SINGAPORE – China appears to have added new structures near the site of a deadly border clash with India in the western Himalayas, recent satellite imagery shows, raising concerns about new outbreaks among nuclear-armed neighbors.
Indian and Chinese military commanders agreed Monday to withdraw from a multi-week standoff at various locations along their disputed border following the June 15 clash in the Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
Satellite images showing the new construction activity in the week after the brutal hand-to-hand combat underscore the challenge of the pullout and the risk that the deal will still crumble due to overlapping claims in the arid territory.
Images taken Monday by US space technology firm Maxar Technologies show what appear to be sprawling Chinese structures on an elevated terrace overlooking the Galwan River.
India says the area where the structures have arisen is on its side of the fuzzy and fuzzy Current Control Line or the de facto border between the two Asian giants.
China says the entire Galwan Valley, located at about 14,000 feet, is its territory and blames Indian troops for sparking the fighting.
The new activity includes camouflaged tents or covered structures against the base of the cliff, and within walking distance, a possible new camp under construction with walls or barricades. The camp was not seen in images made available to Reuters the previous week.
Nathan Ruser, a satellite data expert at the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy, said the accumulation suggests there is little sign of a decline.
“Satellite images from the Galwan Valley on June 22 show that ‘disconnection’ is not really the word the (Indian) government should be using,” he said in a Twitter post.
On the Indian side, defensive barriers can be seen in the latest images that were not visible in the images taken in May. An Indian post appears to have been scaled down compared to the pictures from a month ago.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the apparent activity.
India’s defense ministry also did not respond to a request for comment.
Indian military officials have previously said they will closely monitor the planned disconnection process and verify it on the ground.
“There is a confidence deficit when it comes to the Chinese,” said former Indian Army chief Deepak Kapoor.
“So if they tell us verbally that they are ready to withdraw, we will wait to see him on the ground. Until then, the military will be on alert.”