Disengagement unlikely as satellite images show new Chinese structures in Galwan valley

The satellite images underline concerns over more such clashes between the neighbours.

Credit : India TV News

China seems to have built new structures in the vicinity of the area, where a bloody fight had taken place between Chinese and Indian soldiers in the western Himalayas on June 15. Twenty Indian jawans had died while China did not confirm the number of casualties on its side. The satellite images underline concerns over more such clashes between the neighbours.

According to a Straits Times report, military commanders from both sides on Monday decided to pull back at many locations along the un-demarcated border. The images of the new structures were published on Monday by space tech company Maxar Technologies. The photos display large Chinese structures overlooking the Galwan river.

This would pose hurdles in the disengagement process. India claims the structures have been raised on its side of the Line of Actual Control.

China says the entire Galwan Valley belongs to it. The structures include tents, walls or barriers being built for a camp. This construction was not visible in images taken a week before.

Australian satellite data expert Nathan Ruser said de-escalation may not happen soon. "Satellite imagery from the Galwan Valley on June 22 shows that 'disengagement' really isn't the word that the (Indian) government should be using," said a tweet posted by Ruser. Defensive barriers are visible in the latest images on the Indian side. They were not seen in May.



A forward post on its side seems to have been scaled back. Neither Indian nor Chinese officials responded to pleas to comment on the situation. Former Indian army chief Deepak Kapoor said, "There is a trust deficit so far as the Chinese are concerned. So if they are telling us verbally they are ready to pull back, we will wait to see it on the ground. Until then the armed forces will be on alert."

A BBC report quoting a statement issued by the Indian foreign ministry on Wednesday said foreign ministers from both sides Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and HE Wang Yi 'reaffirmed that both sides should sincerely implement the understanding on disengagement and de-escalation that was reached by the senior commanders on 6 June'.

Indian defence analyst Ajai Shukla posted a tweet saying “there is a large Chinese camp in the Galwan Valley, 1.5km into the Indian side of the LAC". 

Local media said the construction by China was done between the June 15 clash and the commander-level talks preceding the same.

Former Indian diplomat and expert in Ladakh affairs P Stobdan told BBC that the construction was "worrying". “The (Indian) government has not released any pictures or made a statement, so it's hard to assess. But the images released by private firms show that the Chinese have built infrastructure and have not retreated," he said.

Rising tensions point to several factors. However, competing strategic goals are the major cause. Both neighbours are blaming each other.