Pangong lake area and its eight fingers marked out, near LAC | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra | Twitter
Pangong lake area and its eight fingers marked out, near LAC | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra | Twitter
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We have been surveilling the India-China Line of Actual Control or LAC in Ladakh area almost real-time since several stand-offs were reported a few weeks back, using satellite imagery. For the most part, we found not a single blade of grass amiss save for a brief Chinese encampment on the Indian side of the Galwan Valley. That intrusion was so small — around 40 to 60 Chinese troops — that it simply did not merit the kind of rhetoric and escalation that we have seen over the last fortnight.

However, the inadvertent release of an unauthenticated video (showing Indian troops allegedly attacking Chinese troops and their vehicle) and of an image (showing the Chinese allegedly having bound and apprehended Indian troops) provided us vital clues on what has been happening to justify the heightened tensions. Using these two visual sources we were able to not just triangulate the exact location of the fracas, but also the approximate dates and sequence of events.

It turns out our initial assessment of the situation — that there is no Chinese occupation of Indian territory — is quite correct. The reason the satellites did not see any “occupation” is that there was none. Instead, what has been happening is a series of fast-paced in-and-out intrusions by the forces of India and China into each other’s territory. While the gravity of China’s provocation has been much more serious, but note that India stemmed this, push the Chinese back and retaliated swiftly in order to re-establish deterrence.


Also read: The Chinese are so predictable, Modi & Shah should’ve seen them coming on 5 August 2019


Incident A: Chinese intrusion into India

The video purportedly showing a Chinese patrol intercepted and beaten up by Indian troops is particularly illuminating. The still shot capture (Image 1) allows us to geolocate the incident (Image 2). This is almost 2 kilometres inside Indian territory (as the crow flies), as measured from the LAC close (0.62 kilometres) to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) camp at the base of finger 4 (Image 3).

Image 1 from video of alleged scuffle | Images 2 and 3 via Google | Abhijit Iyer Mitra and Twitter/@Detresfa_
Image 1 from video of alleged scuffle | Images 2 and 3 via Google | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

The overall location of the incident and the Indian camp with respect to the LAC and the fingers can be seen in Image 4.

Image: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

We were able to place this incident at some time between 19 and 21 May based on two other incidents. The first was a significant beefing up of the ITBP camp starting on 21 May, clearly in response to some trigger, and the second was studying the movement patterns of the Chinese vehicles involved in this incident.

The vehicle (Image 5) is a Dongfeng CSK131, a Chinese armoured four-wheel drive vehicle similar in function and style to the American Humvee. The purpose of this vehicle is high-speed reconnaissance — which is to say it does a rapid drive-through of hostile terrain. An example of such a drive-through by a similar type of vehicle was during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq when the Humvees along with tanks were the first vehicles to enter Baghdad for a rapid reconnaissance.

Screengrab from video | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

Our visual surveillance of Chinese camps in the region did show a change in the parking positions of these vehicles as well as trucks (presumably transporting the troops seen in the background in Image 5). Significantly all these vehicles seemed to have returned to their Chinese bases, with none staying on the Indian side over a 14-day period. This proves that whatever happened was momentary and was repulsed rapidly.


Also read: More ‘Ladakh clashes’ emerge as India-China tension turns into social media battle


Incident 2: Indian troops ‘restrained’

This is where the second set of images becomes significant. Image 6 shows Indian troops (at least one quite seriously injured) being allegedly restrained by Chinese troops. This was geolocated to the west bank of Fox point, the peninsula seen in Image 7. There are two interesting features here: 1) note the face-masks on Chinese troops indicating this to be a post-Covid episode, and 2) the boat on the top left of the image, showing this incident to have been just 1-2 meters away from the waterline.

