Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers taking part in military training at Pamir Mountains in Kashgar, northwestern China's Xinjiang region. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (AFP file)
Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers taking part in military training at Pamir Mountains in Kashgar, northwestern China's Xinjiang region. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (AFP file)

China’s PLA now has precision 3D maps of India border

The PLA’s western theatre command has begun to deploy the newly built precision “spatial datum” system covering China’s western borders, which will help in building both combat capability and infrastructure.
By Sutirtho Patranobis , edited by Vinod Janardhanan
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 12:10 PM IST

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has for the first time completed 3D mapping of its western border including the disputed part with India to pin-point accuracy, state media reports have said.

The PLA’s western theatre command (WAC) has begun to deploy the newly built precision “spatial datum” system covering China’s western borders, which will help in building both combat capability and infrastructure.

Spatial or geological datum is defined as a set of reference points on the earth’s surface, which will contain information about a specific geographic location on the earth’s surface.

“The PLA recently started deploying China’s first panoramic, high-precision spatial datum that covers the uncharted western border region of the country,” a state media report said.

The completion of the two-year PLA project and the deployment comes amid the ongoing months-long Sino-India border friction along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much the new map system could impact the protracted border negotiations between India and China by bolstering Beijing’s disputed claims – dismissed by New Delhi – on the 3,488 km-long LAC.

However, it is clear that the new system is expected to give the PLA personnel deployed along the LAC precise information about vertical elevation and/or depth and horizontal distance in terms of latitude and longitude of the mountainous and treacherous terrain that divides India and China.

It will help the PLA to better navigate both its troops and military equipment.

“The panoramic spatial datum is like a multifunctional, highly accurate ruler that can indicate the coordinates of remote sensing images and other geographic data. We can evaluate the data that can reach centimetre-level accuracy,” Wang Yanbin, deputy leader of PLA’s navigation and mapping unit, which was in charge of the project, said in a report by national broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV).

A navigation and mapping unit affiliated with the PLA’s WAC traversed over 20,000 km, used drones, panoramic cameras and customised vehicles for geographical mapping to complete the project in two years, the CCTV report added.

China borders 11 countries to its west including India and Bhutan; Like with India, Beijing has a land border dispute with Thimphu.

The new system will enable the Chinese military to monitor the entire western border region at all times through remote sensing satellites.

Besides providing support for disaster relief, infrastructure construction, spatial planning and economic development, the system has military significance.

“I will contribute to the tactical and strategic judgment of commanders and soldiers with better situational awareness, and provide geographic data for weapons systems,” state-backed nationalist tabloid Global Times said in a report citing Chinese military analysts.

The new 3D mapping system can avoid the lack of navigational data and provide support to the deployment and maneuvering of troops. It can also offer data to high-precision guided weapons in attack missions, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert said.

Indian and Chinese troops clashed at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June last year that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and resulted in unspecified Chinese casualties.

The relationship between India and China has been “profoundly disturbed” by the first incident of bloodshed along the LAC in 45 years, which had a “huge impact” on public opinion, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.

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