Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over a report that China has built a village in Arunachal Pradesh. “Remember his promise – [“Will not let the country bow”],” Gandhi said on Twitter with a link of a news report about the “Chinese village”.

Gandhi’s party colleague Randeep Surjewala also mocked the prime minister, asking him about his “56-inch chest”. He asked if the central government would act against Chinese incursions.

NDTV on Monday reported that China has constructed a new village of 101 homes, approximately 4.5 kilometres within the Indian territory, in Arunachal Pradesh. In its report, the news channel cited satellite images accessed by it. The village, located on the banks of the River Tsari Chu, in the Upper Subansiri district of the state could not be seen in satellite images of the same area taken in August 2019, suggesting that the construction was done at some point since then.

In its response to the report, the Ministry of External Affairs did not deny the presence of the village, but said that China had been carrying out such activities in the past too. The ministry said that India has stepped up the construction of border infrastructure, including roads and bridges for the improvement of livelihood of its citizens, including in Arunachal Pradesh.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it.

On Monday, former Union minister and veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram had demanded answers from the government on the matter. He quoted a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator on the allegation. “Mr Tapir Gao MP, belonging to BJP, has alleged that deep into Arunachal Pradesh, in a ‘disputed area’ within Indian territory, the Chinese have built a 100-house village, a bazaar and a two-lane road in the last year,” Chidambaram said on Twitter. “If this is true, it is clear that the Chinese have altered the status quo by converting a disputed area into a permanent settlement of Chinese nationals. What has the government to say about these startling facts.”

Gao has repeatedly raised the matter of Chinese incursion in several parts of the state. The Army had denied his claimed when he first mentioned the matter in September 2019. However, he raised the matter in Lok Sabha yet again in November 2019. In an interview to in June last year, he mentioned Upper Subansiri district as one of the areas where incursions took place.

Gao, however, blamed the Congress and said that it was during their regime that China occupied Sumdorong Chu Valley in Tawang, reported ANI. He added that the Army chief at that time had planned an operation but former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi denied him permission.

Gao said China occupying this area and construction of villages was not a new thing. “They [Congress] didn’t construct roads up to the border which left a buffer zone of 3-4 km which China occupied,” he added. “Construction of new villages isn’t a new thing, it’s all inherited from Congress.”

Border standoff

Tensions between Indian and China have run high since June when initial scuffles between both sides led to a pitched battle – without firearms – and saw 20 Indian soldiers killed in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. China is also believed to have suffered casualties, but has not given any details. Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years.

With eight rounds of Corps Commander-level talks failing to resolve the standoff, both countries have deployed troops and tanks in sub-zero conditions. India has constantly maintained that the onus is on China to carry forward the process of disengagement and de-escalation at the friction points in the mountainous region.