The government told Parliament on Friday that the bridge constructed by the Chinese across the Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh lies in an illegally held area, NDTV reported.

In a written response to a question in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said, “The Government has taken note of a bridge being constructed by China on Pangong lake.”

Muraleedharan said the areas around the bridge have been under the illegal occupation of China since 1962. “Government of India has never accepted this illegal occupation,” he added.

In January, satellite images of China constructing a bridge across Pangong Tso lake were reported by the media. The bridge could potentially allow its People’s Liberation Army to deploy troops faster between the north and south banks of the lake. At that time, the Ministry of External Affairs had said that the bridge was built in an area that was illegally occupied by China for more than 60 years.

Muraleedharan on Friday said the government has made it clear that the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral part of India. “…And we expect other countries to respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” read the minister’s reply.

The minister added that India and China have maintained dialogue through diplomatic and military channels regarding disengagement in the remaining areas along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.

India and China have been locked in a border standoff since their troops clashed in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June 2020. The Pangong Tso lake was one of the prominent flashpoints when border tensions between the two countries flared up in June 2020. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash. China had put the number of casualties on its side at four.

After several rounds of talks, India and China had disengaged from Pangong Tso Lake in February and Gogra in eastern Ladakh in August.

Renaming places in Arunachal

Muraleedharan’s reply also stated that the government has taken note of reports regarding the renaming of some places in Arunachal Pradesh by China.

“This is a futile exercise,” said the minister. “It will not alter the fact that Arunachal Pradesh has always been, is and will always be an integral part of India.”

China had “renamed” 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh in December. The minister in his reply said the government keeps watch on developments that have a bearing on India’s security and that all necessary steps are taken to protect the country’s security interest.