China, India border dispute could flare again after China builds structures in Galwan Valley
One week after a deadly border clash between Chinese and Indian troops in Ladakh, in the Kashmir region, new satellite images show Chinese structures have been built and that there are vehicles in the area.
- One week ago 20 Indian soldiers were killed during clashes in the disputed region
- Satellite images appear to show that China has built structures and has trucks in the area
- India says the area where China has built the structures is on its side of the border
Indian and Chinese military commanders had agreed on Monday to step back from a weeks-old standoff at several locations along their disputed border
The new construction activity on the Chinese side is heightening concerns about further flare-ups between the nuclear-armed neighbours after the last incident in the Galwan Valley, on June 15, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
The pictures shot on Monday by US-based space technology firm Maxar Technologies show what appear to be extensive Chinese structures on a raised river terrace overlooking the river.
India says the area where the structures have sprung up are on its side of the poorly defined border.
On Thursday India’s foreign ministry accused China of escalating tensions and being in violation of bilateral agreements.
India and China’s border dispute
Why are troops from two nuclear-armed countries clashing with sticks and stones, and how did this decades-long dispute begin?
“At the heart of the matter is that since early May the Chinese side had been amassing a large contingent of troops and armaments along the LAC,” ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said in New Delhi.
“This is not in accordance with the provisions of our various bilateral agreements.”
China says the whole of Galwan Valley, located at about 4,300m above sea level is its territory and blames Indian troops for triggering the clashes.
The new activity includes camouflaged tents or covered structures against the base of a cliff, and a short distance away, a potential new camp under construction with walls or barricades.
The camp was not seen in pictures made available to Reuters the previous week.
Nathan Ruser, a satellite data expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the build-up suggested there was little sign of de-escalation.
“Satellite imagery from the Galwan Valley on June 22nd shows that ‘disengagement’ really isn’t the word that the (Indian) Government should be using,” he said in a post on Twitter.
On the Indian side, defensive barriers can be seen in the latest images which were not visible in pictures taken in May.
An Indian forward post appears to be scaled back compared with images from a month ago.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the apparent activity.
Indian military officials have previously said they will be closely monitoring the planned disengagement process and verify it on the ground.
“There is a trust deficit so far as the Chinese are concerned,” said former Indian army chief Deepak Kapoor.
“So if they are telling us verbally they are ready to pull back, we will wait to see it on the ground. Until then the armed forces will be on alert.”