Image 6 via source | Image 7 via Apple maps | Image 8 courtesy Shadow Break Intl and Planet Labs | Abhijit Iyer Mitra
Image 6 via source | Image 7 via Apple maps | Image 8 courtesy Shadow Break Intl and Planet Labs | Abhijit-Iyer Mitra

Our study of Chinese boat activity in the region, showed only one episode of Chinese boats coming so far west during the last fortnight and that was at Fox point – the southernmost peninsula on the northern bank of Pangong Tso (Image 9). Fox point – an extension of finger 4 has a high ridge running on its western periphery. This ridge marks the LAC. The boats, as can be seen in image 8, were clearly on the Chinese western side of Fox point on 22 May.

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

This is significant for three reasons. First, it shows considerable Indian activity west of the ITBP base, literally a day or two after the deep Chinese incursion described earlier. Second, it confirms that the Indian troops were ordered to proceed into the Chinese side of the LAC albeit not as deep as the Chinese incursion into India. Third, it confirms that by this time (22 May) there was no Chinese presence west of the LAC, putting paid to any rumours of an “occupation”. Moreover, it confirms our interpretation of Images 1 through 5, that the Chinese were doing rapid sweeps and testing Indian readiness in the area, not occupying it.


Also read: Video shows Indian troops challenging Chinese in Ladakh, but Army says ‘not authenticated’


Testing readiness

In the following articles in this series, we will explain the situation in Galwan and the Hotsprings (Gogra). However, for now, the conclusions as far as the Pangong area is considered are clear. Combined with previous reports, there has been a systemic pattern of testing readiness across the LAC in the Pangong area. This has led to what have so far been non-lethal scuffles, but clearly deep intrusion as described by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (note his use of past tense). However, India has not been taking this lying down and its response has been robust, albeit not as exuberant as the Chinese

This is the first article in a three-part series, focussing on the Pangong area. Part 2 will focus on Galwan and part 3 on the Hotsprings/Gogra area. 

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra is senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. Views are personal.

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84 Comments Share Your Views

84 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Abhijit Mitra you are an educated person holding a Chair of repute. State factuals correctly . What is the date and source of the Pic ? Dont sell yourself.
    LAC is at Finger 8 and not Finger 4. It is another matter bthat ITBP post is at Finger 4 and Indian troops patrol to Finger 8.
    Also there are constructions made by China since mid April which materially alters the LAC . Where is that picture ?
    Your statement does not stand up to the facts of the case and are therefore junked. You are junk .
    For members who are following this get correct info from OSINT bt DetResFra,clean unbiased facts.

  2. Ladakh is historically Chinese.
    Muslim settled and peacefully co existed and traded with Buddhist and Chin civilisation.

    During Ranjit Singh when he was on favourable terms the Sikh Empire occupied Kashmir and entered a largely empty Ladakh

    It waa then that this ancient bhuddust region clearly Chinese territory was forced to be seen as part of Kashmir.

    The Quing Chinese empire defeated the Sikhs and sent them packing out of Ladakh.

    After the fall of Sikh Empire J& Kashmir was sold for a pittance to The non Kashmiri British lap dogs The Dogra.

    Ladakh was still keft outside of this until independence that India enjoined it to Kashmir and therefore like much of British India annexing Chinese territory like Tibet, Arunchal etch Ladakh to was wrong drawn up as part of India.

    • What history associates ladakh and Tibetan societies to Han Chinese!! It’s not the Chinese who brought Buddhism to Tibet ladakh, it actually went from India into Tibet then to China!! So India has a claim on your Chinese heartland…
      And as for Ladakh, it was a separate kingdom having political and religious Alliance with Tibet, have you heard of Guge-puran kingdom in western Tibet near north-east ladakh, they used to have regular territorial conflict with ladakh kingdom…
      And so for your information even Tibet that you filthy Han creatures have captured is an independent civilization who has nothing to do with Han Chinese, infact speaks and writes a language which is a form of old Tibetan language also known as trans Himalayan language, and their script is Indic in nature, read this

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibetan_script

      Only thing is some people from Tibet migrated to China to teach you to speak and you learnt a new language, the sino-tibetan languages came from old Tibetan, therefore you Chinese got a sophisticated and better language influencing your 3rd grade phonetic based language, and old Tibetan got it’s influence from even richer indic languages, and China got it’s Buddhism from India…so stop spreading your useless history like your worthless products…

  3. Why India is always on receiving end? If our soldiers had done the same thing with Chinese territory, China would have used bullets instead of muscle power. This shows our men are ill equipped to face Chinese. We are fighting for our rights on our Land here not a piece if China.

