Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said that the situation at India’s borders indicated that Pakistan and China were trying to create tensions “under a mission”, PTI reported.

Singh made the remark while inaugurating 44 bridges across seven states. “You are well aware of the situation created along our northern and eastern borders,” the defence minister said. “First 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 km with these countries, where the tension remains.”

Seven of the 44 bridges inaugurated by Singh are in Ladakh, where tensions between India and China have escalated over the last few months. The rest of them are situated in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. They have been built by the Border Roads Organisation.

A former Army officer also echoed Singh’s concerns. “Given the symbiotic relationship between China and Pakistan, a collusive threat to India cannot be ruled out,” former Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal told the Hindustan Times. “The question is when it is viable for them to initiate a conflict against India.”

The defence minister also said that the bridges would fulfil both civilian and military requirements. “Our armed forces personnel are deployed in large numbers in areas where transport is not available throughout the year,” he said. “These roads are not only for strategic needs, but they also reflect equal participation of all stakeholders in the development of the nation.”

Singh also laid the foundation stone of the Nechiphu tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh. The 450-metre-long tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity across the Nechiphu pass and a safe path through areas prone to accidents, the Hindustan Times reported, citing unidentified officials.

The defence minister added that India was firmly facing the coronavirus pandemic and the border tensions created by China and Pakistan. He said that the country was bringing about “historical changes” across all sectors.

India-China tensions

Military heads of both India and China have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in June. But these talks have so far failed to break the impasse. The seventh round of Corps Commander talks to work out measures for disengagement and de-escalation was scheduled for Monday.

On September 22, both the countries had issued a joint statement about the sixth round of Corps Commander-level talks and said they resolved to stop sending more troops to the frontline. The statement added that both sides will refrain from unilaterally changing situation on the Line of Actual Control.

An Indian Central Reserve Police Force personnel stands guard at a checkpoint along a highway leading to Ladakh on September 2. | Danish Ismail/Reuters

On September 10, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The two ministers agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh was “not in the interest of either side”.

On September 7, China had accused India of “outrageously firing warning shots” in a new confrontation on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake, describing it as “a serious military provocation”. India had denied this, saying that Chinese troops had attempted to close in on Indian forward positions along the Line of Actual Control and had “fired a few rounds in the air”. This was the first confirmed use of firearms on the Line of Actual Control by troops in more than four decades.

Ceasefire violations by Pakistan

Over 3,000 ceasefire violations by Pakistan have been reported in eight months, the highest in 17 years.

Pakistan had resorted to firing artillery guns and other weapons across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month. Three soldiers were killed and five injured in two separate incidents of heavy shelling along the LoC.

On September 15, Pakistani troops fired with small arms and shelled mortars along the Line of Control in Rajouri district, killing an Indian soldier and wounding two, including an officer. The injured soldiers were admitted to a military hospital.

An Indian Army officer was killed on September 2 at Keri area of the Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district in alleged ceasefire violations along the Line of Control on August 30. Another army soldier was killed in firing by Pakistani forces along the Line of Control in Rajouri district on July 31.

In July, a 60-year-old woman was killed and another was critically injured in cross-border firing in Poonch. In June, a soldier was killed as Pakistani troops fired at forward posts along the Line of Control in Rajouri.

Since January 1, 2018, Pakistan has violated ceasefire agreements over 8,500 times in Jammu and Kashmir, a Right to Information reply from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had said.