Bridge
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China is building second bridge on Pangong Tso: MEA confirms

The External Affairs Ministry Friday said a second bridge is being constructed by China on the Pangong Tso lake in eastern Ladakh, right next to the one it had erected earlier this year. The ministry added that the area where the construction is taking place is under illegal occupation and stated that India has not accepted the unjustified claims of China or such construction activities.

The government “keeps a constant watch on all developments that have a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

The bridge being referred to is a second structure that China is building in an area that lies along India’s claim line but is more than 20 km east of where India claims the Line of Actual Control passes through.

Bridge

Bagchi in a statement Friday said, “We have seen reports of a bridge being constructed by China on Pangong Lake alongside its earlier bridge. Both these bridges are in areas that have continued to be under the illegal occupation of China since the 1960s. We have never accepted such illegal occupation of our territory, nor have we accepted the unjustified Chinese claim or such construction activities.”

He said that India has “made it clear on several occasions that the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral part of India and we expect other countries to respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Also Read – China Demands Military Outpost in Pakistan,Islamabad in Tight Spot

Bagchi also said that in order to “ensure that the nation’s security interests are fully protected, the Government has stepped up development of border infrastructure especially since 2014, including construction of roads, bridges, etc” and it remains 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”.

Friday’s statement is much stronger compared to Bagchi’s response to some questions about the bridge Thursday, when on media reports he had said, “On the so-called bridge or I don’t know if it’s another bridge, somebody said it’s a second bridge, or if it’s an expansion or widening of the current bridge.” He had mentioned, “From a military perspective, I would not be in a position to comment. That I think the Ministry of Defence would be in a better position to tell and also the implications of that. But as I said, we monitor such developments and if there’s any update on this, we will share with you.”

According to senior defence establishment officials, the bridge in question is a wider, second bridge that China is building right next to the one it had constructed earlier this year. The work on this has been on for a few months.

A senior defence establishment official said that earlier it was believed that China was building a temporary structure for the facilitation of some work for the first bridge. But, he said, “Now it is the other way round,” and added, “This is the permanent bridge and the first one seems to have been built to help in building this.”

The official said he is not sure of the dimensions of the bridge but the first bridge that was visible in the satellite images was about 400 metre long, eight metre wide and was believed to be built for force movement between the north and south banks of Pangong Tso, which were two of the most contentious friction points of the over two-year long ongoing standoff in eastern Ladakh. However, troops from both sides were pulled back from these friction points in February 2021. The new permanent bridge is coming up right next to it.

The official said, “We can safely assume it is meant for the forces to move between north and south banks of the lake.” Regarding the capacity of the bridge, he said that it will allow for movement of all types of military vehicles, including tanks. “Everything,” he said, “Why else will they make it?” he asked.

He said the bridge will facilitate early response and deployment of mechanised forces. Although the area is being monitored, the official said it is unknown since when is the new bridge being built. The timelines have not been kept since it was meant to be a temporary structure initially but may be a couple of months, the official said.

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