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The latest flashpoint on the India-China border: Zooming into the Tawang border skirmishes

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The latest flashpoint on the India-China border: Zooming into the Tawang border skirmishes

Overview

On 9 December 2022, Indian and Chinese troops clashed at the Yangtse Plateau along the India-China border. The confrontation was the most serious skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops since Galwan in 2020.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s latest visual project provides satellite imagery analysis of the key areas (including 3D models) and geolocates military, infrastructure and transport positions to show new developments over the last 12 months.

Tawang is strategically valuable Indian territory wedged between China and Bhutan. The Yangtse Plateau is an important location in Tawang because it enables visibility over key Indian supply routes to the region.

Our analysis reveals that rapid infrastructure development along the border in this region means the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can now access key locations on the Yangtse Plateau more easily than it could have just one year ago. While India maintains control of the commanding position on the plateau's high ground, China has compensated for this disadvantage by building new military and transport infrastructure that allows it to get troops quickly into the area. 

This new ASPI work builds on satellite analysis that ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre carried out in September 2021, focused on the Doklam region (‘A 3D deep dive into the India-China border’). 

The latest analysis aims to contextualise India-China border tensions by examining the terrain in which this clash took place, and provides analysis of developments that threaten the status quo along the border - a major flashpoint in the region.

The India-China border continues to become more crowded as infrastructure is built and large numbers of Indian and Chinese outposts compete for strategic, operational and tactical advantage. This increases the risk of escalation and potential military conflict stemming from incidental or deliberate encounters between Indian and Chinese troops. These ongoing tensions, and clashes, deserve more attention from regional governments, global policymakers and international organisations.

ADF

Australian Defence Force

ACSC

Australian Cyber Security Centre

IEC

the International Electrotechnical Commission

IEEE

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

IoT

Internet of Things

IoTAA

Internet of Things Alliance Australia

ISO

International Organisation for Standardization

USB

universal serial bus

IIOT

Industrial Internet of Things

ASD

Australian Signals Directorate

CCP

Chinese Communist Party

MERICS

Mercator Institute for China Studies

PRC

Peoples Republic of China

VPN

virtual private network

AI

Artificial Intelligence

SCS

Social Credit System

BRI

One Belt, One Road initiative

CETC

China Electronics Technology Group Corporation

NGO

nongovernment organisation

RFID

radio-frequency identification

CFIUS

Committee on Foreign Investment in the US

SVAIL

Silicon Valley Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

UTS

University of Technology Sydney

ATO

Australian Taxation Office

COAG

Council of Australian Governments

DHS

Department of Human Services

DTA

Digital Transformation Agency

FIS

Face Identification Service

FVS

Face Verification Service

TDIF

Trusted Digital Identity Framework

NUDT

National University of Defense Technology

PLAIEU

PLA Information Engineering University

RFEU

Rocket Force Engineering University

STEM

science, technology, engineering and mathematics

UNSW

University of New South Wales

ZISTI

Zhengzhou Information Science and Technology Institute

AFP

Australian Federal Police

ACIC

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

A4P

Action for Peacekeeping

ASEAN

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

C-34

Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations

CTOAP

Peacekeeping Training Centre (Timor-Leste)

F-FDTL

Timor-Leste Defence Force

MFO

Multinational Force and Observers

MINUSCA

UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic

MINUSMA

UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali

MONUSCO

UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

PNGDF

Papua New Guinea Defence Force

PNTL

National Police of Timor-Leste

RAMSI

Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands

RFMF

Republic of Fiji Military Forces

RPNGC

Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary

RSIPF

Royal Solomon Islands Police Force

UNAMI

UN Assistance Mission for Iraq

UNAMID

UN–African Union Mission in Darfur

UNAMIR

UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda

UNAVEM

UN Angola Verification Mission

UNDOF

UN Disengagement Observer Force

UNIFIL

UN Interim Force in Lebanon

UNIKOM

UN Iraq–Kuwait Observation Mission

UNIOGBIS

UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office for Guinea-Bissau

UNISFA

UN Interim Security Force for Abyei

UNOSOM

UN Operation in Somalia

UNMHA

UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement

UNMIBH

UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina

UNMIK

UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo

UNMIL

UN Mission in Liberia

UNMIS

UN Mission in Sudan

UNMISET

UN Mission of Support to East Timor

UNMISS

UN Mission in South Sudan

UNMIT

UN Integrated Mission in East Timor

UNOTIL

UN Office in East Timor

UNSMIS

UN Supervision Mission in Syria

UNTAC

UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia

UNTAES

UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium

UNTAET

UN Transitional Administration in East Timor

UNTSO

UN Truce Supervision Organization