a Chinese delegation visited Skardu. It was initially conceived as a development project to serve economic interests of Pakistan. However, the core issue of China and Pakistan willing to unsettle India's security interests cannot be ruled out.

After a gap of few years, Pakistan instructed its public work's department (PWD) on January 15 last year to develop a project concept clearance proposal for Xinjiang-Gilgit Baltistan-Kashmir road. It aims to pave the way for a new trade route between China and Pakistan. At the same time, the joint planning also suggests deep rooted strategic objectives of the two countries as this road would open a new supply line from China to Pakistani forces deployed along the Line of Control.

According to the proposed plan, the new road will connect Yarkand in Xinjiang, enter Gilgit Baltistan and pass through Skardu City which is located near Siachen glacier, a known India Pakistan battlefield. Siachen glacier is located next to the western extreme of the LAC between India and China. The new road will also threaten India's hold over the Siachen glacier making demilitarisation in the region even more difficult for India, sources said.

Recently, Army Chief Gen MM Naravane said India is not averse to the demilitarization of the Siachen Glacier on the condition that Pakistan accepts the Actual Ground Position Line dividing the two countries' positions.

The proposed road will enable superior military mobility between Pakistan and China to counter India, sources said, adding this will provide better coordination between the militaries of the two hostile neighbours and add complications to the strategic planning of India. New Delhi is already sensitive to deepening military ties between China and Pakistan.

The road has not been constructed so far, but the increasing connectivity between China and Pakistan may further force India to deploy more resources in Siachen in order to maintain its military control in the region.

Sources said that the decision to built the new road connecting Yarkand and PoK appears to have been part of several other initiatives that the two countries took following India's decision to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019- a move that had outraged both Pakistan and China.

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