Line of Actual Control (LAC) : India & Tibet Border Updates

Amarante

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Jun 22, 2021
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La Défense, France
(This is a review for the 18 months’s standoff in Ladakh and Eastern-Sector from TheIndiaCable.com Dec21.)


Today’s edition of The India Cable features a special interview on the situation on the Sino-India border, as revealed by analysis of commercial satellite imagery.

From Ladakh to Eastern Sector, Latest Satellite Imagery Shows Additional Chinese Pressure on India

The asymmetry is plainly visible and is the result of advanced planning for winter, says top gesospatial intelligence expert

Imagery also suggests China broke ground on military-related infrastructure near border in August 2019, lending weight to speculation that India’s Article 370 decision may have sparked standoff.

(Chris Biggers (@CSBiggers) is director of mission applications at the RF geospatial intelligence firm HawkEye 360. He writes for Janes and was previously Defence & Intelligence Applications Lead for Planet Labs and an Intelligence Officer with the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Sushant Singh spoke to him about the situation on the Sino-India border, as seen from commercial satellite imagery. His comments are made in a personal capacity and do not reflect the views or opinions of his employer.)



Q: You have closely followed and studied the Sino-Indian border crisis since it began last year. What are your major observations about the situation in Ladakh as it has evolved over the past 18 months ― infrastructure, deployment, weaponry, logistics, doctrine? Has your visibility into the Chinese side told you something about the PLA which we don't know yet?

A: At the outset, the visible asymmetry between the respective sides’ forces and the relative speeds in which they appeared on the border was instructive. Our review of available commercial collection suggests that some of these differences, particularly with regard to China, may be attributed to advanced planning. For example, we saw the PLA Ground Force stage 143 pieces of armour under tarps at Shahidula (Xaidulla in Xinjiang, north of the Karakoram Pass) in late 2019, with most departing by late May 2020. That said, we also saw equipment pulled directly from equipment garages and loaded on heavy equipment transporters in May to likely deploy with forces on the border.

In further support of the advanced planning thesis, medium resolution imagery has also suggested that China broke ground on much of the military-related infrastructure near the border in August 2019 (or shortly thereafter). This lends weight to speculation that India’s Article 370 decision may have sparked the standoff, which would subsequently require a different defensive posture against India. This is difficult to assess, however, as China seems to be constantly making improvements to infrastructure in support of its military modernisation efforts. However, statements made by Chinese officials throughout the standoff continued to emphasise the protection of China’s territorial sovereignty, which it claimed was violated by the Article 370 revocation.


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Secondly, the amount of equipment deployed and kept in reserve would seem to reaffirm what we know about the evolution of ‘Active Defense’, which focuses on rapid mobility and concentrating offensive capability to destroy an adversary’s retaliatory capacity. With the current infrastructure and ongoing improvements in the region, China has ensured that it can move forces quickly to respond to any perceived threat posed by India. For example, when India took to the ridges at Rezang La, which in some respects helped shift the centre of gravity to Chushul, we saw self-propelled howitzers and other elements redeploy from the Galwan Valley and Kongka La areas. We think some of those elements, possibly part of a mobile defense group, likely appeared near Spanggur Tso (in Tibet) in response.

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Planet imagery acquired 13APR2021 showed 147 pieces of armour parked near Kangxiwa.

To date, a significant PLA Ground Force presence still remains in border and reserve areas, putting additional pressure on India. For example, we continue to see equipment transiting what we identify as ‘staging and reception areas’ near Kangxiwa (or Kangxiwar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) in the north, and a significant armour presence still resides near Shiquanhe and Rutog (both in Tibet). In some respects, it benefits China to keep the crisis brewing as long-term occupation of the border areas helps it operationalise its new Theatre Commands and Joint Logistics Support Force (JLSF), providing a real-world scenario in an expeditionary setting. Since it was established in 2016, the JLSF has held only one significant exercise of its own, the Joint Logistics 2018-B, focusing on long-distance manoeuvres.




Q: What is the current situation in Depsang plains in sub-sector north in Ladakh?

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A: Planet imagery acquired 1NOV2021 continued to show a PLAGF presence blocking IA patrols near the Raki Nala Y-junction.

In the south [of this region], we’ve seen small Chinese deployments at the Y-Nalla junction, inhibiting Indian movement throughout the area. Planet imagery from November 1, 2021, still shows two PLA Ground Force camps with 6 x IFV/APCs split between two positions. A small Indian Army forward camp remained 1.2 km west of the junction. The riverbed running north of the eastern PLA Ground Force camp toward Tienwendian is the primary line of communication, which was snow-covered at the time of capture.

