Latest Satellite Images Show What Really Happened During India China Faceoff At Galwan Valley

Satellite images show that days before the clash between Indian and Chinese troops at Galwan Valley, China brought in heavy pieces of machinery, cut a trail into a Himalayan mountainside and even dammed a river. The cause of the fighting was the burning and dismantling of two Chinese tents and observation towers built on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Satellite Images Galwan Valley
Latest Satellite Images Show What Really Happened During India China Faceoff At Galwan Valley
  • Satellite images show that days before the clash, China brought in heavy pieces of machinery, cut a trail into a Himalayan mountainside and even dammed a river
  • The cause of the fighting was the burning and dismantling of two Chinese tents and observation towers built on the Indian side of LAC
  • Satellite images shot a day after hand-to-hand combat show debris from the observation posts on a ridge on India’s side of the LAC not present a week before
  • After the burning and dismantling of tents, a large group of Chinese soldiers arrived and confronted the Indian troops
  • Satellite pictures show the altering of landscape of the valley through widening tracks, moving earth and making river crossings
  • The clash took place near the fast-flowing Galwan River, resulting in soldiers from both sides falling into a river
  • While three Indian soldiers died on the spot, others died later due to injuries and hypothermia
  • India’s Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road infrastructure project is seen by the Chinese as a tool to offset the China Pakistan Economic Corridor
  • China attempted to capture Galwan Valley as a pre-emptive measure to stall this DBO Road infrastructure project in Ladakh
  • China has changed its claims over the valley thrice, now claiming that the entire Galwan valley belongs to China

According to Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, China erected a “structure” on India’s side of the LAC in the Galwan Valley even after de-escalation agreement was reached. The Indian patrolling unit demolished the towers and burnt the tents after Chinese troops left the observation posts.

Satellite images Galwan Valley
Satellite images show that days before the clash, China brought in heavy pieces of machinery, cut a trail into a Himalayan mountainside and even dammed a river. Source: Planet Labs

Satellite images taken by Planet Labs and published by Reuters show debris from the observation posts on a ridge on India’s side of the LAC on the 16th of June, which was not present a week before. The images, shot a day after hand-to-hand combat in the freezing Galwan Valley, show an increase in activity from a week earlier.

After the burning and dismantling of tents a large group of Chinese soldiers arrived and confronted the Indian troops, led by Colonel Santosh Babu.

Satellite-images-Galwan-Valley-3
Satellite images shot a day after hand-to-hand combat show debris from the observation posts on a ridge on India’s side of the LAC not present a week before. Source: Planet Labs

Satellite pictures, show the altering of landscape of the valley through widening tracks, moving earth and making river crossings. The images show heavy machinery along the mountains in the Galwan River.

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“Looking at it in Planet, it looks like China is constructing roads in the valley and possibly damming the river. There are a ton of vehicles on both sides (of the LAC) – although there appear to be vastly more on the Chinese side. I count 30-40 Indian vehicles and well over 100 vehicles on the Chinese side,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies as reported by Reuters.

Satellite images Galwan Valley 2
Assets in the Galwan Valley. Satellite images show 30-40 Indian vehicles and well over 100 vehicles on the Chinese side. Source: Planet Labs

However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian rejecting the Indian version of the events said that the Indian army had crossed into China’s territory in several places in recent days and that they should withdraw.

It was not clear what happened after the Chinese soldiers arrived, but there are reports indicating furious hand-to-hand fighting with iron rods as well as batons wrapped in barbed wire.

Satellite-images-Galwan-Valley-4
The satellite image shows the build-up of trucks along the banks of the river further away from the LAC. However, it also looks like some tents have been removed since the June 9 image. Source: Planet Labs

On 15 June, 2020 while the de-escalation process was in progress in the Galwan Valley, twenty Indian soldiers of 16th Bihar Regiment including the commanding officer (a Colonel) were killed with yet unconfirmed casualties on the Chinese side. While three Indian soldiers died on the spot, others died later due to injuries and hypothermia.

The clash took place near the fast-flowing Galwan River, resulting in soldiers from both sides falling into a rivulet, increasing the number of injured and dead. Bodies were later recovered from the Shyok River. The standoff is a Chinese pre-emptive measure in response to India’s Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road infrastructure project in Ladakh. The DBO road project is seen by the Chinese as a tool to offset the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Extensive Chinese infrastructure development is also taking place in these disputed border regions.

Galwan Valley clash site
It was not clear what happened after the Chinese soldiers arrived, but there are reports indicating furious hand-to-hand fighting with iron rods as well as batons wrapped in barbed wire. Source: Planet Labs

Galwan Valley has a strategic importance because it leads to the Aksai Chin, a disputed plateau claimed by India but controlled by China. It is known as the Doorway to Askai Chin. On 16 June, Chinese Colonel Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the PLA’s Western Command, said that the Indian military violated bilateral consensus; adding that “the sovereignty over the Galvan Valley area has always belonged to China.”

A large portion of Arunachal Pradesh has also been occupied by China. According to Mr Tapir Gao, the member of parliament of BJP from Arunachal East, China is building concrete bridges, hydro electric projects, helipads 12 kms from the demarcated McMahon Line inside Arunachal Pradesh.

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