China has been building strategic infrastructure—airports, railways, highways, dual-use villages—along its border with India at a threatening pace. India, in turn, is striving to remain in step with an accelerated development programme
Officers of the Indian Army and the PLA at a border personnel meeting in Moldo, Eastern Ladakh; (Photo: ANI)
The news that Chinese president Xi Jinping would skip the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi from September 9-10 dashed hopes of a bilateral meeting between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where they could have further extended their discussion of a fortnight ago. Meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg on August 24, Modi and Xi agreed to intensify efforts for “expeditious disengagement and de-escalation” of troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, where the Indian military and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been involved in a protracted standoff since May 2020. Though there is large-scale deployment of men and machines by both sides on the LAC and multiple military and diplomatic negotiations have failed to produce complete disengagement, China’s defence minister Gen. Li Shangfu, during his visit to New Delhi in April, had sought to delink the standoff from bilateral ties, saying the border situation was “stable”. India’s stand on the matter is unchanged: unless the border row is resolved, relations cannot be normal. Despite Chinese claims, the situation on the ground tells a different story—the Chinese have been constructing military/ dual-use infrastructure and strengthening existing installations at a frenetic pace in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), often within striking distance of the border with India.