Satellite images suggest Chinese activity at Himalayan border with India before clash

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Jun 18, 2020, 11:33 PM(IST)

Satellite images Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The images, shot on Tuesday, a day after soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat in the freezing Galwan Valley, show an increase in activity from a week earlier.

Beijing brought in pieces of machinery, cut a trail into a Himalayan mountainside and may have even dammed a river -- in the days leading up to the most violent border clash between India and China in decades -- as suggested by satellite pictures.

The images, shot on Tuesday, a day after soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat in the freezing Galwan Valley, show an increase in activity from a week earlier.

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in an attack by Chinese troops on Monday night at a time when top commanders had agreed to defuse tensions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), or the disputed and poorly defined border between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

IN PICS | What we know about India-China clash along LAC

China rejected the allegations and blamed frontline Indian soldiers for provoking the conflict which took place at the freezing height of 14,000 feet (4,300 metres) in the western Himalayas.

The 4,056-km (2,520-mile) border between India and China runs through glaciers, snow deserts and rivers in the west to thickly forested mountains in the east.

The Galwan Valley is an arid, inhospitable area, where some soldiers are deployed on steep ridges. It is considered important because it leads to the Aksai Chin, a disputed plateau claimed by India but controlled by China.

The satellite pictures, taken by Earth-imaging company Planet Labs and obtained by Reuters, show signs of altering the landscape of the valley through widening tracks, moving earth and making river crossings, one expert said.

The images shows machinery along the bald mountains and in the Galwan River.

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"Looking at it in Planet, it looks like China is constructing roads in the valley and possibly damming the river," the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies said.

The clash was the most serious since 1967. Since early May, soldiers have faced off on the border where India says Chinese troops had intruded and set up temporary structures. The confrontation turned into a deadly brawl on Monday.

India and China have not exchanged gunfire at the border since 1967, despite occasional flare-ups.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman rejected the Indian version of the events. "The rights and wrongs of this incident are very clear. The responsibility does not lie with China."

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