Bridge constructed by PLA over the Chinese side of Pangong Lake

A violent clash broke out between the Indian and Chinese forces in Galwan Valley in June 2020

Two years ago, it was on this day that the untoward news of a brutal hand-to-hand combat between Indian and Chinese forces in the intervening night of June 15 and June 16 first broke. The sacrifice and extreme bravery shown by Colonel B Santosh Babu and his men against a numerically larger People’s Liberation Army (PLA) grouping ensured that the slowly expanding Chinese incursion into eastern Ladakh was put to pause.

China did not publicly declare it had fallen until the next year. Several sacrifices from both sides and talks at military as well as diplomatic levels later, both countries are still to fully resolve the military standoff from several locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

However, what started as a disguised military exercise that soon turned into a bloody battle in the high mountains has now become a war between two armed forces to achieve better agility in the unforgiving environment of the Himalayas.


Galwan valley—the ground zero of the unsparing clashes, was the first place where both sides agreed to disengage. India and China consented to withdraw their forces by a few kilometres from Patrol Point 14 (PP14) and created a buffer zone to avoid another violent incident.

The latest satellite images of Galwan valley provided by US based space company, Planet Labs PBC shows status quo at ground zero of the clash. While both sides have maintained a no man’s land around PP14, the preparation to achieve better mobility is visible on both sides. Several bridges over the water streams can be seen on the available satellite imagery.

These bridges and connecting road networks hold the key to the critical response time that a unit would require during a conflict. China has also been working on infrastructure to hold the water stream in the valley as well.

The Chinese’s inability to respond quickly during India’s counteroffensive at Kailash range in late August of 2020 was evident. To bridge this gap, China has been working to set up a new bridge on the western side of the Pangong Lake. Latest satellite images show two-front ongoing construction work at the bridge that has an additional platform coming up. The blacktopping at the bridge has also begun.

Through this new bridge and connecting road network, PLA would be able to reduce the travel time from its permanent support positions in Rutog.


Inputs suggest that China has been recalibrating its border strategy with the help of high mobility combined armed brigades. The Chinese strategy to move from mechanised to ‘informationised’ warfare is evident with inputs suggesting deployment of modern assets in the theatre. The PLA has provided its combined armed brigades with CSK-series high-mobility armoured vehicles. Its tanks have been upgraded with modern fire control systems to improve combat capabilities.

China has been replacing towed howitzers with truck-mounted howitzers and deploying the PHL-03 truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers near the LAC. All these steps are intended to achieve better mobility. The extremely harsh living conditions in the region have forced the PLA leadership to rotate the deployment of its divisions.

The PLA has been rotating four divisions of its Xinjiang military division on a yearly basis near eastern Ladakh. Inputs suggest that division 4 and 6, earlier deployed in the region during the start of border standoff in 2020, had been reassigned earlier this year, replacing division 8 and 11.

China has replaced older versions of the Surface to Air Missile (SAM) systems with short range HQ-17 systems, while deployment of long range SAM system HQ9 has been reported near the Chip Chap ridge and Rutog county. The biggest and obvious element of overall Chinese plan for the theatre is the ever-growing network of airbases. While China has been expanding its existing airbases, a network of new bases are also being set up.