Pangong Tso: MEA confirms 'illegal' Chinese construction of two bridges
The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday confirmed reports of a second bridge constructed by China across Pangong Tso in the eastern Ladakh region. In a statement, the MEA said China has built two bridges in "areas that have continued to be under the illegal occupation of China since the 1960s." India has not accepted China's "unjustified claim" or "such construction activities," it added.
- Notably, this is the second bridge across Pangong Tso that China has constructed, right next to the one it constructed earlier this year.
- The bridge reportedly lies over 20km east of the point which India says marks the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
- On Thursday, the MEA refuted reports of a "so-called bridge," saying it would share if there is any update on it.
The MEA said the government "keeps a constant watch on all developments that have a bearing on India's security" and takes measures to "safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity." Stating that the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral part of India, the MEA added that it expects "other countries to respect India's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Meanwhile, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the government has "stepped up development of border infrastructure, especially since 2014," including roads, bridges, etc., to ensure the protection of the nation's security. The government is committed to "the objective of creating infrastructure along the border areas to not only meet India's strategic and security requirements but also facilitate the economic development of these areas," Bagchi added.
Senior defense officials told The Indian Express that the second bridge is wider than the first one and is meant for the movement of troops between the north and south banks of Pangong Tso. The bridge would likely allow the movement of all types of military vehicles, including tanks, an official said. It will facilitate early response and deployment of mechanized forces, it added.
A senior defense official said work on the second bridge has been ongoing for a few months, but it was thought to be a temporary structure to facilitate work on the first bridge. "It is the other way round now" with the second one being the permanent bridge and the first one seems to have been built to help in building this, he added.
The south and north banks of the Pangong Tso were two of the most contentious friction points during the over two-year-long ongoing standoff between India and China in the eastern Ladakh region. The bridge is located around 20km east of Finger 8 on the north bank of the lake, which India says is the point that marks the LAC.