Beijing blames India’s infrastructure development and military deployments along LAC
A day after the marathon talks between Corps Commanders, held at Chushul in eastern Ladakh, failed to reach an agreement on disengagement, China on Tuesday said the “root cause” of the recent tensions was India’s infrastructure development and military deployments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
China’s claim, which Indian officials have rejected previously pointing to the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) build-up of troops, multiple transgressions and attempt to unilaterally redraw the LAC since May, underlines the difficulty that the seven rounds of military talks have faced in taking forward the stalled disengagement process and achieving a return to status quo that India has demanded.
Following the sixth round on September 21, both sides, in a joint statement, agreed to “stop sending more troops to the front line”. The build-up of troops, however, remains, and Indian officials believe the Chinese side may be preparing for the long-haul and the harsh winter to come.
The joint press release on Tuesday shed no clarity on any possible timetable for disengagement. It said both sides had at the seventh round of talks on Monday held "a sincere, in-depth and constructive exchange of views on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control in the Western Sector of India-China border areas.”
“They were of the view that these discussions were positive, constructive and had enhanced understanding of each other’s positions,” the release said. “Both sides agreed to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement as early as possible. Both sides agreed to earnestly implement the important understandings reached by the leaders of the two countries, not to turn differences into disputes, and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas.”
The release did not mention a return to status quo prior to May’s transgressions by China, a prospect that appears unlikely in light of the PLA’s entrenching of its positions in areas such as the north bank of the Pangong Tso (lake).
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, in response to a question at a daily briefing on India unveiling new bridges as part of upgrading the border infrastructure in Ladakh and in Arunachal Pradesh, blamed India for the LAC situation, and said Beijing did not recognise the legality of Ladakh, a position Beijing took last year as it opposed the creation of the Union Territory because it included within its borders Aksai Chin, currently occupied by China.
“First, I want to make it clear that China does not recognise the Ladakh Union Territory illegally set up by the Indian side and [does not recognise] Arunachal Pradesh,” said the spokesperson, Zhao Lijian. “We stand against the development of infrastructure facilities aimed at military contention along the border area. Based on the two sides consensus, neither should take actions along the border that might escalate the situation to avoid undermining the two sides efforts to ease the situation.”
He stated, “For some time, the Indian side has been ramping up infrastructure development along the border and stepping up military deployment, which is the root cause for the tensions between the two sides. We urge the Indian side to earnestly implement our consensus and refrain from actions that might escalate the situation and take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquillity along the border.”
Extension of railway network from Tibet
China has already upgraded its border infrastructure in Tibet and Xinjiang, and enjoys an asymmetry in its favour. It is also in the process of extending its railway network in Tibet up to the border. India has been moving to speed up the construction of roads and bridges to reduce the gap.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday inaugurated 44 permanent bridges across seven States and Union Territories built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). He said the bridges provide improved connectivity and would meet the transport and logistics requirements of the armed forces throughout the year.
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