    • *Ahem* India did stop Chinese construction in Dokhlam, which is bhutanese territory considered by Chinese as their own. No bullets were fired.

  4. Mr Abhijit you are PROVIDING INCORRECT information . Chinese claim of LAC is till finger 4 while Indian LAC is till finger 8 and the current conflict at Pangong Tso is about Chinese not allowing indian troops to patrol till finger 8 while they are bringing their vehicles upto finger 4 . Your images and information are plain MISLEADING . Mr Shekhar Gupta and Mr Snehesh must correct him .

    • Rightly said, the article writer has given area from finger 4 to 8 to Chinese. This is totally incorrect. This has to be corrected. Most importantly, the article writer is even given justifications to the LAC. I as an Indian feeling very frustrated.

  5. He is right, as he said there is no occupation but incursion. & area between finger 5 to 8 is no mens land according to India but not according to China. China has already occupied the area between 5 to 8 in 1962 war theoretically on paper(map). & it’s true that Chinese troops were at finger 5 at the last day of war. Then they returned back to finger 8 after some talk. So after 1962 they always claimF4 as LAC & F 5 as Chinese terrotery to pressurise india. So actually abhijeet iyer mitra is right according to 1962 talk.

  6. You are too funny. The chinese gave rubbed your asses with your coward forces weeping. It’s all there in media. Your politicians have gone silent and military command gone to barrack….

  7. Even finger 1 to finger 8 are marked wrong in this article.
    Finger 5 shown in this article is actually Finger 8.
    And Yes China came inside the India’s Claim Line
    To get more clarity watch Pangong Tso -cause and effect by Stratnewsglobal.

  8. Since independence authorities are making fool of indian people.
    Only recently majority of ordinary people in india knew about pok
    Similarly with China .

    As per photo many indian soldier are badly injured by Chinese. In this case also ,authorities making fool of people

    Authorities in india saying that they will not let indian pride hurt.But indian soldiers are daily getting beaten by chinese

    Why whenever their is clash with pakis or china,it is indian soldier who is either caught or beaten

  9. Above mentioned is the correct information.
    The author does not even know where the Indian claim line is…..he is showing the Chinese claim line.
    And he has no info on finger 1 to finger 8.
    Finger 8 ( which is Indian claim line is portrayed as Finger 5 in this article)
    I don’t know how these guys are even allowed to even publish on such sensitive matters.
    CHECK VIDEO BY STRATNEWSGLOBAL ( PANGONG TSO – CAUSE AND EFFECT )

  10. Such a bullshit illustration.. You can’t just illustrate through satellite view. Visit Ladakh and ask the common people living in that territory. Don’t be a friend to animal eaters. The whole world is suffering just because of these Chinky Chinese. They just want to draw the attention of their own Chinese citizens to save Ass.. Don’t underestimate the Chinese Government. We Indian are very much aware what’s ours and what’s not. Even Nepal is behaving sick nowadays.

  11. abhijit u got it it all wrong.. u ahve based your assumptions on wrong geographic facts. u should have done some more ground work and interacted with the forces on ground. your story is not factual. FINGER LOCS R WRONG. LAC IS WRONG. so the analysis goes wayward. HOPE U UNDERSTAND…JAI HIND

  12. THIS IS A LAUGHABLE REPORT. MUST BE CHINESE AND PAK COLLABORATION PROPAGANDA BUT TRUTH HURTS AND WORLD KNOWS IT WELL, NICE TRY THOUGH. THANKS. 😃

  13. What is happing india and china which is good to hear to us.because india think very big power,so why now crying so much actualy indian are crezies.why only they have problem with bangladesh srilanka bhutan maldieves pak this show totally indian leader are failure leader.

