Satellite imagery shows China setting up border villages between India, Bhutan – india news



Satellite imagery has emerged of China setting up villages in hitherto uninhabited stretches on its disputed borders with India and Bhutan, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, with experts saying the move could be aimed at buttressing Beijing’s territorial claims.

Several villages have come up in the tri-junction between India, Bhutan and China, and the move follows the upgrading and construction of Chinese military facilities, including heliports and missile bases, all along the Line of Actual Regulate (LAC) in the aftermath of the 2017 standoff at Doklam.

Imagery shared by the open-source intelligence analyst who uses the name @detresfa on Twitter on Sunday showed what seemed to be five new border villages built close Bum La, the border pass located between Cona county in Tibet Autonomous Region and Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh.

In a tweet, @detresfa said there is evidence of “new villages and accommodation very similar to what was once seen in Pangda village, Bhutan” in the vicinity of Bum La. The relocation of people to these villages “promises China with better border surveillance and patrols through a network of herders,” the tweet said.

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Satellite imagery from Planet Labs, a private US company, was once cited by NDTV to show that a minimum of three villages have come up in an area approximately five kilometres from Bum La. The imagery suggested construction of these villages, which are on the Chinese side of the LAC, had continued even as thousands of Indian and Chinese troops faced off in Ladakh sector of the LAC.

One image from Planet Labs dated February 17 showed only one village with some 20 structures in the area. A second image dated November 28 showed three extra villages in the same area with a complete of approximately 50 structures. The villages are located approximately a kilometre from every other and connected by new Roads.

Satellite imagery that emerged final month showed China has built a village called Pangda some two kilometres inside territory claimed by Bhutan on Doklam plateau. This imagery also showed China has built a street in the same region that goes approximately nine kilometres within Bhutanese territory. Pangda is located approximately 10 kilometres from the site of the 2017 standoff.

In August, Chinese state media reported on how the government has improved infrastructure in villages near to the Arunachal Pradesh border. State-owned Global Times tabloid cited authorities in Yadong county of Tibet Autonomous Region as saying that 27 households with 124 people had “voluntarily moved from… Yadong county to Pangda village in September”.

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In 2017, Chinese president Xi Jinping had also written a letter to Tibetan herdsmen living close the Arunachal Pradesh border to “set down roots” and safeguard “Chinese territory”.

Strategic matters expert Brahma Chellaney pointed to the new villages close Bum La and said building border villages to “make stronger claims and intensify cross-frontier intrusions is integral to China’s territorial aggrandisement”.

Sim Tack, a Belgium-based security analyst for Force Analysis, said the new villages were clearly a part of a strategy to “push Chinese presence and toughen claims on disputed areas”.

“We have seen the relocation of civilian populations into sparsely populated and disputed border regions by other countries, for instance, by Morocco in Western Sahara. The Chinese are doing the same, in order that they are able to infringe on the border and potentially build a case for their territorial claims,” he said.

A outline released in September by Stratfor, a leading security and intelligence consultancy, had said that China has more than doubled the number of airbases, air defence positions and heliports close the LAC since 2017. China began building a minimum of 13 new military facilities close the LAC after the standoff at Doklam, and work on four heliports began after the current tensions in Ladakh, the outline said.


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