China-India Standoff: Satellite Imagery Shows China Has Built Village 4.5 km Inside Arunachal Pradesh

Satellite Imagery Shows China Has Built Village 4.5 km Inside Arunachal Pradesh
Image Credits: Planet Labs Inc

According to the Indian news media company NDTV report on Monday, China has constructed a new village consisting of 101 homes, approximately 4.5 kilometers within the Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh ( an area which has been long disputed by India and China and has been marked by armed conflict).

The village, located on the banks of the River Tsari Chu, in the Upper Subansiri district of the state could not be seen in satellite images of the same area taken in August 2019, suggesting that the construction was done at some point since then, according to the television channel. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it.

It was constructed in the eastern range of the Himalayas even as Indian and Chinese soldiers confronted each other in their deadliest clash in decades, thousands of kilometers away in the Western Himalayas in Ladakh.

In June last year, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash in the Galwan Valley. China has never publicly stated how many casualties its own army suffered. The stand-off in Ladakh continues through this winter with thousands of soldiers from both sides deployed on the frontline at extreme altitudes in sub-zero temperatures.

According to the NDTV report, the latest image that establishes the village in question is dated November 1, 2020. The image dated a little more than a year before that – August 26, 2019 – does not show any construction activity. So, the village was set up in the last year.

Satellite Imagery Shows China Has Built Village 4.5 km Inside Arunachal Pradesh
Image Credits: Planet Labs Inc

In its response to the report, the Ministry of External Affairs did not deny the presence of the village, but said that China had been carrying out such activities in the past too, according to ANI. “We have seen recent reports on China undertaking construction work along the border areas with India,” the foreign ministry said. “China has undertaken such infrastructure construction activity in the past several years.”

The ministry said that India has stepped up the construction of border infrastructure, including roads and bridges for the improvement of livelihood of its citizens, including in Arunachal Pradesh.

Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Arunachal East Tapir Gao has repeatedly raised the matter of Chinese incursion in several parts of the state. The Army had denied his claimed when he first mentioned the matter in September 2019. However, he raised the matter in Lok Sabha yet again in November 2019.

2020 China–India skirmishes

The 2020 China–India skirmishes were part of an ongoing military standoff between China and India. From 5 May 2020, Chinese and Indian troops engaged in aggressive melee, face-offs and skirmishes at locations along the Sino-Indian border, including near the disputed Pangong Lake in Ladakh and the Tibet Autonomous Region, and near the border between Sikkim and the Tibet Autonomous Region. Additional clashes also took place at locations in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The report on the construction of the village came when tensions between Indian and China have run high since June when initial scuffles between both sides led to a pitched battle – without firearms – and saw 20 Indian soldiers killed in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. China is also believed to have suffered casualties but has not given any details.

Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into the rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years.

With eight rounds of Corps Commander-level talks failing to resolve the standoff, both countries have deployed troops and tanks in sub-zero conditions.

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