  14. would love to believe it but this author is such a govt mouth piece… and after the lies of the SG in SC, it is impossible to believe anyone …

  15. I have gone through the article thoroughly; I have already listened Shekhar ‘s interview; Actually in that interview also you you admitted the fact that the map through internate or The image we get couldn’t able to tell the clear cut scenario whether the Chinese intrusion is there or not. Matter of fact it’s political history is accurate. As you explained it’s a political game of Chinese Diplomacy to create pressure on India in Covid19 crisis, all the countries which are in favour of India are directly or indirectly send a message that not India but we are the safe and able leadership in Asia to handle problems. If quite correctly I remember during the regime of ManMohanSingh such Q ever arose .But Modi & Shah has mistaken or taken for granted that Chinese would not, this policy is now we are paying for.

  16. Is it some kind of joke this report that no intrusion of transgression from china seen at LAC.Does it mean all reports by other agencies r either false or malicious or does the reporter wants us to believe “AAL’s WELL” a – la phunsukh wangdoos mantra in 3 idiots. If it really is pleasant & hunky dory out there ( I really would prefer it that way) I request all U “The print” especially to immediately desist from reporting on this irrelevant issue thereby saving yr valuable print space & our invaluable time on other pressing issues confronting India.

    • The situation is never “binary”. There are many things possible between “all is well” and “we just lost Pagnang Tso!”. This article shows the REAL situation on ground based on hard evidence of geo satellite imagery.

  17. I guess, this analyser seems like an illiterate.Caz, every one knows 1-4 points is our territory, 5-8 No man zone means this land belongs to no one, both can do petroling here and from 9th point,that land belongs to chinees.My army friends clearly explained what’s happening their, they occupied the no man zone(5-8) and they are not leaving. In above comments people admiring the analyser. Bullshit.

    • Are u sure.I mean I am also thinking same.Btw is your source correct.Some are telling 3 to 4 km some even 70 km captured.

  18. These are nitty gritty details and do not matter. What matters is that even 58 years after 1962 debacle, why our leaders did not take initiative to bring china to negotiation table to settle all borders with China, not just Arunachal Pradesh or Axai Chin or Pangong lake or Galwan lake, Lipulekh. Along 3500 KM length of share border, China can continue to create incidences at every kilometer length. Was China refusing to discuss borders, or were our leaders afraid of China? I see this as the biggest failure of successive Indian Governments.

  19. Great analysis, first time it’s been explained with some evidence. One is relieved that there is no digging in by the PLA on our side of the LAC. But …. no offense, I do hope you are right. Sorry to see our ITBP and Army Jawans grievously wounded by the Chinese, with their “non lethal” weapons, trussed up on the ground. The things our troops bear for the sake of our defense! And although I did not like the PLA colonel’s arrogant tone of voice in the Twitter video, from the placatory tone of the younger Indian officer it is probable that we were doing the intruding in this case! We’d be happy if our jawans are giving as good as they get, with interest. And that the Army and Air Force build up capability rapidly to foil whatever no good the PLA is up to.

  20. Great analysis, first time it’s been explained with some evidence. One is relieved that there is no digging in by the PLA on our side of the LAC. But …. no offense, I do hope you are right. Finally, sorry to see our ITBP and Army Jawans grievously wonder by the Chinese, with their “non lethal” weapons. Although I did not care much for the PLA colonel’s tone of voice in the Twitter video, from the placatory tone of the younger Indian officer it is probable that we were doing the intruding in this case! We’d be happy if our jawans are giving as good as we get, with interest. And that the Army and Air Force build up capability rapidly to foil whatever no good the PLA is up to.

  21. I disagree. China entered India and occupied some Indian territories. It’s a fact. They have done it earlier also. Our security forces and government were found napping.

    • They are concocting actuals what is happening in eastern Ladakh. Already 60 sq. km. lost to Chinese. After Kargil India has lost so much land. The lost area is as vital as that of in Sikkim. Pro Govt. media suppressing facts.

