China's National Highway 219 which runs across the disputed Aksai Chin region.
DHARAMSHALA, July 12: Exactly 50 years after the 1962 Sino-Indian War, China is repaving the Xinjiang-Tibet national highway, which runs through the disputed Aksai Chin region in north India.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency on Wednesday quoted local authorities in Yecheng county of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region as saying that the repaving of the highway 219, running through the Aksai Chin region that India holds claims to, will be completed next month.
China laid control over Aksai Chin, a high altitude desert, and established the current Line of Actual Control following the short border war. Despite the region being nearly uninhabitable, it remains strategically important for China as it connects Tibet and East Turkistan, China’s occupied western frontiers.
In 1951, China began construction on the 1,200 km (750 mi) national highway connecting the two regions, of which 179 km (112 mi) ran across Aksai Chin.
India learned of the existence of the road only after it was completed in 1957 and was shown in Chinese maps published in 1958.
According to experts, the completion of the secret highway had given wind to simmering tensions and border skirmishes between the two Asian giants leading up to the 1962 war.
The Xinhua report said the repaving of the strategic highway, the first since its construction, began in September 2010 and cost three billion yuan ($476 million).
Earlier this year, a hard-hitting report by an independent group of Indian analysts had warned that China may resort to territorial grabs on India, including through a "major military offensive."
"Our frontiers with China have been mostly stable for some years now. However, China could assert its territorial claims (especially in the Arunachal sector or Ladakh) by the use of force," the report titled "Non-Alignment 2.0: A Foreign and Strategic Policy for the 21st century" said.
The report argued that India can't "entirely dismiss the possibility of a major military offensive in Arunachal Pradesh or Ladakh" and suggest a response with "a strategy of quid pro quo.”
In the event of a “land grab,” the report said that India will need "a mix of defensive and offensive capabilities" and recommended that India must prepare itself to trigger an insurgency in the areas occupied by Chinese forces and develop the capability to interdict the logistics and military infrastructure in Tibet.