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China allegedly developing area along disputed border with India and Bhutan

November 25, 2020 | 13:55

New satellite images appear to show China has built up an area in the Himalayas along a disputed border with India and Bhutan that was the site of a months-long standoff in 2017.

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An annotated satellite image of the China-Bhutan border in the disputed region of Doklam which appears to show a newly constructed village and supply depot. (Photo: CNN)

Satellite image shows a village in the disputed area

Indian media NDTV reported on Thursday the Chinese had built a residential area within Bhutanese territory and named it "Pangda village."

According to US-based satellite operator Maxar Technologies, the images, dated October 28, 2020, show "there has clearly been significant construction activity this year all along the Torsa River valley area." In a statement, Maxar added there had also been the construction of "new military storage bunkers" near the Doklam area.

Maxar said the images show the newly constructed Pangda Village, on the Bhutanese side of the disputed border, as well as a supply depot in Chinese territory, near the point of a tense dispute between Indian and Chinese forces in 2017.

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A business street in Gyirong town, China-Nepal Border's Gyirong County in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. (Photo: Global Times)

A thin strip of land bordering all three countries, the Doklam area is claimed by both China and Bhutan, but it is also strategically important to India, because of its proximity to the Siliguri Corridor, a vital artery between New Delhi and its north eastern states.

Earlier this year, India and China engaged in a bloody clash along another disputed border in the Himalayas which left at least 20 soldiers dead, the worst conflict between the two countries since they fought a war over the same territory in 1962. While both countries agreed to deescalate, Maxar Technologies' satellite imagery has shown that China continues to reinforce its position along the border with India, though further construction is unlikely at this time of year due to the harsh winter conditions high in the Himalayas, CNN cited.

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Satellite imagery of the Chinese village of Pangda, provided by Maxar Technologies. The firm claims the village was built on the Bhutanese side of a disputed border with China. (Photo: CNN)

China accused Indian media of spreading fake news

Global Times responded: "Some Indian media recently hyped a Chinese village existed two kilometers inside Bhutanese territory, a claim proven to be false and denied by Bhutanese officials." The China state-backed journal quoted a Bhutan resident, who preferred to be called Kelly, who said "A lot of information in the Indian media is false. They are making every effort to drive a wedge between China and Bhutan", and added "Most Bhutanese didn't know they are fake news, because 70 percent of Bhutan's local television channels are carrying Indian programming".

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that "China's normal construction activities on its own territory are entirely within the scope of China's sovereignty, and there is nothing wrong with it." While, in a statement, Bhutan's ambassador to India, Major General Vetsop Namgyel, said "there is no Chinese village inside Bhutan."

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Pangda village, Yadong County of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region (Photo: Global Times)

Global Times also quoted observers and experts criticized the Indian media for spreading such rumors. "Analysts said some Indian media reports lack self-discipline and hype topics to cater to the nationalist sentiment amid intense press competition, calling such media a "poison" for regional peace and stability. Instead of pursuing the truth with journalism ethics, some Indian media outlets fabricate lies to draw attention and this has become their habitual way of reporting", said the journal.

India's Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

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