A very less reported yet very important from India’s security point of view was the news that China has constructed a new village in Arunachal Pradesh, it is said to consist of 101 homes, and analysis was done through satellite images.
The report first emerged on NDTV where they claimed to have exclusively accessed the satellite images. The images, dated November 1, 2020, were analyzed by several experts approached by the NDTV team, who confirmed an encroachment of 4.5 km within the Indian territory of the de facto border.
The report was a serious one, an ongoing standoff between India and China has continued for almost a year now. A hand to hand combat also has taken place that led to a loss of life on both sides. India has reported 40 casualties, China never officially disclosed the figure.
The details about the reported village capture by China
The village in question is located on the banks of the River Tsari Chu. It lies in the Upper Subansiri district. Notably, this area has been long claimed by both India and China and has been marked by armed conflict.
The village expansion and construction were ongoing in the eastern range of the Himalayas even while both Indian and Chinese soldiers fought each other in their deadliest clash in decades, thousands of kilometers away in the Western Himalayas in Ladakh.
The present stand-off in Ladakh continues through this harsh winter with thousands of soldiers from both sides deployed on the frontline at extreme altitudes in sub-zero temperatures.
The latest image that establishes the village in question is dated November 1, 2020. The image dated a little more than a year before that – August 26, 2019 – does not show any construction activity. So, the village was set up in the last year.
There were different narratives about the encroachment and various news agencies in India reported it differently. Many reported that the area was already under Chinese control since 1959, So where does the truth lie?
China has actually built the village on ‘Arunachal Pradesh territory’ it occupied in 1959
Though this area is Indian territory, according to official government maps, it has essentially been in Chinese control since 1959. Things on the ground however have changed significantly. When earlier only a Chinese military post existed, but this time a whole village that can house thousands has been constructed.
The area where the village in question stands was occupied by China in 1959, in what’s known as the Longju incident. In the year 2018, PLA established a military base in Tsari Chu valley, very close to where the village is located.
Based on the statement by various sources within the defense and security establishment — China has managed to build a village on land occupied by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by overrunning an Assam Rifles post in 1959 on the disputed frontier in Arunachal Pradesh and not on the territory controlled by India.
The village on the disputed border in the Upper Subansiri district was long on territory under Chinese control
They added that the village on the disputed border in the Upper Subansiri district was long on territory under Chinese control. Beijing has, for years, maintained an Army post on this territory and the various constructions by the Chinese haven’t happened suddenly.
“Even after the 1962 war, they did not withdraw from the area, and it continued to be under Chinese control, just like Aksai Chin, where they have built airfields and other military establishments,” a source said. The areas are surely disputed like Asai Chin but it is has been under Chinese control.
The present encroachment came to light when fresh satellite images of the village, located on the banks of the river Tsari Chu were put out by NDTV on Monday. The situation on the ground was different just a year ago. Satellite images from 26 August 2019 don’t show any village, but those from 1 November 2020 do.
BJP MP Tapir Gao and the president of the Arunachal Pradesh unit of ruling party BJP seemed to corroborate the report when he gave his statement that China has built a 100-house village deep inside Arunachal Pradesh. He however failed to give reasons why this was allowed under the regime of his party which is in the government.
Chinese attack in 1959 – Longju incident
China’s 1959 operation is known as the Longju incident, and has been chronicled in the book 1962 War – The Unknown Battles: Operations in Subansiri and Siang Frontier Divisions, by retired major generals G.G. Dwivedi and P.J.S. Sandhu.
The book mentions that when the Tibetan rebellion broke out on 10 March 1959, it was militarily suppressed by the PLA. The 14th Dalai Lama escaped and entered Indian territory on 31 March along with some followers, and was subsequently granted political asylum by India.
“This upset the Chinese authorities a great deal, as they felt that the rebellion had been instigated by India, and was aimed at securing ‘independence for Tibet’,” the major general’s state.
The book also notes that the Indian post at Longju irked the Chinese, and in a note dated 23 June 1959, they accused Indian troops of intrusion and occupation of Migyitun and some other places in Tibet, and collusion with Tibetan rebels.
“It was at Longju in the Subansiri Frontier Division that the first armed clash took place between the PLA (2nd Company of 1st Regiment of Shannan Military Sub Command) and personnel of 9 Assam Rifles occupying the Indian post at Longju on 25 Aug 1959 which resulted in two Indian casualties,” the book states, adding that the issue was finally resolved through diplomatic channels, and both sides “withdrew from the area” on 29 August 1960.
“However, after this incident, with effect from 27 Aug 1959, the defence of NEFA which till then was the responsibility of Intelligence Bureau (IB) under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Assam Rifles under the Ministry of External Affairs became the responsibility of the Indian Army. Though Assam Rifles was to continue to remain deployed on the border but henceforth, it would be under the operational control of the Army,” it says.
The book adds that after the Longju incident, Assam Rifles did not reoccupy the post, and instead, set up a post at Maja, 10 km to the south, on 29 August 1959.
PLA first set up a post in the disputed area in the late 1990s
In the late 1990s and early 2000, the Chinese PLA had started a campaign to improve its border roads, especially in eastern Tibet, close to the Chumbi Valley, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh.
In the same period, in the Tsari Chu area, the PLA had established a company-level post at least 3 km inside Indian territory. At the time, the post was hardly an administrative barracks, with a jeep track serving it.
Located on the eastern side of the river, at a height of 2700 m, the post had three barracks arranged in a C-shape, with a small listening post slightly ahead. With the passage of time and India’s continued indifference, the PLA was encouraged to extend the track further with a bridge and another hut at around 2600m height on the west side of the river, the report added.