New satellite images from the India-China border show China has expanded two of its nearby heliports, with one located just ten miles northeast of the shared boundary, the Times of India (TOI) reported on Tuesday.
The heliport nearest to the border is situated 13 miles from India in the Pangong Tso Lake area. At another Chinese heliport located about 100 miles north of the border in Pishan County, Hotan, Xinjiang, China has “revamped” the old base and added new infrastructure. The satellite images of this remodeled heliport in Pishan County were reportedly taken on June 22.
TOI reports that, although China’s expanded helipads appear to be near the border, India’s established helipads remain even closer to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the official name for the boundary.
An Indian military “expert” told the TOI anonymously that the Indian army’s helipads were more strategically located than those of the Chinese, meaning India would maintain its advantage over China in the region, despite the recent buildup. He noted that one of India’s heliports is located just three miles from the site of India and China’s most recent border clash on June 15 in India’s Galwan Valley.
“The [Chinese] People’s Liberation Army Air Force had flown Mi-17 choppers over Galwan between June 8 and June 20 from Hotan to a small heliport in Hot Springs,” the anonymous source said. “But this small heliport was 70 km [43 miles] away from the clash site. On the other hand, India has a heliport right next to Shyok, 5 km [3 miles] from the site of that clash.”
On Tuesday, the third round of talks to resolve India and China’s ongoing border dispute commenced in Chushul, Ladakh, near the site of the June 15 conflict. The skirmish on that day was the deadliest military conflict between the two nations in 45 years. It was a brutal affair, with an Indian border regiment fighting off a reported ambush by Chinese border troops in eight hours of hand-to-hand combat. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed along with an estimated 40 Chinese troops, although China has yet to confirm its army’s death toll.
The Indian and Chinese armies each sent a commanding officer to Chushul on Tuesday in a renewed effort to negotiate a solution for the intense border crisis.