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Area under Chinese control rich in thorium

Sub-sector North has deposits of uranium, thorium, borax and sulphur.

SUMAN SHARMA  NEW DELHI | 4th May 2013

ub-Sector North, the area in eastern Ladakh which is witnessing Chinese incursions, is rich in minerals and natural resources such as thorium and uranium. Strategic experts say that this could be one of the reasons behind China's interest in the region. The uranium reserves discovered in Ladakh about six years ago are around 25-100 million years old, which is relatively young in geological terms. But the thorium found in this area is of high quality and as per tests done in German laboratories has been rated 5.36% compared to 0.1% found in ores in other parts of the country.

The 10,000-15,000 square kilometre area south of Shyok valley, called Puga, is rich in geothermal borax and sulphur. So the thermal discharge from the ground can be converted into electricity.

Durbuk-Tangtse is rich in granite stones. It's the same region where the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) started building a road in 2007, along Pangong lake, which would go right up to Daulat Beg Oldi in Sub-Sector North. A source told this newspaper, "More than 200 species of flora and fauna are found in the area. Since Aksai Chin is a dry plateau, China's real intention could be to divert the waters of Nubra and Shyok rivers. Since India has never taken mining and exploration of natural resources in this region seriously, there are chances that we will not find the strategic minerals existing beneath the land where China has intruded. There could be mercury, iron, nickel and coal."

Since Ladakh is governed by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, special laws govern mining and exploration work in the region, for which licence from the state is required.

A source told this newspaper, "Besides minerals, Hanle in south-east Ladakh has the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the world's highest observatory, which is a strategic asset."

Eastern Ladakh is also rich in Pashmina fibre, which brings revenue to the tune of Rs 30-50 cr to Jammu and Kashmir annually.

MILITARY AND INFRASTRUCTURE BUILD-UP

On the Chinese side of the border in Ladakh, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has an armoured division, with approximately 10,000 soldiers and light tanks. Sources say that the Chinese side has wide roads, where one can travel up to 400 km a day. The Tibet-Xinjiang Highway-217 is also highly developed. China also has an airport in the area.

Infrastructure on the Indian side is not so developed.

The Indian Army's Karu-based 3rd Div has around 10,000 troops and one mechanised infantry battalion, which has 52 ICVs (infantry carrier vehicles), which can be airlifted by IL-76 aircraft of the Indian Air Force. It can also be moved on land to a height of 11,800 feet. These are deployed for defensive purposes. There has been talk for a second mechanised unit in the area, which will comprise the indigenously made BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles (ICV), named Sarath, which will be the mainstay of this unit. Around 30 personnel of China's Frontier Force, which comes under the PLA, are said to have pitched tents 20 km inside Indian territory since 15 April. They are under the Lanzhou military division.

 
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