An Indian fighter jet flies over the mountains in Ladakh at the height of a military clash with China in June 2020 in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
Tausef Mustafa | AFP | Getty Images
China is building a bridge over a lake in Ladakh, on the Himalaya-India border, a move condemned by the Indian government, which calls it “illegal construction”.
It is the second and more powerful of the two Chinese bridges crossing Pangong Tso Lake.
Speaking to CNBC, a retired Indian Army general, stationed in Ladakh, said the new bridge is capable of supporting tanks and armored personnel carriers and will help China speed up deployments between riverbanks.
“What the bridge adds to China’s capabilities is the ability to rapidly move troops between the northern and southern shores of Pangong Tso Lake, which they previously didn’t have,” said General Rohit Gupta, who served in the Fire Corps and Fury Northern Command. of the Indian Army.
Ladakh is the site of permanent confrontation between the two countries.
It was a flashpoint between India and China in mid-2020, when fierce clashes killed 20 Indian soldiers and five Chinese soldiers, according to their respective governments. Other reports put China’s death toll higher, in between 38 and 45 Chinese soldiers.
Pangong Tso Lake is in a disputed territory claimed by the two countries. China has controlled two-thirds of the lake since the 1960s and India owns the remaining third.
“We have seen reports of a bridge built by China over Pangong Lake next to the old bridge. Both bridges are in an area that has continued to be under illegal Chinese occupation since the 1960s,” said Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi. reporters last week.
“We have never accepted such illegal occupation of our territory, unjustified Chinese claims, or such construction activities,” he said.
According to General Gupta, the new bridge – which shortens the 130km distance between the lake’s south and north shores – is part of an attempt to deny India a tactical advantage in the area.
General Gupta said India had also built a lot of infrastructure to assist in the “better tactical and operational deployment” of troops. While China’s new bridge is a concern, it can be neutralized, he added.
“Deterrence against such known ground entities is possible, especially with precision munitions delivered from multiple sources,” he said, adding that the Indian side had a clear view of the bridge from the position it occupied.
The bridge dispute is likely to be discussed as part of the overall security discussion at the Quad meeting, Deep Pal, a visiting fellow with the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNBC on Monday ahead of the Quadrilateral Dialogue on security. on Tuesday.
The quadrangle leaders’ meeting consisting of Australia, India, Japan and the United States was held in Tokyo on Tuesday. The group’s goal is to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
“But there is no immediate response that Quad can give,” Pal added, stressing that the grouping was not “Asian NATO”.“
Of the four countries that make up the Quad, India is the only one bordering China. 3,488 km unmarked border between India and China is the longest disputed border in the world.
India’s former Commerce Minister Ajay Dua told CNBC on Tuesday that the Quad countries should cooperate militarily, even if it risks angering China.
“I’d like to see the Quad nations come together to provide greater military security,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia,” adding that it was a “need at the moment.”
China and India still have tens of thousands of troops gathered at the border despite 15 rounds of talks to ease military tensions after violent confrontations in 2020.
In June of that year, two nuclear-armed Asian giants fought a brutal and bloody battle unarmed, in hand-to-hand combat with metal rods, sticks with nails and other homemade weapons.
Under previous agreements, the two countries agreed not to carry or use firearms to prevent escalation.
Highlight China’s war on its borders with India and with its neighbors in the South China Sea, Dua noted that the Quad was formed in 2007 as a security dialogue – not a trade deal.
“I want to see [Quad countries provide] military security regardless of China’s reaction,” he said, adding that China had conduct a disinformation campaign, called the Quad an anti-China group.
“No country in the region can handle China alone. The United States can,” he said.
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