Daulat Beg Oldie Sector
Of the possible triggers cited for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) targeting of Indian territory along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the construction of the 255-km long Darbuk-Shyokh-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) all-weather road is possibly the most consequential.
About Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) Sector
- 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.
- 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, with the landing of an Antonov An-32.
Strategic significance of DBO
- The DSDBO highway provides the Indian military access to the section of the Tibet-Xinjiang 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
- 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.
- An alternative route exists from Leh to Daulat Beg Oldie through the 17,500-ft-high Sasser Pass that was part of the ancient Silk Route connecting Leh to Yarkand. It leads from the Nubra Valley into the Upper Shyok Valley en route to China’s Karakoram Pass, indicating the topographical and strategic interlinking of the entire disputed region between India and China and to a lesser extent, Pakistan.