'Keeping an eye on all developments': India on Chinese inroads into Bhutan's Doklam

India China What Dispute
In this file photo, a girl poses for photo with an Indian flag at the Indo China border at Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh. Photo: AP/Anupam Nath

New Delhi: India on Thursday said it keeps a constant watch on all developments having bearing on national security, three days after new satellite images indicated the construction of a Chinese village east of the Doklam plateau on the Bhutanese side.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, responding to questions at a media briefing on the images, also said that India takes all necessary measures to safeguard its security interests.

"I do not want to get into commenting on media reports. Let me make a broader point, particularly in the context of Doklam that please be assured that the government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India's security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard the same," he said.

The images of the village emerged on Tuesday that showed the new settlement is fully inhabited with cars parked at the doorstep of virtually every home.

The Doklam plateau is considered an important area for India's strategic interest.

The Indian and Chinese armies were locked in a 73-day stand-off at the Doklam tri-junction after China tried to extend a road in the area that Bhutan claimed belonged to it.

China has been ramping up border infrastructure in several sensitive locations including along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh where the Chinese PLA has been locked in an over two-year standoff with the Indian Army.

In October last year, Bhutan and China signed an agreement on a "three-step roadmap" to expedite negotiations to resolve their festering boundary dispute.

Bhutan shares an over 400-km-long border with China and the two countries have held over 24 rounds of boundary talks in a bid to resolve the dispute.

The two countries also held 10 rounds of negotiations at the 'Expert Group' level.

The Doklam tri-junction is considered important from the point of view of India's security interests.

The India-China stand-off in the Doklam plateau in 2017 even triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Bhutan said the area belonged to it and India supported the Bhutanese claim.

India had strongly opposed the construction of the road at the Doklam tri-junction as it would have impacted its overall security interests.

The India-China face-off was resolved following several rounds of talks.

China has been ramping up infrastructure in Tibet. Last year it launched a high-speed bullet train connecting the provincial capital Lhasa with Nyingchi, the Tibetan border town close to Arunachal Pradesh.

Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled by bullet train during his rare visit to border areas in Tibet.

The massive development of rail, road and airport development vastly improved the Chinese military's ability to move men, materials and weapons to the border areas at a faster pace.

Tibet has five airports including at Nyingchi, Shigatse and Ngari located close to the Indian and Nepal borders.

Authorities in Tibet accelerated 15 key construction projects last year, including the middle section of the highway from the regional capital Lhasa to Xigaze.

Tibet completed an investment worth 20.1 billion yuan (about USD 3.2 billion) in fixed assets for road transport last year, according to an official media report.

 India-China border
The India-China border at Bumla Pass in Arunachal Pradesh. Photo: PTI

China plans to build new highway along LAC with India?

Meanwhile, China plans to build a new highway along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India as part of Beijing's efforts to strengthen its strategic position and project its power, a media report said on Wednesday.

The highway, spanning from Lhunze county in Tibet to Mazha in Kashgar, Xinjiang region, is among 345 construction plans proposed in the new national programme, which aims to build a total of 461,000 kms of highway and motorway by 2035, as China seeks to revive its faltering economy with infrastructure investment, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

Lhunze county, according to reports, formed part of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as part of South Tibet.

Under the plan released last week, the highway known as G695 is expected to run through Cona county which lies immediately north of the LAC, Kamba county bordering Sikkim and Gyirong county near the border with Nepal, the report said.

The planned road would also go through Burang county between Tibet, Nepal and India as well as Zanda county in Ngari prefecture, parts of which are held by India, it said.

The details of the new construction remain unclear, but the highway, when completed, may also go near the hotly contested areas such as the Depsang Plains, Galwan Valley and Hot Springs on the LAC, it said.

There was no official reaction here to the news report in the Hong Kong media.

India has said previously that it keeps an eye on all the activities along its border.

The report of the new highway plan along the LAC comes at a time when India and China made efforts to resolve the over two-year eastern Ladakh standoff.

Last month External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar asserted that India will not allow any unilateral attempt by China to change the status quo or the LAC.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.