India May Fail to Repel Chinese Offensive in Case of Escalation, Satellite Imagery Expert Says
12:38 GMT 22.12.2021 (Updated: 10:41 GMT 19.07.2022)
India and China have failed to secure a disengagement agreement in several tense areas despite holding 13 rounds of talks at military commanders' level since June 2020. However, the two countries have maintained that despite their differences, the situation at the border is "generally stable".
China's People Liberation Army (PLA) has been strengthening its position against India across various frictional points, including near Pangong Tso, where a disengagement agreement was reached in February, according to recent satellite imagery.
Chris Biggers, the director of mission applications at the radio frequency (RF) geospatial intelligence firm HawkEye 360, has noted that PLA's ground forces remain "near the border at their previous turnaround and throughout the Galwan valley and east of Kongka La
Planet imagery bought in November established the presence of Chinese deployments at the Y-Nalla junction in Depsang Valley, inhibiting Indian movement throughout the area.
"Although the Indian Army has reinforced the sub-sector north in several locations around Qizil Langer and Daulat Beg Oldi (and continued to do so in 2021), it would probably be unable to repel a Chinese offensive, if an escalation were to become uncontrollable," Biggers, who was previously an intelligence officer with the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, told The India Cable.
His analysis is based on massive assets deployment near Tianwendian, a Chinese border outpost in the disputed Aksai Chin region.
Media reports suggest that China's PLA has trespassed 17km inside the loosely demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Depsang Plains
In October, the military talks related to disengagement in this area ended in bitter failure. Both sides accused the other of persisting with unrealistic and unreasonable demands to solve the ongoing border stand-off.
Unverified satellite images posted on social media by Jack Detsch, an American journalist, indicate continuous infrastructure build-up such as helipads and shelters for military assets at the backup position between Finger 8 and Sirijap, along the North Bank of Pangong Tso.
11 February 2021, 07:07 GMT
India and China agreed to disengage from the friction points at the northern and southern banks of the Pangong Tso Lake in February this year. Both the countries withdrew their tanks, troops from forward areas.
However, the images captured by US-based space firm Maxar Technologies in October show significant consolidation of the Chinese build-up despite February's disengagement agreement. Unverified imagery also shows Chinese boats and a jetty near Sirijap.
In October, Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane assured the nation there's a counter-strategy against "substantial infrastructure and deployment" by China along the LAC.
"It is a matter of concern that the large-scale build-up has occurred and continues to be in place, and to sustain that kind of a build-up, there has been an equal amount of infrastructure development on the Chinese side", Gen Naravane said at the India Today conclave on 9 October.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China and India
have kept talks open through diplomatic and military channels, and effectively managed and controlled frictional border areas under a shared commitment to improving and developing bilateral relations.
The border stand-off has lasted months and erupted over infrastructure development in the eastern Ladakh area in April 2020. One out of a series of border clashes led to the killing of 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley on 15-16 June in 2020.
The primary border dispute between the two countries lies in the Ladakh region and Arunachal Pradesh. New Delhi considers the loosely demarcated border to be 3,488km and Beijing believes it to be only 2,000km.