The discovery of what is considered a military establishment in China’s Northern plains by a Google Earth user from Germany has kicked up a storm on the Net’s strategic forums. Here’s why: The establishment, snapped from Google’s free satellite imagery software, houses a startlingly accurate scale model of a highly sensitive stretch of the disputed Sino-Indian border.
A careful study of the model, located at a large military complex in China’s Huangyangtan province, likely used for training and familiarisation of troops, helicopters and infantry vehicles, shows that it is built to scale based on a stretch 2,400 km away along the Aksai Chin area bordering Ladakh, part of the stretch through which invading Chinese forces entered in the 1962 war.
The facility, full with uncharacteristic and man-made snow peaks, glacial lakes and snow rifts—ironically in the middle of an arid plain—is flanked by a large military depot with buildings and at least a hundred military trucks.
The Army did not confirm that it was aware of the facility, but officially told The Indian Express, “Militaries are always known to simulate potential conflict zones as a standard practice. There is absolute peace and tranquility on the border with China, a disputed border that the two governments are resolving through peaceful dialogue. It is nothing alarming, these are standard training methodologies.”
Off the record, though, an officer currently with the Quarter Master General branch, but who has served along the border with Aksai Chin, said, “We knew that they had some facilities for this purpose but the scale and detail is something new to us.”
The sense is that economic development near the border and a quiet, but progressive peace dialogue to end the border dispute notwithstanding, the PLA is keeping its forces well in touch with potential conflict zones— especially Aksai Chin, strategically important to Beijing since it houses crucial road heads and Demchok, one of the principally disputed zones.
The image could be anything between six months and two years old, proving that training on disputed terrain is still very much part of the PLA’s war doctrine.
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