Image 1 | Courtesy: @sbreakintl
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Indian Army spokesperson Col. Aman Anand has responded to ThePrint article, ‘Satellite images show China road runs deep into Arunachal‘, published on 6 September 2019, and said the author is deliberately trying to sensationalise old news of 2017 which has no relevance today and is entirely incorrect.

“The report and the headline have been specious and are intended only to sensationalize,” he said.

“The track as mentioned in the article was inadvertently constructed by PLA in 2017 and was immediately faced off by Indian army when they intruded across the LAC. Media had done story on the same in December 2017. PLA fell back immediately on realising their mistake. The matter since has been amicably solved through existing border mechanism. Indian army carried out plantation of trees on the intruded part and also constructed a stone wall to clearly mark to LAC. As on today the PLA restricts themselves to their side (sic),” the spokesperson said.

“India and China have well established diplomatic and military mechanisms to address all issues in our border areas. The two sides agree that maintenance of peace and tranquility in all areas of India-China border areas as a prerequisite to smooth development of overall bilateral relations. Both countries have also agreed to work towards a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of the boundary question on the basis of 2005 Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles,” he said.

Author Abhijit Iyer-Mitra replies:

There are only two tangible claims in the rejoinder from the Indian Army spokesperson. Even these two tangibles, namely the plantation of trees and the existence of a wall, are not borne out by the imagery taken as late as 25 August 2019. The Colonel leaves out critical details that would have served to clarify the situation.

The Army: “Carried out plantation of trees and also constructed a stone wall”.

Image 1. Courtesy: @sbreakintl

Image 1 is a high-resolution picture dated 25 August 2019. It shows the entire road on the Indian side but nowhere is any tree or wall visible.

The Army should provide us with the geographic coordinates of the trees planted as well as of the wall; the exact geographic coordinates of where according to the Army the Line of Actual Control (LAC) lies; and confirm whether the Google map marking of the LAC in this particular sector is correct or not.

Image 2. Courtesy: @Detresfa_

Image 2, taken in August 2018, does indeed show a wall, but it is well inside the Chinese side of the border. (This clearly demonstrates our ability to pick up minuscule wall construction – walls that we were not able to find on the Indian side).

Image 3. Courtesy: @Detresfa_

But as image 3, taken in June 2019, shows, the wall constructed in 2018 has disappeared. It is not known if the Indian Army removed the wall (and if so why, given the Army spokesperson makes no mention of its removal) or if the Chinese removed it and restarted their ingress into the Indian territory.

Moreover, the three canopies covering the track from the clearing on the Indian side to the wall are fully mature trees at the same height as the dense forest surrounding them, which seemingly rules out the claim that these trees were recently planted.

Image 4. Courtesy: @Detresfa_

Additional slant imagery from December 2017 (image 4) and February 2018 (image 5, below) also show no evidence of tree plantation or construction of any wall.

Image 5. Courtesy: @Detresfa_

These images raise the following questions:

a) Is the wall marked in image 2 indeed the location of the border wall?

b) How and when did this wall disappear?

c) If the road is now out of use by the Chinese, how does it remain so clearly marked (and therefore used), given the precipitation and rapid rate of flora regrowth should have covered the tracks in two years’ time?

d) Moreover, if heavy equipment has been used by India, how exactly did the equipment arrive there given the absence of any access road to this point?

The Army: “Inadvertently constructed by PLA in 2017” and “PLA fell back immediately on realising their mistake”.

The 6 September article in ThePrint showed that the incursion by the Chinese was deliberate based on following reasons:

a) It showed a careful and planned multi-year construction spanning at least three years, with support infrastructure for such construction at regular intervals on the Chinese side.

b) There have been reports of not one but two such incursions (Tuting and Upper Siang) in the region as has been previously reported.

c) The direction of the road clearly indicates a deliberate attempt to cut off the Bishing salient as noted in my article, and has formed part of repeated attempts to cut off this salient.

d) The Army’s claim that the entire construction of the road was “inadvertent” and a “mistake” would mean that the Chinese commanders built an expensive road to nowhere with no purpose; installed exceptional infrastructure for no apparent reason; and that the navigation equipment, the commanders of the Chinese army, and the road workers all collectively failed for a period of three years – from 2017 to 2019.

My question to the Army is: What exactly led the Army to conclude that the Chinese had built this road “inadvertently” and by “mistake”?

Also, I did not make these allegations. The claims about the Chinese incursion were made by a Member of Parliament of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Tapir Gao, as can be seen in this video dated 4 September 2019. In the video, he clearly states (starting at 2:30 minutes) that in Bishing, there was a 2-km deep intrusion last year (2018). All I have done is provided visual proof to the BJP MP’s claims.

ThePrint stands by the article.

(Geolocator image courtesy: @Detresfa_ and High-res imagery courtesy: @sbreakintl)


Also read: Satellite images show China road runs deep into Arunachal: Defence expert Abhijit Iyer-Mitra


The author is a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. He tweets @iyervval. Views are personal. 

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. Armed forces requires certain standards to join like the same like armed forces men cannot work in Media. The author is doing his job. Why he is being attacked. If author cannot face bullets, the same applies to armed who cannot be expected to hold pen and write. Each of them are serving nation in their own way.

  2. The Army should provide the coordinates for their wall and plantation zones. As for the Chinese doing things ‘inadvertently’ , i think that is just an attempt at being diplomatic. One issue that might prevent them from coming out with such data might be that there is no simple ‘line’ for LAC but more of a zone and the government doesn’t want to be boxed in lest it decide to reach some compromise with China in future. Of course, Iyerval might have gotten it all wrong but it is a legitimate question and if it is all so simple then it should be refuted by the army or defense ministry.

    • The army or the defence ministry need not and should not reply ….there are many things which are not and should not be shared on civilian platforms..many small issues are connected to other issues…which are addressed at different times of opportunities and favourable circumstances…sometimes these are sensetive issues..that should not be discussed in the open …as our relationship with china is differently based on various platforms and viewed thru various prisms…
      Unlike as with pakistan…

  3. This journalist of questionable ethics and information need to be red-educated at LAC. He has spent time in Orissa jail for misrepresentation of history now has to learn geography at LAC. I support his posting at LAC close to Dhola post in Arunachal Pradesh.

  4. I think it would b good for Mr mitra…if the indian army takes him and makes him spend some months in the border areas of AP..he will get a first hand “FEEL”of the enviornment and a complete ground SITREP…he also needs to lose some weight(he’s bcme quite podgy)…that happens wn u ve a habit of bieng an arm chair analyst…wt sat shots…
    Things are not what they seem on the ground …reality can b different..where the chinese are concerned… the indian army will never b backfooted..b very sure of that..and even if….if..the report is contradictory to ur analysis..then there wl b a damn good reason for that..wc might not b divulged in the civilian domain…small time readers like me also do get feedback sometimes from friends in the force posted in those rejions..unfortunately we dont ve access to hi-res sat shots like u…but on ground sitreps are always preferred to tech reps.
    Print standing by the article…less said the better…
    I dont know..what ur connect is with the army….(if there is one)…but i think it will b good if u can request the army to let u spend some time in the forward bases…it will declutter ur mind..and help u see the actions of the forces from diff perspectives.

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