Monday, May 20, 2013

Chinese roads in Aksai Chin

I have started tracing the roads and trying to mark Chinese military installations in Aksai Chin using Google Earth imagery. Let me start with roads. The image attached shows the roads I was able to find. They are in green. The main highway from Tibet to Xinjiang is marked in blue. But first a few comments.

I have been unable to find any trace of broad metalled roads right up to the border. Roads do reach up to the border in a some areas. Most roads other than the G219 may have long sections that are dirt tracks, albeit used and maintained.

The flat plains of Aksai Chin seem suitable for roads that run in nearly a straight line for tens of kilometers. In some areas the roads simply go over rivers with no bridge. It appears that these rivers are mostly little streams which occasionally flood perhaps in springtime or after the sparse rains that Aksai Chin gets.

I have not yet been able to find and extensive network of roads connecting the G219 with the LAC areas. Since I manually traced every km I was able to see if there was much traffic. There is very little traffic. Hardly 5-6 trucks in hundreds of km.  Either the traffic is really light or it moves at night. Many of the roads are iced up - probably frost. All are above 5 km in altitude.

I did note some installations that looked like tunnels in the mountainside for military use, but I will leave that for later. The land in areas  is so flat that in many places traffic can probably simply bypass the road creating parallel tracks - but I did not see to much evidence of  that. There appear to be thousands of hectares of land with little evidence of human habitation or use, much of it mountainous.


  1. Hello Bennedose,

    Can you put up a .kmz file with all the installations that you have located using GE?

    There are three Chinese pucca structures close to the DBO area. I call these Blue Roof House, Red Roof House (both about 5 km away from LAC) and Grey Roof House (about 10 kms away from LAC).

    Blue Roof House and Red Roof House are situated on the reverse slope of a small hill overlooks the DBO TAQ HQ road. There is something that appears to be an OP/LP of some kind proximate to Red Roof House. The placement of this OP/LP is baffling to me - it is on the top of the slope, silhouetted against the sky!! There is a pucca structure in the OP/LP, a kind of elevated pillbox.

    I think Blue Roof House and Red Roof House can easily billet a few platoons worth of troops. No artillery positions are in sight here. This may be in keeping with the treaty requirements.

    I think there may be more OP/LPs just over the ridge line but I can't see them very clearly on GE. I can see a bunch of nullah leading down the forward slope, I think that is where I would situate OP/LPs.

    The Grey Roof House is further away from the border, it is much bigger, well fortified and appears to have arty emplaced around it. There are what appears to be two large sheds here. I suspect this where a mobile QRF is situated. I would not be surprised if they have tanks there.

  2. The problem with Salami slicing stuff is that every little detail matters.

    GE resolution is too poor to see sanghars.

  3. I found red roof and blue roof house, but there are other structures. Will work on them in due course . Right now I am simply putting marks for later ref

  4. Okay, folks, I found several articles including UK ones regarding KKH expansion, but our own IDSA has produced a paper 2012 with lots of details.

    KKH expansion from 10 meters to 30 meters: signed 2006, started 2008; China part complete, as of 2012 only 17% of Pakistan part complete.

    Project involves building/rebuilding many tunnels and bridges. It is to become all-weather for heavy cargo trucks

    $510-million, of which 30% is Pakistan (I was wrong when I said all is Chinese money).

    The railway will cost $10-million a kilometer; from other sources I learn that though MOUs have been signed and surveys done, no go ahead approval has been given due internal security situation.

    This article and other news has raised by blood pressure considerably. I absolutely refuse to accept that we cannot also build highways in Eastern Ladakh. Taking just one Indian project, Delhi Metro, the bulk of it was built in half the time the US takes and people who have traveled on it say it is up to world standard. Okay, Delhi Metro is not Ladakh. At the same time, Indians CAN do world class work. Look at the new coal ports coming up: again, in half the time Western companies build such things.

  5. Hello Ravi,

    I completely agree with the IDSA paper's premise that developing the KKH could be useful to Chinese interests.

    The Chinese portion of the KKH , the G-314 passes over relatively flat land and it is a very short stretch when compared with the KKH/N35 south of the pass. road widening by 3x is more feasible than expanding it by 6x.

    The work on the N35 up from Hassanabdal to Mansehra is easier to work on again as it is on relatively flat land. Beyond Mansehra, the task is much more difficult. I would say that the task of expanding the road from Mansehra to Besham Qila is about 10 times harder than work on the Mansehra-Hassanabdal portion. I would say that the work on the Besham Qila to Chilas/Gilgit is 10 times harder than the Mansehra-Besham Qila portion and the portion from Gilgit to the pass, is the hardest part to expand.

    Nothing is impossible - it is just very costly.

  6. Hello Ravi,

    Regarding the railway construction cost. I think the 10 million/kilometer is imo too low even as just the initial construction costs go. The cost of the railway line to Tibet was about ten times higher. If you include the cost of operation and upkeep the price goes up dramatically.

    I an reluctant to take numbers from random power point slides on this issue.

    There is way in project management to make the costs look good to fool the initial investors. This way involves hiding true supply-chain costs in the project. I suspect that given the shared Chinese-Pakistani talent at cooking up numbers that sound good - this is what we are seeing.

    I do not fundamentally see even the expanded KKH as a threat to India. If anything I see it as an opportunity. An opportunity that can be accessed via the Karakorum pass north of DBO and/or via the Burzil La and the Astore Valley road and/or the Uri-Muzzafarabad Road.