Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Strategic importance of Daulat Beg Oldie, Ladakh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shyok river, Nubra Valley, Sassar la pass

Mains level : Read the attached story

In the reporting on the LAC stand-off, the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road has often appeared in news.

Practice questions for mains:

Q. Discuss how India’s all-weather border infrastructure has created new festering points for the Sino-Indian border skirmished.

Daulat Beg Oldie

  • DBO is the northernmost corner of Indian Territory in Ladakh, in the area better known in Army parlance as Sub-Sector North.
  • DBO has the world’s highest airstrip, originally built during the 1962 war but abandoned until 2008 when the Indian Air Force (IAF) revived it as one of its many Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) along the LAC.

The DSDBO Road

  • DSDBO is an all-weather 255-km long road 255-km long built by India over nearly 20 years.
  • Running almost parallel to the LAC, the DSDBO road, meandering through elevations ranging between 13,000 ft and 16,000 ft, took India’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO) almost two decades to construct.
  • Its strategic importance is that it connects Leh to DBO, virtually at the base of the Karakoram Pass that separates China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region from Ladakh.

A trigger for PLA incursions

  • Of the possible triggers cited for the PLA targeting of Indian Territory along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, the construction of DSDBO all-weather road is possibly the most consequential.
  • The Chinese build-up along the Galwan River valley region overlooks and hence poses a direct threat to the DSDBO road.

Significance of DSDBO Road

  • The DSDBO highway provides the Indian military access to the section of the Tibet-Xinjaing highway that passes through Aksai Chin.
  • The road runs almost parallel to the LAC at Aksai Chin, the eastern ear of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state that China occupied in the 1950s, leading to the 1962 war in which India came off worse.
  • The DSDBO’s emergence seemingly panicked China, evidenced by the 2013 intrusion by the PLA into the nearby Depsang Plains, lasting nearly three weeks.
  • DBO itself is less than 10 km west of the LAC at Aksai Chin. A military outpost was created in DBO in reaction to China’s occupation of Aksai Chin.
  • It is at present manned by a combination of the Army’s Ladakh Scouts and the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

Other strategic considerations

  • To the west of DBO is the region where China abuts Pakistan in the Gilgit-Baltistan area, once a part of the erstwhile Kashmir principality.
  • This is also the critical region where China is currently constructing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), to which India has objected.
  • As well, this is the region where Pakistan ceded over 5,180 sq km of PoK to China in 1963 under a Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement, contested by India.

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