  22. Shocking to find the sarkari propaganda machine is claiming “no incursion” by simply redrawing the border (LAC) to conform to the Chinese incursions.

    The LAC was always at Finger8. Now the PLA has occupied till Finger4, this writer says Finger4 is LAC!!!

    Just copied from Ajay Shukla from twitter

  23. It’s wonderfully analysed. I was always confused about the finger theory at LAC. With pictures and google maps, you have explained it to the core. I myself could easily cross check on google maps to understand ITBP post at finger 4.

  24. If there is no occupation of India then why mr.saha told in parliament that he will recapture inch of indian land from Chinese even at the cost of his life india is waiting for it.

    • First lost on economic front, evident from Moody’s Report. Now on war front with China. This humbug BJP Govt. registered total failure on all sides. They are now trying to suppress facts from common public.

  25. A slap on ajay shula, rahul Kanwal. A frank analysis. The incursion by the Chinese will make us stronger and take measures to improve our surveillance, faster troop buildups and quicker response. The Chinese have made a blunder and will realise soon.

  26. Great. keep doing the good work. Why most of the indian electronic media behave irresponsibly, at least when they are reporting critical news wrt National Security without proper due diligence.

  27. PM made a big thing before the elections to polarise vote. Surgical strike and sending a plane to bomb a deserted hillock in Pakistan. Why such intrusion by Chinese is not be given a strong response. The reason is this it is evident that nothing is happening across the border. This is a media frenzy to provide fodder and divert attention from the mismanaged Covid 19 crisis.

  28. Well if the story is true that there is no Chinese occupation then why so much of brohuahau over it in Indian media circles so much ado about nothing, right? But the facts presented by the writer are to be thoroughly scrutinized before arriving at meaningful conclusion. In the event where govt is not clearly forthcoming with the details doubts will necessarily persist.

    IPCS with which the writer is said to be involved with is just like any other so called think tanks to accommodate retired bureaucrats and diplomats ORF, India Foundation, Vivekanand Foundation etc. to name a few, it has some very prominent right leaning individuals amongst its governing council and some active BJP politicians as well like Ata Hasnain, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Tara Kartha to name a few.

    So what is the credibility of the reports emanating from this institution? On another note, Shekhar Gupta is also well known for his leaning as well.

  29. Totally wrong, no road in Indian side from LOA, two incidents all happened in Chinese side
    If you don’t believe, just check it out with google earth

  30. We always refer to 1962 and claim high that now there is a paradigm shift in status.But is it so? As chinese have definitely intruded on our territory and till we can’t show it on map cleanly across the LAC the exact location of our troupes till it remains a gloomy picture.
    Let’s hope more sooner than more better to us to have a latest clearer picture of the situation on a simple map, as we have list our big land last time which never returned to us by this enemy country.

  31. My only perticipation in a street protest would ,if any, be against this fake and sold mainstream medias.

  32. Abhijit seems to have conceded the contested territory east of finger 4 to the Chinese, calling it the “.. Chinese western side of Fox point..” and that Indian troops proceeded into the “Chinese side of the LAC.” As unmentioned in this article, India claims its territory to extend till finger 8.
    Also, “That intrusion was so small — around 40 to 60 Chinese troops — that it simply did not merit the kind of rhetoric and escalation that we have seen over the last fortnight.” Really! Clearly ‘hindi-chini bhai-bhai’ nonsense is still alive.

  33. That’s a good bit of work, but a sloppy piece of journalism. You have failed to lay out the key background issue (ie the position of the LAC) which is disputed by both sides. I guess the thin red line running northerly across the satellite images is the Indian version. There is also no description of what the large yellow circled numbers mean. I presume they are the numbered “fingers” but there is no caption to help me there. You need to start the article with a map that clearly shows both the Indian and the Chinese versions of the LAC. You also describe “Incident 2” as geolocated to the west bank of Fox Point, but the map shows it on the east bank. That kind of confusion could get you into a pile of trouble in the field!

