The ministry of external affair’s comments came in the wake of reports based on photographs put out by US-based imaging company Planet Labs, which claimed a village with 101 houses had come up along the river Tsari Chu in Upper Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh where there was no construction in August 2019. The photographs of the village are said to be of November 2020 — at a time when the Ladakh standoff was on.
“We have seen recent reports on China undertaking construction work along the border areas with India. China has undertaken such infrastructure construction activity in the past several years,” the MEA said.
In its comments to NDTV which ran the report, the government said, “Our government too has stepped up border infrastructure including construction of roads, bridges which has provided much needed connectivity to the local population along the border.”
The issue was swiftly taken up by Congress with former minister Manish Tewari seeking a response from the PM. “This is very, very serious. Not troops but a whole village. For god’s sake. PMO or Rajnath Singh should tell the nation as to whether this is true or false,” he said.
The government statement appears to indicate that Chinese activity has been on for some time. Defence analyst Abhijit Iyer Mitra tweeted, “This village, 5km inside the Indian border, was built in November 2020 at least and entirely without opposition or challenge from India. All pucca buildings house up to 2,000 people — full-blown occupation of Indian land.”
The MEA asserted that the Indian government “remains committed to the objective of creating infrastructure along the border areas for the improvement of livelihood of its citizens”, including in Arunachal Pradesh. “The government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it added.
The report said the village is located in an area disputed by India and China. BJP’s Arunachal Pradesh MP Tapir Gao has previously spoken of incursions in border areas of the state.
The village was built by the Chinese in apparently less than a year. India and China have been locked in an armed standoff in eastern Ladakh as well as other points on the LAC since May 2020. The satellite images, therefore, show that China was constructing the village in the midst of the standoff.
Tapir Gao told a TV channel on Monday, “Construction is still going on. China has entered more than 60-70km inside the Upper Subansiri district if you follow the path along the river. They are constructing a road along the river known locally as the Lensi as it flows in the direction of the Subansiri river.”