New Indian roads, air strips triggered flare-up with China: analysts

Published May 27, 2020
Soldiers from both sides have been camped out in the Galwan Valley in the high-altitude Ladakh region. — AFP ImageForum
Soldiers from both sides have been camped out in the Galwan Valley in the high-altitude Ladakh region. — AFP ImageForum

NEW DELHI: A Himalayan border standoff between India and China was triggered by India’s construction of roads and air strips in the region, observers said on Tuesday.

Soldiers from both sides have been camped out in the Galwan Valley in the high-altitude Ladakh region, accusing each other of trespassing over the disputed border, the trigger of a brief but bloody war in 1962.

About 80 to 100 tents have sprung up on the Chinese side and about 60 on the Indian side where soldiers are billeted, Indian officials briefed on the matter in New Delhi and in Ladakh’s capital, Leh, said.

Both were digging defences and Chinese trucks have been moving equipment into the area, the officials said, raising concerns of a long faceoff.

“China is committed to safeguarding the security of its national territorial sovereignty, as well as safeguarding peace and stability in the China-India border areas,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s office said in a statement.

“At present, the overall situation in the border areas is stable and controllable. There are sound mechanisms and channels of communication for border-related affairs, and the two sides are capable of properly resolving relevant issues through dialogue and consultation,” the statement further added.

There was no immediate Indian foreign ministry comment. It said last week Chinese troops had hindered regular Indian patrols along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

But interviews with former Indian military officials and diplomats suggest the trigger for the flare-up is India’s construction of roads and air strips.

“Today, with our infrastructure reach slowly extending into areas along the LAC, the Chinese threat perception is raised,” said former Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao.

“Xi Jinping’s China is the proponent of a hard-line on all matters of territory, sovereignty. India is no less when it comes to these matters either,” she said.

After years of inaction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has pushed for improving connectivity and by 2022 plans to build 66 key roads along the Chinese territory.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2020

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