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China and India send more troops to disputed border region amid clashes

China and India have ordered more troops to their borders following a clash earlier this week that killed 20 Indian troops and wounded scores more, according to a report Friday.

“There is credible evidence to suggest that both China and India have significantly reinforced their positions on their respective sides of the de facto border,” the International Institute for Strategic Studies said, citing satellite imagery, the South China Morning Post reported.

The satellite photographs were taken at the disputed Galwan River valley taken by Earth-imaging company Planet Labs on earlier in the week.

They showed that structures close to the Line of Actual Control, which could have been the Chinese tents that triggered the deadliest clash on the west Himalayan border since 1967, had been dismantled.

Several positions on the Indian side of the LAC had also been removed, the website reported.

But there also appeared to have be more activity by the two armies in the region in Kashmir.

A temporary position with up to 40 vehicles appeared to have been set up on the Indian side, while a group of about 100 trucks could be seen on the Chinese side, according to Reuters.

The institute said it believed China’s Peoples Liberation Army had increased its border force in Aksai Chin to up to 1,500 troops from about 500 to 600 in normal times.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia non-proliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the US, said that comparing images taken on June 9 and June 16, it appeared China was building roads in the valley and possibly damming the river on its side.

A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Strategist website on Thursday said the new satellite images showed “a significant change to the status quo along the India-China border that threatens to escalate.” including in Hot Springs and Pangong Lake, two other hotspots.

China, meanwhile, has returned 10 Indian soldiers captured during the border clash, an Indian government source said Friday in a possible sign of deescalation.

But in a briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied any Indian troops had been in its custody.

“As far as I know China hasn’t seized any Indian personnel,” Zhao said.

The Indian army did not comment on the release, which according to the source took place on Thursday evening, instead referring to a government statement that said all of its soldiers were accounted for.

Twenty Indian soldiers, including an officer, were killed in hand-to-hand combat on Monday night in the Galwan Valley, according to the Indian government — the deadliest clash on the India-China border in more than 50 years.

India has said the Chinese side also suffered casualties, but China has not disclosed any.

A day after the funerals of some of the soldiers in their hometowns the public mood was hardening in India with growing calls for revenge and a boycott of Chinese-made goods.

Since the clash, military officials have held talks as their governments seek to deescalate the confrontation, but there is no sign of a breakthrough.

“The situation remains as it was, there is no disengagement, but there is also no further build up of forces,” said a second Indian government source, who is aware of the ground situation.

A satellite image of Galwan Valley in Ladakh, India.
A satellite image of Galwan Valley in Ladakh, India. Planet Labs Inc/Handout via Reuters

The official said at least 76 Indian troops were wounded during the clash, and had been hospitalized.

The skirmish came day after a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said that China has added 30 nuclear warheads to its arsenal in the past year, while India has added 20 or fewer.

The two countries, which share a 2,520-mile border, were two of just six that have increased their arsenals, the others being North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and the UK.

With Reuters

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