The images, dated October 28, 2020, according to US-based satellite operator Maxar Technologies, show “significant construction activity has taken place along the Torah River Valley region, apparently this year.” “New military storage bunkers” were also built near the Doklam area, Maxer said in a statement.
Maxer said the pictures show the newly constructed Pangra village in the Bhutanese side of the disputed border as well as a supply depot in the Chinese region, near the point of a tense dispute between Indian and Chinese forces in 2017.
“There is no Chinese village inside Bhutan,” Bhutan’s ambassador to India, Major General Vatsop Namgyal, said in a statement.
China’s foreign ministry did not respond to CNN’s request for comment about the new images. India’s Foreign Ministry also did not immediately comment.
Indian broadcaster NDTV first reported satellite images.
A thin strip of border between the three countries, the Doklam region is claimed by both China and Bhutan, but is also strategically important to India, as the Siliguri Corridor, an important artery between New Delhi and its north eastern states Due to its proximity to. .
“The Siliguri Corridor is a strategically important and highly sensitive region, as it remains the only bridge between the eight north-eastern states of India and the rest of the country,” said analyst Syed Fazl-e-Haider earlier this year. The article was written by the Australian think tank The Lowy Institute. “With an advance range of only 130 kilometers (80 mi), the Chinese army can cut off the north-eastern states of Bhutan, West Bengal and India. About 50 million people in north-east India will be separated from the country.”
In a Monday article in the Global Times newspaper, Chinese experts cited Maxar’s claims and reports in the Indian media that a village was built in the Bhutanese region.
However, where both countries draw their borders, they are highly disputed. The 2017 stand-off-spark occurred after Bhutan was accused of constructing a road inside its territory in “direct violation” of treaty obligations with China. China, which does not have formal diplomatic relations with Bhutan, denied the charge, saying the region is part of Chinese territory.
Bhutan is traditionally a strong ally of India, relying on Delhi to provide training for its armed forces and closely cooperating with India in foreign policy. However, it appears to be shifting, especially due to rivalry between Beijing and Delhi.
Earlier this year, India and China engaged in a bloody conflict over another disputed border in the Himalayas that killed at least 20 soldiers, the worst conflict between the two countries since they took place in 1962 War was fought on the same territory.
While the two countries agreed to end it, satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies has shown that China continues to consolidate its position along the border with India, although due to harsh winter conditions in the Himalayas at this time of year Further construction is unlikely.
Angered by allegations of continued gradual reinforcement of posts, and encroachment, Beijing’s behavior echoes in the South China Sea, where it has militarized islands, reefs and islands, giving it largely effective control of the disputed territory, The extremely important fishing and shipping sector over which sovereignty is claimed by six other governments.
Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow of the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, said, “They are asserting their claim, so they are preparing facts on the ground, which is part of a larger policy.” Tank. “After 2017 (2017), he realized that, like the Indian side, their border areas are very sparsely populated, so it becomes very difficult to patrol the area. Now, putting these facts on the ground, this village By making, you can say. ” It always was. In the style of China, you make the facts on the ground and then you say that this has always been the case. “
Joshi said, “I think Bhutan has thought that we will stick to it and not make noise and just look the other way.”
“As the crow flies, this point is more than 11 kilometers from the Indian position, so there is nothing India can do until Bhutan makes a public call for help. If you look at the Indo-Bhutanese treaty, There is no clear defense clause. So, essentially. Bhutanese live with it, we look the other way and the Chinese make up facts on the ground. ”
In particular, the rather nature of Pangra Village is reminiscent of the early sites built on sandbars and small islands in disputed waters. The High Himalayas are a hostile environment at best, but as Nathan Ruser, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the new village appears more built for regional bragging rights than longevity.
“The imagery of high resolution also shows how precarious it is of a village, being built on a sandbank in the middle of a mountainous river valley (where the snow melts and the high rocks give the unexpected flow of water And cause high floods), ” Rusar wrote
In response to the new fantasy on Twitter. “To counter this, Chinese engineers have built a small retaining wall, I think, designed to keep any floodwater out of the village. I’m not sure I would trust it When there is only one way in and out that there will be flood. Before the village. “
James Griffith reports from Hong Kong. Manveena Suri reports from New Delhi.