BEIJING (AP) – A week after a deadly collision in the area, 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives, on the Indian and Chinese sides of a controversial border high in the Karakoram Mountains. Satellite images showed satellite images.
The images released this week by Maxar, a Colorado-based satellite imaging company, show new construction activities along the Galwan River Valley, even though Chinese and Indian diplomats said military commanders had agreed to break away there.
The images seemed to show that the Indians had built a wall on their side and experts say the Chinese had expanded an outpost camp at the end of a long road connected to Chinese military bases.
The contradictions in words and deeds showed the vulnerability of an agreement after the worst violence since the Asian giants went to war in 1962 for their competitive claims to the barren border area, experts said.
China has said that India first changed the status quo last August when it split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal areas: the territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the territory of Ladakh, parts of which are disputed by China.
The new maps released by India after the move received criticism from Beijing for showing Aksai Chin, an area managed by China but disputed by India, as part of Ladakh.
Indian officials said the impasse that culminated in this month’s deadly collision in the Galwan Valley, part of a remote stretch of the 3,380-kilometer line of factual control, or LAC, created after the 1962 war, started in early May large contingents of Chinese soldiers entered three places in Ladakh deep within the India-controlled area, set up tents.
After a few skirmishes in May, Indian and Chinese commanders met on June 6 to work out an agreement that would ease tensions.
The two sides agreed to build observation posts on either side of the Galwan River estuary, Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, told Press Trust of India news agency Tuesday.
Anurag Srivastava, spokesman for the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that at the meeting on June 6, “both parties agreed to respect and comply with the LAC and did not undertake any activity to change the status quo,” but discussed not whether they had agreed to observation posts.
On June 15, the soldiers attacked each other around midnight with stones, bats and their fists in the Galwan Valley, the deadliest violence between the two countries in 45 years.
Indian security officials said the fatalities were caused by serious injuries and exposure to freezing temperatures. China has not said whether it suffered casualties during the collision.
India and China have blamed each other for the melee and have made new claims in the area where it happened.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that the confrontation took place on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control, and that Indian troops had entered Chinese territory illegally.
“The responsibility (for the incident) is not on the Chinese side at all,” Zhao said.
But Srivastava said on Thursday that China had provoked the battle when its soldiers “attempted to establish structures across the LAC on the Indian side.” He said Indian soldiers thwarted the attempts.
However, Maxar Vice President Steve Wood said that a series of Maxar images of the bend in the river where the collision occurred in the weeks before and after the collision showed that construction from the Chinese bases to the Galwan Valley had been extended to the line of actual control.
Wood said that since May 22, satellite imagery “convoy after convoy of heavy trucks, excavators, bulldozers, and some military armored equipment” showed that the Galwan Valley was rolling towards the disputed border.
Before and after the fatal collision, China moved construction equipment, soldiers, and military hardware to the LAC, said Chris Biggers, senior analyst with geospatial intelligence firm HawkEye 360.
The Chinese were clearly on their way to the intersection and what they consider their claim line. They have now built a post and track to bolster their claim, changing the status quo in the area, ”he said.
At that junction, the Galwan River turns west to an important supply route for an important Indian airport. Biggers said satellite images show that India built a stone wall there opposite the new Chinese post, with a layered series of barriers wrapped in camouflage nets and sails that “could also act as combat positions.”
“We also see quite a bit of activity on the road, with trucks driving in both directions and troops marching in formation along the new track,” Biggers said.
Schmall reported from New Delhi.
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