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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Pics Show China Had Large Base, Fighting Positions At Gogra-Hot Springs In Eastern Ladakh

On left, Chinese base pre-disengagement. On right, landforms now restored. high res

New Delhi:

New satellite images accessed by NDTV confirm that Chinese soldiers have withdrawn 3 kilometers from the position that they occupied in an area near a key patrol position of the Indian armed forces near Gogra-Hot Springs in eastern Ladakh.

The withdrawal is part of a mutual disengagement process that saw the Chinese army bringing down a major base near the Indian army’s patrolling post 15 (PP-15) which lies on or near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in this sector. The LAC separates Indian and Chinese held positions in Ladakh.

The before and after images available to NDTV from satellite imagery specialists Maxar focus only on Chinese positions and do not show the extent of the buffer-zone, or no-man’s land, created between the armies of both sides as part of the agreement. No patrolling is permitted in this zone as a confidence-building measure.

The pre-disengagement image of August 12, 2021 shows the Chinese army had constructed a large base in the area of ​​the Line of Actual Control here. The base features fighting positions to its east and fox holes for infantry positions. A smaller post was also located to its west.

An image dated September 15 indicates that the Chinese have brought down this building and transported construction debris from this site to what appears to be a temporary position to the North.

Another image shows that the landform at the site vacated by the Chinese has been restored along the lines of the disengagement agreement announced by both sides.

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Relocated Chinese post after disengagement in Gogra-Hot Springs area. high res

Local councillors in Ladakh have stated that part of the agreement involved the Indian army removing their own posts well within Indian territory, details of which have not been confirmed by army officials in New Delhi. While the images in this report do not show the dismantling of Indian army positions, they clearly indicate the Chinese side having removed a base within territory that they appeared to have claimed since 1959.

”Our troops have gone back from not only Patrol Point 15 (PP-15) but also Patrol Point 16 (PP-16), which we had for the last 50 years or so” says Konchok Stanzin, the Councillor for the Chushul region of Ladakh. ”This was a big setback. Our grazing grounds (for nomadic graziers in the region) have now become a buffer zone. It was the main winter grazing ground. It is now a buffer zone.”

The Gogra disengagement between the Indian and Chinese army came after the 16th round of talks between Corps Commander ranked army officers of both sides on July 17, this year. According to the External Affairs Ministry, “It has been agreed that all temporary structures and other allied infrastructure created in the area by both sides will be dismantled and mutually verified. The landforms in the area will be restored to the pre-standoff period by both sides.” The new satellite images confirm that this did happen.

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Relocated Chinese post lies 3 kms northeast of dismantled post. high res

The disengagement in Gogra, which was completed on September 12, four days after it began, had triggered speculation of the possibility of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Xinping in Samarkand, Uzbekistan over the last two days. While both leaders shared the stage at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meet, the first time they met since the Galwan clashes of May 5, 2020, they never shook hands or held any formal or informal talks.

Mutual disengagement and the creation of buffer zones have proven to be the only way to get the Chinese to return across the Line of Actual Control. While this has meant that the stalemate has been broken in 4 areas where the Chinese crossed over, it is also clear that some of these buffer zones have been created within Indian territory, areas where the Indian army or the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) ) can no longer patrol.

It is believed that the Chinese army continues to block Indian patrol positions in the Depsang Plains, North of Gogra. Disengagement talks have, so, far, not made progress here.

(None of the images here show the location of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since this has not been disclosed in the public.)

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