China on Tuesday said it does not recognise the Ladakh Union Territory “illegally set up by India”, a day after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh opened 44 new bridges, seven of which are in Ladakh, NDTV reported. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian called border infrastructure development “the root cause for the tension between the two sides”.

Ladakh was a part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, but on August 5, 2019, the Indian government bifurcated the state into two Union Territories, one of which was Ladakh.

“First I want to make it clear that China does not recognise the Ladakh Union Territory illegally set up by the Indian side and the Arunachal Pradesh,” Zhao said. “We stand against the development of infrastructure facilities aimed at military contention along the border area.”

Zhao said that neither India nor China should take actions along the border that might escalate the situation. He added that India should take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquility along the border.

Singh had said on Tuesday that the situation at India’s borders indicated that Pakistan and China were trying to create tensions “under a mission”. “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.”

On September 29, India’s Ministry of External Affairs had said that India categorically rejects the “so-called unilaterally defined” Chinese interpretation of the Line of Actual Control of 1959 in Ladakh. The statement came after a report in the Hindustan Times quoted a Chinese foreign ministry statement saying that Beijing abides by the Line of Actual Control as proposed by Premier Zhou Enlai to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter dated November 7, 1959 – a position that New Delhi has consistently rejected since it was first spelled out 61 years ago.

The border standoff

Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and 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.

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.

On September 10, Minister of External Affairs 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”. This was following skirmishes between the two sides early in September.