    • Reading the other comments, it seems that my query about the position of the LAC is critical. The disputed area seems to be between fingers 4 and 8. If the Chinese have built a road all the way west to Finger 4, then it is clear they are pursuing the same strategy as the South China Sea i.e. build infrastructure in all of the disputed area and then start defending it as Chinese territory.

  34. Misinformation regarding Indian Army and defamation of Indian Army by Quoting- Both Side Intruded Each other’s Territory. This kind of Slow Leftist Tactics, and Slow Poisonous Anti India Rhetoric would be Accepted.

  35. No Chinese ‘occupation’? Per LT GEN H S PANAG (RETD) , “PLA has likely secured 40-60 sq km in Ladakh”.

  36. You do realize that the pic with indian troops detained were actually pics of the pla rescuing the indian soldiers after an avalanche. And this happened waay earlier. Your whole article comes into question when the pics were not verified. That pic was pulled from Global Times months ago when the PLA rescued the Indian troops.

  37. First time I read a balanced and detailed article on the current state of affairs in Ladakh. While armchair jingoists in tv channels and media are in competition to give a bloody nose to the intruders, Abhijit Mitra reported and deduced calmly with facts.

  38. This guy has limited credibility, there is a deliberate attempt to confuse Indian masses. He is a known communist peddling Chinese angle. Reality is that China has been in continued occupation of Askai Chin since 1962, there is multiple incursions at many places. This guy is selectively picking images to support Chinese story. India has lost Galwan valley , seriously exposing Daulat Beg Oldi airport that it maintains in Laddhak.

  39. Abhijit, I believe the main issue isn’t over control at finger 4, it’s that the Chinese were making a motorable road from fingers 8 to 5. Previously, Shekhar Gupta has said that both Indian and Chinese troops used to patrol fingers 5 to 8 and occasionally had clashes in that region until the Chinese recently set up a camp at finger 5 to cut off the Indian soldiers so that the motorable road was completed. So the problem now is that the Indian troops can’t patrol fingers 5 to 8 because of the path being blocked, therein lies the face-off.

  40. Interesting. So what is the real reason behind the social media build up in India? Deterrence? Smoke screen? Diversion? Some other message?

  41. Are you CCPMouthpiece ? Who said the LAC is at Finger4? India has its post at F4, but patrols upto F8
    Chinese post is at F8, patrols upto F4. Any permanent structure/build up by chinese b/w F4-F8 is change in Status Quo & PLA must retract to restore SQAnte

  42. The Indian Army and Govt is silent; there are no unnecessary statements. Please give some deep thought why this is the case.
    Never let your your adversary know in advance what you really intend to do. Rest assured that the strike formations are already in position.

  43. If 10,000 Chinese soldiers are not in Indian territory then for what purpose Indian junta is requesting for parleys !!!!

  44. This article was expected of a Pro Chinese newspaper like The Print, obviously you want to highlight Chinese innocence. I dont know why you guys dont feel ashamed even in today’s conditions to parrot Chinese propoganda.

  45. Hi
    Your satellite imagery is from google earth, just look at the underlying metadata.
    Google Earth of this area is two years old, so your whole article is mombo jumbo.
    If I am wrong could you please give a source for your imagery and which company geo imagery it was purchased from and the reference of the image given tagged by the provider

  46. Mr Mitra is an outstanding defence and strategic analyst. his views are devoid of any kind of sensationalism. I congratulate Print for having published this article. My request to Shekhar Gupa ji is that though your forum is noted for its diversity of views, which is truly a fresh and liberating exp in today’s world, however when it comes to National Security matters, such accurate, scientific and highly logical articles would be much for useful for your readers.

  47. Good to see print is publishing Abhijit’s articles ,it is more conclusive and evident compare to let.genaral Panag’s assumptions.

  48. Abhijit iyer do u want us to believe you? Look at all your articles. You are a BHAKHT who can go to any limit to show BJP government in positive. Even if china capture whole of ladakh you will still say nothing has happen

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