Considering the larger Indian presence at the two posts near Burtse – of which China is likely aware – the obstructing Chinese presence may act as a type of tripwire. In other words, the Indian Army could quickly overrun the PLAGF positions and re-establish patrols, but to do so would likely provoke a military response from elements deployed near Tienwendian – an unwelcome escalation after Galwan and Rezang La. While the Indian Army has reinforced the sub-sector north in several locations around Qizil Langer and Daulat Beg Oldi (and has continued to do so in 2021), it would likely be unable to repel a Chinese offensive, if an escalation were to become uncontrollable.


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Planet imagery acquired 05OCT2021 continued to show covered parking positions where a possible combined arms battalion was previously identified.

Meanwhile, with winter conditions setting in for the region, our imagery observations of deployments are obscured as equipment is covered or relocated. For example, China’s most forward towed artillery battalion northwest of Tienwendian is no longer in firing position and equipment shelters have been erected nearby and throughout the area. However, the self-propelled howitzer (SPH) battery that was set up adjacent to Tienwendian’s anti-aircraft artillery was still in residence in November and an SPH battalion deployed near Tianwendian East remains active with equipment being repositioned in October and November. Further to the east, the possible combined arms battalion previously identified south of the highway may still be deployed as of October, as shelters remain over the area’s parking positions. Bottom line: China has made preparations to keep forces near Depsang during the winter.



Q: How successful has been the disengagement in Ladakh (at Kailash Range, Pangong Tso and Gogra)? How far are the troops in these areas now?

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A: Planet imagery acquired 21OCT2021 showed new shelters being erected at Rutog to house equipment through the winter.

To date, the disengagement has had mixed results, particularly when looking at Pangong Tso and the surrounding areas. In February, commercial imagery confirmed PLA Ground Force and Indian Army forces relocating to the Rutog and Loma areas, respectively, without event. There’s now approximately 100 km between the bulk of the forces for the time being, which is a positive development. But that doesn’t discount the PLA Ground Force elements that remain forward on the Sirjap, Khurnak Fort and Nyagzu areas, among others, that India must now consider. The regional infrastructure in place also means the PLA Ground Force could quickly return to areas that it previously occupied.

Moreover, while the Quad met in March we also saw additional Chinese ground elements arrive at Rutog with over a division’s worth of equipment visible in imagery. Video and handhelds showed elements conducting exercises to the east of the area, et al. In September 2021, we watched workers erect and reconfigure shelters to cover equipment deployed near Rutog’s two new garrisons and prefab housing area, further suggesting elements will remain in the region throughout the winter. There is also new activity to the northeast near the G219-S520 junction we’ve been closely monitoring in addition to regional road improvements and new heliport construction at Duoma (northeast of Rutog).

The standoff at Gogra is a similar story, but perhaps even more limited in terms of success. While PLAGF forces deployed near Patrol Point 17 had relocated by July 2020, an Indian and Chinese forward camp remained as per agreements. Those elements finally disengaged in August 2021, but Chinese forces have remained near the border at their previous turnaround and throughout the Galwan valley and east of Kongka La. As observed in other areas, the PLAGF have brought in prefabricated shelters and solar arrays, and continue to improve lines of communication to the region to maintain their presence indefinitely, should they so choose. All of which likely has the intended effect of providing the PLAGF experience that training alone cannot offer, while also making India expend more resources to monitor and potentially defend the border. This could have the effect of ensuring that India remains a land-focused force, particularly as China grows its sea legs and operates more frequently throughout the Indian Ocean region.




Q: Most recently, you’ve looked at the Chinese military buildup in the eastern sector of the LAC. What are the significant findings? Which are the specific areas Indians should be concerned about?

A: China continues to improve infrastructure in the region by expanding lines of communication, adding new depots and air defense sites, constructing heliports and upgrading airbases. Such improvements enable greater mobility and force sustainment in the border areas while also helping China become a more potent force. China has also added three additional hardened artillery positions (making a total of four) near the Chumbi valley and Doklam plateau to cover the Indian border area and nearby major mountain passes, should India choose to repeat the 2017 intervention. Additionally, a possible multiple launch rocket system battery has been identified and remains deployed east of Sikkim. Given the proximity of these developments to the Siliguri corridor, all of the above are likely being weighed by New Delhi.

We also see Chinese forces remaining in areas that India likely considers to be at operational depths. We know the Indian Army is concerned by this, as indicated by public statements made by Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Manoj Pande in October 2021. Our monitoring shows a PLAGF armour presence at Gyantse and armour elements remaining deployed near Gamba. HawkEye 360 began detecting radio frequency activity at Gamba in August 2020 when we first discovered a new deployment east of the area’s field garrison. This shift in the disposition of forces is likely one of many reasons why the Indian Army has been rethinking a possible light tank acquisition and raising an additional armour brigade for the sector.


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Capella synthetic aperture radar acquired 19NOV2021 showed new structures being built in disputed parts of western Bhutan.

