Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday that China and Pakistan are on a “mission” to create disputes along their shared borders with India.
Singh made his remarks after inaugurating a string of 44 bridges built by India to improve its strategic infrastructure along the contested Himalayan border with China.
A tense military standoff has been in progress since years of uneasy stalemate and sporadic hand-to-hand clashes culminated in a deadly melee in June. India has been working hard to overcome China’s significant logistical advantages in the region. Seven of the bridges inaugurated by Singh on Monday are located in Ladakh, scene of the most intense Indo-Chinese standoff.
India’s border with Pakistan is also uneasy, with over 3,300 ceasefire violations reported so far this year, the highest number since 2003. India accused Pakistan of firing heavy mortars across the disputed Kashmir border last month, calling it an “unprovoked” attack that would be given a “befitting response.”
Protests broke out in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Monday after Indian troops killed two alleged rebel fighters in a gun battle. Indian officials described one of them as a “Pakistani insurgent” engaged in “Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.”
Pakistan accuses India of similar ceasefire violations and “unilateral provocations” in Kashmir, including the deliberate targeting of civilian areas.
Defense Minister Singh accused China and Pakistan of colluding to create turbulence on India’s borders.
“You are well aware of the conditions created along our northern and eastern borders. First it was Pakistan, and now also by China, as if a border dispute is being created under a mission. We have a border of about 7,000 kilometers with these countries where the tension continues,” he said to participants in the virtual inaugural event.
“Our armed forces personnel are deployed in large numbers in areas where transport is not available throughout the year. These roads are not only for strategic needs, but they also reflect equal participation of all stakeholders in the development of the nation,” Singh said of India’s project to improve roads and bridges on its side of the Ladakh border.
He praised India’s Border Roads Organization (BRO) for building over 2,200 kilometers of road across difficult mountain terrain over the past two years, undeterred even by the coronavirus pandemic.
China responded to Singh’s comments by denouncing India’s construction of “infrastructure facilities aimed at military contention” in the disputed border region.
“For some time, the Indian side has been ramping up infrastructure development along the border and stepping up military deployment that is the root cause of the tension between the two sides,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
“China asks the Indian side to earnestly implement the consensus between the two sides and refrain from taking actions that might escalate the situation and take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquility along the border,” the Foreign Ministry declared.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry called Singh’s comments “unwarranted and irresponsible,” dismissing them as “another manifestation of the Indian government’s incurable obsession with Pakistan.”
“Pakistan also condemns the malicious Indian propaganda against the long-standing, close Pakistan-China friendship. It is preposterous for a country that is compulsively expansionist and a brazen practitioner of state-terrorism to level charges against others,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry added.
Chinese and Indian military commanders began a fresh round of de-escalation talks on Monday. Neither side has softened its position since the standoff began, and both are nervous about the condition of the troops and equipment they have deployed near the border as the incredibly harsh winter season rapidly approaches.