India has doubled the budget for vital roads and bridges along the undemarcated border with China in recent years in response to Beijing’s rapid infrastructure development on its side, the Indian defense minister said on Tuesday.
Troops of the two countries are locked in their most serious face-offs for years along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) or informal border in the western Himalayas, raising fears of a broader conflict.
One of the reasons for the tensions has been India’s recent construction of roads and airfields near the border in the Ladakh region bordering Tibet, the Chinese side has said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament that China had been building up its infrastructure in the remote mountains for decades and the government was trying to close the gap.
“Our government too has stepped up the budget for border infrastructure development to about double the previous levels. As a result, more roads and bridges have been completed in the border areas,” he said. He provided no figure.
Military officials say the development of roads and airfields on both sides of the border has also helped troops mobilize quickly in large numbers and in close proximity at some points in the Ladakh area.
Singh said Indian and Chinese troops have had face-offs on the unsettled border in the past, but the scale of deployment of troops and the number of disputed areas was much more than the past.
“As of now, the Chinese side has mobilized a large number of troops and armaments along the LAC as well as in the depth areas,” he said, listing Gogra, Kongka La and the north and south banks of the Pangong lake as “friction points.”
“In response to China’s actions, our armed forces have also made appropriate counter deployments in these areas to ensure that India’s security interests are fully protected,” he said to thumping of desks in parliament.
Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Timothy Heritage
Source: Reuters, September 15th, 2020