New satellite images show that China has constructed at least 3 villages, approximately 5 kilometres from the Bum La pass which lies close to the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan in western Arunachal Pradesh, with experts saying the move could be aimed at reinforcing its territorial claims along the Arunachal Pradesh frontier.
“China has been using a strategy of settling Han Chinese and Tibetan members of the Communist Party along the India border to strengthen its territorial claims and escalate border intrusions,” says China-watcher Dr. Brahma Chellaney.
The new satellite images were shared by the open-source intelligence analyst who goes by the name @detresfa on Twitter. In a tweet, @detresfa said there is evidence of “new villages and accommodation similar to what was seen in Pangda village, Bhutan” in the vicinity of Bum La. The relocation of people to these villages “promises China with better border surveillance and patrols through a network of herders,” the tweet said.
The villages shown in the new satellite imagery lie within Chinese territory and were being constructed at the same time that Indian and Chinese soldiers faced off in Eastern Ladakh.
The images, acquired from Planet Labs, show a single village having been constructed in the area by February 17, 2020. This features more than 20 structures, thought to be chalets, which can be easily distinguished through their red roofs. The second image, dated November 28, 2020, shows the addition of three additional enclaves with at least 50 structures.
China disputes the legal status of the boundary in this region and Chinese maps continue to show 65,000 square kilometres of territory south of the line as being a part of Beijing’s South Tibet Region.
India, which has rejected Beijing’s claim for decades, insists that the historic McMohan line proposed by the British administrator Sir Henry McMohan at the 1914 Simla Convention defines the boundary here.
Satellite imagery that emerged last month showed China has built a village called Pangda some two kilometres within territory claimed by Bhutan on Doklam plateau. This imagery also showed China has built a road in the same region that goes about nine kilometres inside Bhutanese territory.
In August, Chinese state media reported on how the government has improved infrastructure in villages close to the Arunachal Pradesh border. State-owned Global Times tabloid cited authorities in Yadong county of Tibet Autonomous Region as saying that 27 households with 124 people had “voluntarily moved from… Yadong county to Pangda village in September”.