We have also been monitoring Chinese activities in disputed Bhutan. While China laid claim to the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Bhutan, it executed plans to move further into disputed Bhutanese territories in the west. For example, Planet imagery of Dramana (Zhuomoma) and Shakhatoe (Xiabu) on August 18, 2020, showed a new track extending southwest off the area’s existing road since June 2, 2020. The track extended to one of four new areas cleared for construction activity. These areas are identified in Mapbox data and translated as Sairubu, Caitangsha, Jiwujiadeng and Qule (though there is some question as to the accuracy of the place names). Similar activity was also identified to the south near the Langmarpo valley. Ongoing monitoring of all sites with Capella’s synthetic aperture radar shows more than 200 structures visible with work still ongoing.



 
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KUNAL BISWAS

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Jul 30, 2021
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INDIA

Indian SFF Tibetan Jawan Face Off With Chinese PLA Tibetan Soldiers​



SFF of #IndianArmy speaking with fellow PLA Tibetan " are you ashamed of it, I knew you all are tibetan". PLA Tibetan soldiers are hiding behind the red flag when SFF jawan named Tsering said:" I knew you all are Tibetan ". In reply from PLA soldier " I am also a Tibetan soldier." #IndianArmy #ChinaIndiaFaceOff #IndiaChinaBorder #IndiaChinaFaceOff Special Thanks To @sorigzinam from twitter.. !
 

xxxxx

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Dec 28, 2021
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HK

Indian SFF Tibetan Jawan Face Off With Chinese PLA Tibetan Soldiers​



SFF of #IndianArmy speaking with fellow PLA Tibetan " are you ashamed of it, I knew you all are tibetan". PLA Tibetan soldiers are hiding behind the red flag when SFF jawan named Tsering said:" I knew you all are Tibetan ". In reply from PLA soldier " I am also a Tibetan soldier." #IndianArmy #ChinaIndiaFaceOff #IndiaChinaBorder #IndiaChinaFaceOff Special Thanks To @sorigzinam from twitter.. !
In fact, after half a century, there is no feeling between the descendants of the Tibetan nobles and serfs who were in exile.
 

Saaho

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Dec 27, 2019
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Earth

New satellite image shows China constructing bridge on its side of Pangong lake in Ladakh: Sources​

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NEW DELHI: A new satellite image showing China building a bridge on its side of the Pangong lake in eastern Ladakhemerged on Monday amid the prolonged Sino-India military standoff in the border area. People familiar with the development said the satellite imagery is of an area on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) near the Galwan valley region.

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So much for disengagement. India needs to deploy its forces and abrogate all treaties.
 

AbRaj

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Dec 6, 2017
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Republic of Wadiya

New satellite image shows China constructing bridge on its side of Pangong lake in Ladakh: Sources​

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NEW DELHI: A new satellite image showing China building a bridge on its side of the Pangong lake in eastern Ladakhemerged on Monday amid the prolonged Sino-India military standoff in the border area. People familiar with the development said the satellite imagery is of an area on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) near the Galwan valley region.

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So much for disengagement. India needs to deploy its forces and abrogate all treaties.
It’s very much inside China controlled area ( even before 62 war). Although it lies just on our claimed line.
 

jetray

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Mar 15, 2018
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It’s very much inside China controlled area ( even before 62 war). Although it lies just on our claimed line.
It is a contested area, just like they oppose our construction even we need to oppose their activities as well. They are entrenching themselves in contested areas and we are just producing lame excuses implicitly accepting their claim. Current govt will only keep putting blame on nehru but will fix nothing. Why not apply the same yard stick to POK and gift away to pakistan ?
 

screambowl

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Dec 19, 2017
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switzerland
It is a contested area, just like they oppose our construction even we need to oppose their activities as well. They are entrenching themselves in contested areas and we are just producing lame excuses implicitly accepting their claim. Current govt will only keep putting blame on nehru but will fix nothing. Why not apply the same yard stick to POK and gift away to pakistan ?

What has hit China more is India coming out of psychological wound of 1962, after whatever happened at Galwan. China now doesn't want to take any chances and being a UNSC member they will try to regain their image. Either through Taiwan invasion or in Ladakh.
 

randomradio

Senior Member
Nov 30, 2017
14,554
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India
Any updated info about IA going for the Sprut?

There's been no news, but the deal for 45 is independent from the main light tank requirement.

The only last known news is they are going to offer it for the main tender. Although the IA may settle for DRDO's offer instead.
 

xxxxx

Member
Dec 28, 2021
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HK
Just like between Taiwan & China ?
Even worse than mainland China and Taiwan,
There are many cultural exchanges and economic exchanges between China and Taiwan,
I have met some young Tibetans who don’t even speak Tibetan. They watched Chinese TV shows and video games since they were young. For Tibetans in exile, they only know the Dalai Lama.