China’s decision to build an airport at Tashkargon has once again exacerbated India’s anxiety as the airport is situated in the Pamir plateau in Xinjiang province which is the last significant place on the Karakoram highway before it enters Pakistan-administered- Kashmir (PaK).
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Beijing has begun developing what is believed to be the highest airport in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to reports in China daily. The airport is scheduled to be operational by June 2022.
While China has built several high-altitude airports in the past, however according to Xinjiang Airport Group, the Tashkargon airport will be the first super-high plateau airport in Xinjiang. Super-high plateau airport is as an airport located at or above 2,438 meters above the sea level.
The Tashkargon Airport will be situated at 3,252 meters above sea level in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County which could be one of the world’s highest airport, if not the highest. The Communist regime has spent a total of 1.63 billion yuan or about USD 230 million on the construction of the airport.
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The Tashkargon airport, considered to be an important project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would be equipped with a 3,800-meter runway, a 3,000-square-meter terminal and four aprons that are expected to improve the local traffic conditions and boost the development of tourist resources in the region.
The airport is designed to handle more than 160,000 passengers and 400 tonnes of cargo and mail annually. “It will create a new ‘air passage’ leading to Central Asia and South Asia,” said Zhou Xiang, deputy director of Xinjiang’s Civil Aviation Administration.
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The airport is expected to bring a lot more tourists to Taxkorgan which is a desirable tourist destination for its natural beauty and unique Tajik culture but is inaccessible currently. The construction of the airport is not as simple given that it is being built at a time of COVID-19 pandemic and the workers will also have a major obstacle in the form of high-altitude sickness.
However, the move has not gone down well with New Delhi as the construction of airport entails laying down permanent structures including highways, railway lines and energy projects in PaK which is considered as a violation by India of its sovereignty.
The airport is believed to serve a dual purpose which will mean that it will be used for civilian as well as military purposes.
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Earlier, China had also planned to build three airports close to Indian States of Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim. In the event of war, the airports can serve as launch bases for Chinese Air Force and for the deployment of troops and as well as for replenishment of supplies.
India is one of the few countries who has resisted and challenged the expansionist agenda of the communist regime and therefore worried about the grave threat that these airports pose to Indian security.