Galwan Valley: Satellite Images ‘Show China’s Structures’ on Indian Border

A satellite image shows a close-up view of road construction near the Current Control Line (LAC) border in the eastern Ladakh sector of the Galwan Valley on June 22, 2020.Image copyright
Maxar Technologies / Reuters


New satellite images show the area near Patrol Point 14 where a clash between Indian and Chinese forces took place on June 15.

China has built new structures near the site of a Himalayan border clash that left 20 Indian soldiers dead earlier this month, new satellite images suggest.

Bunkers, tents and storage units for military equipment are visible in an area where there were none last month.

The fight between the nuclear-armed powers over their disputed border has raised alarm. Chinese casualties were also reported but not confirmed.

The latest images were released as the parties hold talks to calm tensions.

The recent satellite images, dated June 22, are from space technology company Maxar. Structures that appear to have been built by China overlooking the Galwan River were not visible on aerial photographs in early June, Reuters reported.

Neither India nor China have commented.

The clash in the Galwan Valley, in the disputed Himalayan territory of Ladakh, took place on June 15, weeks after high-level military commanders from both nations agreed to “peacefully resolve the situation in border areas in accordance with various agreements bilateral “.

Since the clash, and amid spiraling rhetoric, the two nations have tried to publicly calm tensions.

A statement issued by the Indian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said that the Indian Foreign Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and the Chinese Foreign Minister, HE Wang Yi, “reaffirmed that both sides should sincerely implement the understanding of the disconnection and escalation reached by the senior commanders on June 6. “

What do the pictures show?

Ajai Shukla, a leading Indian defense analyst, tweeted that “there is a large Chinese camp in the Galwan Valley, 1.5 km from the Indian side of LAC [Line of Actual Control]”

Local media have also quoted Indian Army sources as saying that the additional build-up of China appeared to have taken place between the June 15 clash and the commander-level talks before that.

Satellite images from May show no structures in the disputed area near where the fighting took place.

Former Indian diplomat P Stobdan, an expert on Ladakh affairs, told the BBC that the construction was “worrying”.

“The [Indian] The government has not released any photos or made a statement, making it difficult to assess. But images released by private companies show that the Chinese have built infrastructure and have not withdrawn, “he said.

Image copyright
Maxar Technologies / Reuters


The images suggest that the Chinese construction in the Galwan Valley came after talks between army commanders.

The situation in the region is described as still “very tense”.

Meanwhile, the Chief of the Indian Army, General MM Naravane, is scheduled to visit a front location along the border on Thursday. He visited other front areas on Wednesday and reviewed operational readiness, the military said.

What happened in the Galwan Valley?

Media reports said troops clashed on the ridges at a height of nearly 4,300m (14,000ft) on steep terrain, with some Indian soldiers falling into the Galwan River, which flows rapidly in sub-zero temperatures.

At least 76 Indian soldiers were reportedly wounded, in addition to the 20 killed. China has not released any information on Chinese casualties.

The fight was carried out without firearms due to a 1996 agreement that prohibits weapons and explosives from the area.

Image copyright
Maxar Technologies / Reuters


May image shows no structures in Galwan River view area

How tense is the area?

The actual line of control, as the disputed border between the two nations is known, is poorly demarcated. The presence of rivers, lakes and snowy mountains means that the line can change.

Representing two of the largest armies in the world, the soldiers on each side face each other face to face at many points. India has accused China of sending thousands of troops to the Ladakh Galwan valley and says that China occupies 38,000sq km (14,700sq miles) of its territory. Several rounds of talks in the past three decades have failed to resolve border disputes.

The two countries have fought only one war so far, in 1962, when India suffered a humiliating defeat.

In May dozens of Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged physical blows at the border in the north-eastern state of Sikkim. And in 2017, the two countries clashed in the region after China attempted to extend a border road through a disputed plateau, Doklam.

Tensions have also increased over an Indian-built road in Ladakh.

There are several reasons why tensions are mounting now, but competing strategic objectives lie at the root, and the two sides blame each other.

India’s new path in what experts say is the most remote and vulnerable area throughout LAC in Ladakh. The road could increase Delhi’s ability to move men and equipment quickly in the event of conflict.

Analysts say India’s decision to increase infrastructure appears to have angered Beijing.