India has ramped up its efforts to build roads and bridges in the border areas to face any threat from China

India’s response has come after reports that China bolstered its infrastructure, especially in the Ladakh region, and also built a bridge recently on the strategically important Pangong Tso (lake).

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said here on Thursday that “as regards reports about a bridge being made by the Chinese side on Pangong lake, the Government has been monitoring this activity closely. This bridge is being constructed in areas that have been under illegal occupation by China for around 60 years now. As you are well aware India has never accepted such illegal occupation.”

He also said the Government has been taking all necessary steps to ensure that India’s security interests are fully protected. “As part of these efforts, the Government has also, in the last seven years, increased significantly the budget for the development of border infrastructure and completed more roads and bridges than ever before. These have provided much-needed connectivity to the local population as well as logistical support to the armed forces. The Government remains committed to this objective,” he said

This reiteration came two days after the media, including The Pioneer, reported the construction of a bridge by the Chinese army at the Pangong lake. The bridge links the north and south banks of the lake and will enable the Chinese to swiftly deploy their troops.

The stand-off two years back started from the Pangong lake when the Chinese troops blocked an Indian patrol leading to an exchange of blows.

The situation later turned serious with the Chinese troops transgressing the Line of Actual Control(LAC) at several points culminating in a bloody clash in the Galwan valley in 2020. Twenty Indian Army personnel, including the commanding officer, died in the brawl. China is yet to officially announce the number of casualties it suffered. Indian security establishment says more than 40 Chinese soldiers were killed.

On the bridge across the 135-km long strategically crucial Pangong Lake, satellite footage and ground reports indicate the bridge is coming up at the narrow part of the lake in a region called Khurnak in the Chinese area, sources had said here on Monday.

Nearly complete and connecting the northern and southern banks of the lake, it will reduce the distance by more than 150 km for the Chinese, they said.

The bridge was built with prefabricated structures with the objective of denying any advantage to India to dominate the southern and northern banks, including the hilltops. The Indian Army in 2020 captured the dominating heights weeks after the Galwan clash.

The bridge will now reduce a 150 km loop from Khurnak to the south banks through Rudok, sources said. The bridge will reduce the route from Khurnak to Rudok to 40-50 km instead of 170 km, they said.

China has two-thirds of the 135 km Pangong Tso and India has the remaining part. The region has seen stand-offs in the past few years with Chinese aggressive patrolling on foot and by boats.

Besides the bridge, the Chinese army has also built a road leading to the bridge for quicker deployment of troops and weapons, sources said.

The region saw a prolonged face-off between the Indian and Chinese troops from September 2020 till February 2021. Following prolonged military and diplomatic level talks, the two sides disengaged from the southern banks of the Pangong Tso in February.

Despite the stand-offs and talks, China ramped up its infrastructure development, including roads, bridges and helipads besides military garrisons near the Pangong lake and other flashpoints in the last few months. At present, more than 50,000 troops each from both sides are deployed in Eastern Ladakh.