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India in rush to outbuild China while continuing talks to avoid border conflict

January 13, 2024

(, Jan13’24) – As the dispute between India and China along Tibet’s border continues to simmer, the two countries are trying to outbuild each other to enhance their relative advantages in the event of the outbreak of a conflict, said a report Jan 12.

It was earlier reported by Jan 7 that India’s Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi had reiterated that the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Ladakh, which had seen tensions after the ingress by Chinese troops in May 2020, was “stable but sensitive and not normal”.

India has lagged behind China in the border infrastructure building contest by decades but has been speeding things up under the BJP-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In contentious regions along the 2,100-mile LAC, the Indian government had earmarked some 90 connectivity projects, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, had written in The Diplomat magazine last month.

In Arunachal Pradesh, on the northeastern border with Chinese-ruled Tibet, where the two forces last clashed just over one year ago, 36 projects are planned. And Ladakh in the west, bordering Xinjiang, will benefit from 26, Rajagopalan has said.

On the other side of the border – in occupied Tibet – China is also hurriedly constructing new roads in Xinjiang, a so-called dual-use infrastructure that will similarly facilitate the movement of People’s Liberation Army troops in the event of a conflict, the report noted.

Two Chinese highways, the G216 and the G695, are slowly nearing completion as the two Asian giants remain poised at higher readiness levels since their deadly night standoff in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in Jun 2020.

The United Stated has been supporting India in monitoring China’s moves in occupied Tibet. The report said that for three and a half years, India has been supported by US intelligence-gathering operations as it watched the PLA’s movements in the tense border areas. It added that the United States had also transferred technology to boost India’s defences against China’s territorial expansion in the immediate neighbourhood.

India has reported notable progress in its border infrastructure-building efforts especially in Ladakh. In its year-end review, India’s Defence Ministry said over 370 miles of highway were completed in 2023, with significant progress on the India-China(-occupied Tibet) border and other operationally critical areas in the country’s north. Several other major undertakings were stated to be approaching completion.

India’s late push for strategic infrastructure is a direct response to the military standoff that began in May 2020, just before the Galwan Valley melee, with a full resolution still elusive despite ongoing negotiations, the report noted.

Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry, the director general of India’s Border Roads Organization, has told the ANI news agency last year that the urgency of the projects—focused squarely on Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh—was aimed at securing a strategic edge over China.

Meanwhile, the report also cited India’s army chief, Gen Manoj Pande, as saying this week that New Delhi was continuing to push China to restore the status quo ante on the border situation.

“Currently, our attempt is to continue the talks with the Chinese army to go back to the pre-April 2020 status quo. Our first aim is to achieve that,” Pande has said during a press conference on Jan 11.

Dwivedi had sounded positive about the about 20 rounds of border talks held with China on the Ladakh border standoff, with the Northern Army Commander saying there had been a “persistent approach from both sides” and “we are looking at [ways so] that mutual concerns are addressed”.


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