New satellite imagery along the India–China border shows a buildup of structures near the site of a recent clash between both sides that left Indian and Chinese troops dead.
The images, dated April 22 and obtained by Reuters Thursday from space technology company Maxar, show a slew of new tents, bunkers and storage units that are believed to hold military hardware built up in the disputed Himalayan territory of Ladakh.
Although the two sides have apparently adhered to a firearms ban, they have also reportedly positioned tanks, armored personnel carriers and armed troops not far from each other in the Galwan Valley.
Clashes in the high-altitude region have been breaking out for weeks as troops from the two sides massed in disputed territory off India’s northern tip, the latest clash marked the first time in decades that any soldiers were killed — sparking fears of a wider escalation between the world’s two most populous nations.
The battle erupted after weeks of assertions from both sides that they were trying to ease tensions and forge a diplomatic solution. Talks have since begun between both parties in an attempt to diffuse the deadly dispute.
The latest images appear to show the buildup on the Chinese side of the Galwan River. While neither side has publicly acknowledged the structures, India’s foreign ministry on Wednesday stated that the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers have “reaffirmed that both sides should sincerely implement the understanding on disengagement and de-escalation that was reached by the senior commanders on 6 June.”
Border tensions last soared between New Delhi and Beijing in 2017. More recently, analysts say, China has been eager to press its claims amid global geopolitical uncertainty and a COVID-19 pandemic that many in India blame on China.
Relations between the nations have been generally stable but increasingly complex in recent years as China challenges America’s status as India’s top trading partner.