Satellite imagery shows how Chinese changed status quo on Pangong bank

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Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi | Published: June 6, 2020 4:03:35 am

Satellite images from May 27 showing Chinese tents on the north bank of Pangong Tso. Planet Labs via Reuters

An analysis of high-resolution satellite images of the Pangong Tso area in Ladakh shows that not only have the Chinese changed the status quo at the Fingers, the mountain spurs along the lake, but also built “substantial” structures in the contested region of the Line of Actual Control.

Colonel S Dinny, who was commanding officer of an Indian Army battalion at Pangong Tso between 2015 and 2017, told The Indian Express after looking at satellite images from May 27 that the structures were not there earlier.

“That definitely was not there before. It is not a normal thing that goes on between Finger 4 and Finger 8. It is what we call a change in status quo in the disputed area.”

He said the Chinese have in the past pitched tents in the region but not on the scale as now, and this will not be acceptable to India. The structures visible now, he said, may not be able to house “thousands” of Chinese troops “but definitely a substantial number can be accommodated”.

“This time, there is a substantial number (of tents), no doubt. One cannot make out how many troops are there. Have they been taken off? One cannot be sure. That kind of activity has happened before. In all probability, after the talks between the Generals, this will also be taken off. I don’t see anything else being acceptable to our side,” Dinny said.

The May 27 images by Planet Labs show dozens of new structures, most likely tents, that have come up between Finger 8 and Finger 4 on the north bank of Pangong Tso, one of the main points of contention in the current standoff.

The hills protrude into the lake like fingers, and are numbered 1 to 8 from west to east. According to India, the LAC lies at Finger 8, but China points to Finger 4.

The distance between Finger 4 and Finger 8, Dinny said, is about 8 km. It would mean that the Chinese have now camped 8 km inside the area which India claims.

He said India has a “proper post between Finger 3 and Finger 2” and an “administrative base between 3 and Finger 4,” which is used during patrols. Similarly, China has “an administrative base on the other side of Finger 8”.

Recalling his stint there, he said: “There was no construction between Finger 4 and Finger 8. No permanent construction, not even tents.”

While Dinny is not sure if the Chinese have removed the tents since May 27, sources in Delhi told The Indian Express that the Chinese are now stationed till Finger 4, and are not allowing Indian troops to go beyond it.

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