Satellite images show Chinese village just 9 km from Doklam plateau. Construction along the Amo Chu puts Indian forces at risk of Chinese forces gaining access to a strategic ridge on the nearby Doklam plateau.
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According to recent satellite pictures obtained by NDTV, a Chinese village that was built 9 km east of the Doklam plateau, where Indian and Chinese forces clashed in 2017, is now entirely populated, with automobiles parked at almost every house.
The settlement, which Beijing refers to as Pangda, is significant because it completely resides within Bhutanese territory.
A nicely designated all-weather road, which is a piece of China’s enormous land-grab in Bhutan, runs beside Pangda. This crosses the Amo Chu river, which flows swiftly, for 10 kilometers into Bhutanese territory.
Construction along the Amo Chu puts Indian forces at risk of Chinese forces gaining access to a strategic ridge on the nearby Doklam plateau. They would have a clear view of India’s critical Siliguri corridor, a tiny sliver of land connecting the northeastern states to the rest of the nation, thanks to this.
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Chinese workers had been physically barred from reaching the Jhamperi ridge in Doklam by Indian military in 2017. Concern has been raised that China may be attempting to use this different axis to reach the same ridge in an effort to get through Indian defenses to the west.
“Pangda village and the ones to its North and South are a classic examples of the Chinese trying to establish their legitimacy over the Jhamperi ridge and the Doklam plateau,” claims Lt. Gen. Praveen Bakshi (retired), who was in charge of India’s Eastern Army at the time of the 2017 conflict on the Doklam plateau. It is “essentially a manner of giving legitimacy to its territorial claims,” when China makes extensive efforts to build settlements along frontiers that it disputes.
Sources in the Army Headquarters said, “The Army maintains a continuous and seamless vigil on all activities along its borders, especially those that impinge upon the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation. For this, necessary mechanisms and safeguards to meet any contingencies are in place.”
The second community in the Amo Chu river valley is now practically finished, according to the most recent satellite pictures from Maxar, while China has accelerated the building of a third village or habitation further South. At the location of this third village, a bridge has been built over the Amo Chu, and there is obviously excavation work going on. Here, you can see the six buildings’ foundations.
“The speed and development of this remote area is noteworthy, underlining how China is extending its borders uncontested,” says Damien Symon, a geospatial intelligence researcher at The Intel Lab who has analysed the latest images. “The road construction activity in this distant, isolated sector highlights efforts taken by China to ensure all weather, uninterrupted connectivity to remote, new habitats across its frontier,” he adds.
Bhutan, a tiny landlocked country, is helpless to stop China from “salami-slicing” its territory. Major General Vetsop Namgyal, Bhutan’s ambassador to New Delhi, declined to comment on the status of China’s construction in the Amo Chu Valley, suggesting that Thimpu was engaged in drawn-out border negotiations. Additionally, the Ministry of External Affairs of India declined to comment on the recent events.
About 30 km south of Beijing’s largest land grab, which has been spotted in the past year, is where China is building villages and roads in the Amo Chu river valley. On a 110 square km plot of land that Beijing disputes, six villages have been built in a previously deserted area. The Indian defenses in Sikkim are under pressure from all of these settlements.
”China is stepping up construction of villages, roads and security installations on territory that belongs to Bhutan, thereby strengthening its offensive military capability against India,” says Dr. Brahma Chellaney, one of India’s leading China-watchers. ”Through such build-up, China is militarily positioning itself to threaten a particularly vulnerable section of India’s border overlooking a narrow corridor known as the ‘Chicken Neck’,” he says.
The Bhutanese developments come while India is still attempting to convince China to leave the locations it has held in Ladakh since May 2020. There have been 16 rounds of negotiations so far, and the final round, held on Sunday, did not appear to make any progress.