The Ladakh stand-off has boosted transparency, for it has given greater visibility to a species of information soldiers who could be described as ‘Satellite Warriors’. These individuals, who are mostly housed in either think tanks or media, are increasingly the main sources of satellite imagery, informing the Indian and international public about China’s military moves. Their interpretations based on commercially available satellite imagery often vary from the official descriptions of the situation on the ground. Without any official interpretations contradicting their claim, the satellite warriors are having a free run while Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statements, even if they refer only to Galwan, are increasingly looking like lies attempting to hide in plain sight.
The last time the Modi government made compromises with China, at Doklam in 2017, the satellite warriors were small in number and their impact was marginalised by the projection of Doklam as a victory. The fact that the ‘victory’ was short-lived and restricted to stopping China from building a road with a particular alignment, did not get traction because the story hid the truth despite all the efforts of a few satellite warriors. The truth of China’s perfidy in Doklam is available through satellite photographs and is yet to reach the popular imagination. The Balakot strike in 2019 witnessed satellite warriors from India, Pakistan and other countries in an information battle space, which involved providing proof of strikes as a success or failure.