India: ‘Next 72 Hours Are Crucial’ as China Deploys Artillery to Border

Soldiers stand near the PG59 57mm anti-aircraft artillery gun after conducting a demonstration at a base of People’s Liberation Army Lanzhou Military 47th Combined Corps anti-air brigade in Xi'an in northwest China's Shaanxi province Monday, July 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
AP Photo/Andy Wong

Satellite imagery shows China has recently deployed “extensive” amounts of “artillery and mechanized elements” to its side of a shared border with India in Ladakh, India’s northernmost state, bringing Indian troops on the border “within striking distance,” Indian government sources told the Indian Express on Thursday.

The development prompted one Indian official to warn on Thursday evening that the next three days are “crucial” in monitoring Chinese activity along the border to ensure the situation does not escalate further.

According to the government sources, satellite images show the presence of “at least 16 tanks” on China’s side of the border, along with “a mix of infantry combat vehicles.” The images also reveal that China has shipped “flatbed trucks, excavator machines, and dumper trucks” to the border, suggesting its forces are preparing to construct “permanent defenses” in the area, the sources said.

“Bunkers, troops on [the] ground and machine-gun emplacements can also be seen which may also show that the Chinese have been anticipating an offensive and have made defensive positions too,” one source added. In response, the sources said India has sent “suitable” counterdeployments to its side of the border to “neutralize” any of China’s recent military buildup.

On Friday, the Epoch Times, citing Indian media, reported that China has recently deployed at least 5,000 troops to its side of the border. Reports on Wednesday indicated that the Indian Army had moved 10,000-12,000 soldiers forward to their “operational alert areas” along the border with China so far.

“The next 72 hours are crucial in which we have to watch for any reduction in the soldiers and equipment from the Chinese side. So far (as of Thursday afternoon), there has been no change in their deployment. Our side also remains on high alert, we haven’t changed anything either,” an Indian government official told the Indian Express.

An India Today report on Thursday supports the Indian Express sources who said that China is preparing “permanent defenses” along the border, adding that satellite imagery indicates China has established a camp for its troops there.

“While India has merely reinforced its existing position, China has actually provoked [India] by setting up a new troop camp,” the report said.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump offered to mediate the escalating border dispute, indicating that the U.S. had been in touch with both parties to address the standoff.

“We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing, and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute. Thank you!” the president said in a tweet.

On May 18, the Indian Army “rushed troops” to its border with China in Ladakh after the PLA (China’s People’s Liberation Army) said it had “bolstered” its military presence there hours earlier. On May 12, India’s air force deployed fighter jets to Ladakh to conduct regular patrols of the region after Chinese helicopters reportedly crossed the aerial buffer zone established between the two nations. The air aggression followed shortly after a skirmish on the ground between 150 Indian and Chinese border troops was reported on May 9.

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