New Delhi (NVI): Ngari Gunsa airport, a dual-use military and civil airport constructed by China in Tibet Autonomous Region has now connected Ngari, a remote prefecture in the region to the rest of China, says a report by People’s Daily.
The development carries significance as it comes amid the ongoing stand-off between India and China over border row in Ladakh. Even as troops on both sides have stepped back at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), both the countries have spiked up efforts to boost border infrastructure in case of any emergency.
Ngari prefecture is home to over 1,20,000 permanent residents, covering an area of 3,04,000 square kilometers, according to the report. It is nicknamed the “top of the roof of the world” for its average altitude of over 4,500 meters. The airport is located t 14,002 feet which makes it among the highest in the world.
Shiquanhe township is the seat of the Ngari administrative office, which is over 1,300 kilometers from its nearest city, Hotan in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the north, 1,400 kilometers from Tibet’s capital Lhasa, and 5,100 kilometers from Beijing.
Before the Ngari Gunsa Airport, roads were the major way of transportation for the people in Ngari to go to Hotan, and Tibet’s Shigatse and Lhasa before. The airport, southwest to Shiquanhe township, was officially put into operation in 2010, an executive at the airport was quoted as saying by the daily, adding that the trip to Lhasa would always take at least 40 hours.
The airport also shortens the travel time between Ngari and Lhasa from over 40 hours to two hours, and allows residents in the prefecture to arrive in China’s major cities within one day.
Although Ngari airbase is close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the fighter jets deployed at such a high altitude can only carry limited war-loads and fuels.
In the worst ever flare-up of tensions between India and China at LAC since 1967, troops from both sides engaged in a violent clash with each other in Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh on June that led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers.
The two countries have engaged in military and diplomatic level talks in the past few weeks to normalise the situation along LAC.
Tibet is at the core of India’s ongoing border tensions with China as the region has witnessed years of oppression by Beijing. India has hosted the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader for years, apart from giving refuge to lakhs of Tibetans.
On Monday, the members of Tibetan government-in-exile celebrated the 85th birthday of the Dalai Lama at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. Dharamsala also hosts the seat of Tibetan Government in exile.