China objects to Ladakh status, India’s border activities

Updated 30 Sep 2020

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A highway being built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) passes by the confluence of the Indus and Zanskhar rivers in the Ladakh region. — Reuters
A highway being built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) passes by the confluence of the Indus and Zanskhar rivers in the Ladakh region. — Reuters

BEIJING: China on Tuesday called India’s designation of the region along their disputed border as a federal territory an illegal move, and voiced new objections to infrastructure construction that seems to strengthen India’s position in the area.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also said reports of new Chinese military bases and other facilities being built on its side were totally untrue and have ulterior motives.

Senior commanders agreed earlier this month not to add more troops along their fast-militarising disputed border in the mountainous Ladakh region, but appear to have made no progress in disengaging their forces from the ongoing standoff as they had earlier pledged to do.

China rejected India’s move last year to reconstitute Ladakh as a federal territory separate from held Jammu and Kashmir, saying it considered the action illegal. Ladakh lies on the Line of Actual Control that stretches up to Arunachal Pradesh, in the east.

“China does not recognise the so-called Ladakh central government region illegally established by India,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing, saying any new construction violated a pledge by the leaders of both sides. “We are also opposed to infrastructure construction aimed at military acquisition and control in the disputed border areas.”

Wang said China’s border defence forces operate on their side of the Line of Actual Control, or LAC, and strictly abide by the relevant agreements.” China is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the border areas between China and India, and firmly upholds national territorial sovereignty and security,” he said.

Wang did not address reports that China is increasing the building of roads and other infrastructure along its side of the border.

In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that it hopes that China will sincerely and faithfully abide by all agreements between the two countries and refrain from advancing an untenable unilateral interpretation of the LAC.

The standoff in Ladakh began in May and escalated in June to the deadliest violence between the two sides in decades a clash on a high ridge in which soldiers used clubs, stones and their fists. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed and dozens of others were injured. China is believed to have also suffered casualties but has not provided any details.

The two countries have amassed tens of thousands of soldiers, backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets, in the Ladakh area since the deadly standoff.

After that clash, the two countries partially disengaged from the site in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley and at least two other places, but the crisis has continued in at least three other areas, including the glacial Pangong Lake.

In recent weeks, the world’s two most populous nations have accused each other of sending soldiers into each others territory in the Pangong area and firing warning shots for the first time in 45 years, raising the specter of a full-scale military conflict.

Relations between the two countries have often been strained, partly due to their undemarcated border. They fought a border war in 1962 that spilled into Ladakh and ended in an uneasy truce. Since then, troops have guarded the undefined border while occasionally brawling. The two countries have agreed not to attack each other with firearms.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2020