India has rejected Chinese contention that its border infrastructure upgrade along the 3,488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) is the crux of on-going military tensions, saying the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has already built and continues to construct roads and communication network on its side of the border.
“First, the bridges inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday are away from the LAC and would facilitate civilian movement and access apart from military logistics. Second, China has never raised the issue of India’s infra upgrade at the on-going military-diplomatic talks. Third, what about the road, bridges, optical fibers, solar-heated huts, and missile deployments of the PLA close to the LAC. India is only building infra on its side of the LAC and for that, we do not need Chinese permission,” said a senior official.
According to military commanders, the PLA has drawn optical fiber for secure communication at contested Gogra-Hot Springs, used heavy-lift cranes to drop solar heated containers as accommodation for forwarding troops on the north bank of Pangong Tso, and have built a hospital in the depth area to cater to high-altitude sickness and medical problems associated with rarefied atmosphere.
However, according to China watchers, the reason why PLA is concerned about the Indian infrastructure upgrade in Ladakh is that it could pose a military threat to the multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, to Pakistan that passes via Khunjerab Pass and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It is understood that the Chinese have conveyed their concerns over CPEC to its all-weather ally Pakistan as India has very strongly objected to Beijing exploiting the ecologically sensitive Gilgit-Baltistan area and PoK.
The increased Indian military capacity and capability on the LAC also prevent the PLA from nibbling into East Ladakh in pursuance of its maximalist 1959 cartographical claim line.
The fact is that in 1976, the China Study Group headed by the then Cabinet Secretary had defined 65 patrolling points as limits for the Indian Army on the Ladakh LAC. As these patrolling points were well within Indian perception of LAC, the PLA through tremendous border upgrades tried to turn these limits as Indian border. This was pointed out to the UPA regime by former foreign secretary Shyam Saran when, as the National Security Advisory Board chairman, he advocated that Indian troops must patrol up to at least the limits defined by CSG.
Over the years, China has pressurized India not only on the border but has also been condescending enough to ask New Delhi to maintain its non-aligned position and not get close to the United States. Beijing, on its part, believes that it belongs to a different league and has blocked India from becoming a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), UN Security Council and even helped Pakistan to unsuccessfully try to get Indian engineers involved in Afghan reconstruction as global terrorists under 1267 UNSC resolution.