India doubles down on opposition to China’s second bridge across Pangong Lake

Updated on May 21, 2022 01:25 AM IST

Both bridges are located across the narrowest section of the 134-km-long lake. They will cut the distance between Chinese troop positions on the north bank to a key People’s Liberation Army (PLA) base at Rutog, on the eastern end of the lake, by around 150 km.

Satellite imagery of the site indicates that the first bridge built by China across Pangong Lake is narrower and has been completed. Both the bridges are in areas that have continued to be under the illegal occupation of China since the 1960s. (Image used for representation). (HT FILE PHOTO.)
Satellite imagery of the site indicates that the first bridge built by China across Pangong Lake is narrower and has been completed. Both the bridges are in areas that have continued to be under the illegal occupation of China since the 1960s. (Image used for representation). (HT FILE PHOTO.)

India on Friday doubled down on its opposition to a second bridge being built by the Chinese military across Pangong Lake amid the standoff in Ladakh sector, saying it has never accepted China’s illegal occupation of the territory where the structures are located.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said on Thursday that the area where China is building the second bridge is perceived as an “occupied area”, and tensions linked to Chinese deployments in Ladakh sector since April 2020 “cannot be reconciled with a normal relationship”.

Analysis of the latest high-resolution satellite imagery of the site suggests the second bridge is being built parallel to the first one, which is narrower and was completed in April. The second bridge will be capable of accommodating larger and heavier vehicles such as tanks, and the first bridge is being used to move equipment such as cranes.

Bagchi said the government had seen reports of a bridge being built by China on Pangong Lake alongside its earlier bridge. “Both these bridges are in areas that have continued to be under the illegal occupation of China since the 1960s,” he said.

“We have never accepted such illegal occupation of our territory, nor have we accepted the unjustified Chinese claim or such construction activities,” he added.

The Indian side has made it clear on several occasions that the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are an “integral part of India and we expect other countries to respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, Bagchi said.

The Indian government has stepped up the development of border infrastructure, especially since 2014, he noted. The infrastructure, including roads and bridges, is being constructed to “ensure that the nation’s security interests are fully protected”, he said.

“Government remains committed to the objective of creating infrastructure along the border areas to not only meet India’s strategic and security requirements but also facilitate the economic development of these areas,” Bagchi said.

At the same time, the government keeps a constant watch on all developments that “have a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity”, he said.

Bagchi had also said on Thursday that the Indian side has conveyed its expectations regarding the military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to the Chinese side, including foreign minister Wang Yi, and will continue to take the matter forward in order to find a solution though talks.

When reports of the construction of the first bridge linking the two banks of Pangong Lake emerged in January, the external affairs ministry had made it clear the area where the structure was being built had been under illegal occupation by China for 60 years.

Both bridges are located across the narrowest section of the 134-km-long lake. They will cut the distance between Chinese troop positions on the north bank to a key People’s Liberation Army (PLA) base at Rutog, on the eastern end of the lake, by around 150 km.

The two sides have been locked in the border row since April-May 2020, and even after the disengagement of frontline troops at Galwan Valley, Pangong Lake and Gogra, the two sides still have around 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the Ladakh theatre.

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