What new satellite image analysis can tell us about the Line of Actual Control between China and India

New analysis of satellite imagery shows China has rapidly developed roads along the contested Line of Actual Control with India over the past year, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report says.

Infrastructure development played a role in last week’s border skirmish between the two nuclear-armed nations, according to report authors Nathan Ruser and Baani Grewal.

The LAC is an area straddling the Himalayan River that divides the world’s two most populous nations and was the site of a deadly clash between soldiers in 2020.

Mr Ruser said the Chinese side is investing heavily in infrastructure to gain a strategic advantage, and countries like Australia should pay attention because of the wider implications for neighboring countries and the region.

But some experts warn that viewing this region only through geopolitics could lead to increased militarization, damage to the environment and impact on the lives of the people who live there.

What do satellite images show?

Before and after satellite images show that the main access roads on the Chinese side have been upgraded or upgraded, and a new road has been built in the Yangtse Plain from Tangwu New Town to within 150 meters of the LAC ridge.

“The construction of this new road allowed Chinese troops to move up to Indian positions during the December 9 battle,” according to the report.

Mr Ruser told the ABC satellite images taken five days after the clash showed footprints in the snow.

“Before this latest round of construction, there was probably a small footpath used by Chinese military patrols or by nomadic herders living on the plateau,” Mr Ruser said.

“And in mid-2022, that was upgraded and built into a … fairly comprehensive road.

“It really shows the amount of investment China has put into its border infrastructure.”

India and China said the latest incident was caused by the other trying to cross into their territory.

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