(This was originally posted in India Today by Ankit Kumar)
The latest satellite imagery reviewed by India Today TV shows the heightened Chinese activity near Naku La border in Sikkim. Earlier, a report by India Today had highlighted the construction of roads and new posts by the Chinese ground forces in this area. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) activity opposite Naku La visibly increased after the Galwan valley clash in eastern Ladakh.
Doklam and Naku La have been the flashpoints where Indian and Chinese troops have come face to face in standoff situation in recent times. The Doklam plateau, near the crucial India-Bhutan-China trijunction, has been the ground zero of 2017 standoff between Indian and Chinese armies. Earlier this year in January, a minor face-off was reported between the two troops near Naku La.
The new satellite images, exclusively accessed by India Today TV, confirm heightened activity at Chinese posts opposite Naku La border, as recent as March 12. High-resolution images, captured in the morning of March 12 by the Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites of space company Capella Space, confirm the presence of military vehicles, new camps and additional structures by the PLA.
The recent imagery shows an additional congregation of possible PLA military vehicles and added structures at a Chinese post, about 4 km from the border.
Another set of images compared with an earlier optical satellite image, taken by Planet Labs satellites in September last year, confirms the ongoing activity at what appears to be a newly created PLA observation post. While the optical image from September last year showed excavated land with signs of little human presence, the SAR image, taken earlier this month, shows multiple vehicles and new camp-like structures. Wider roads seen in the satellite imagery from last September seem to be undergoing further construction which may include possible blacktopping of the roads.
Heightened activities at another PLA post, in the north-east of Naku La, was first observed by US-based geospatial analytics company Hawkeye 360 last year. Chris Biggers, Director of Insights at Hawkeye 360 had spotted PLA’s self-propelled artillery at this site last year.
Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to raise its second squadron of the Rafale combat aircraft at the Hasimara airbase over the next few weeks. The move is set to serve as a credible counter to future Chinese threats along the eastern front.
The upcoming Rafale squadron in West Bengal’s Hasimara is likely to provide a firm deterrence against any Chinese budge in this region. With near 100 km distance from Doklam, and just about 200 km away from Sikkim’s Naku La, IAF’s second group of combat jets will be strategically placed to counter the Chinese aggression. Earlier this year, a Chinese state broadcaster released footage of a PLA post overlooking the Sikkim border. Chinese media reports claimed that the post has been constructed at an altitude of over 5000 km in the mountains. The CCTV visuals showed an obscure looking observation post with a large tunnel-like underground setting.
India said that it is aware of the development of Chinese infrastructure in the border regions opposite the country in the Tibet region.
Responding to a written question in Parliament on “Chinese construction along the Indo-China border”, V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs said, “The Indian government has increased the budgetary allocation for construction of roads and bridges in the border areas.”