WASHINGTON: China has adopted an aggressive posture against India to stop New Delhi from building defence infrastructure along the border, the absence of which gives Beijing a strategic advantage, a top Indian-American lawmaker has said.
The Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been locked in a tense standoff in multiple areas along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh since early May.
“This is a serious situation. It all started when basically, the Indian government-built infrastructure entirely on its own side of the border to shore up defences in this area, bordering China. The Chinese apparently took offense of that and then made very provocative moves at that point in the Galwan area,” Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi told PTI in an interview.
Krishnamoorthi, who is seeking his third-consecutive election to the House of Representatives from Illinois, is the first and only Indian-American lawmaker in the powerful House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The committee last week had a classified briefing on China’s aggression against India and the border situation.
Krishnamoorthi refused to divulge details of the briefing, but expressed serious concern over the Chinese actions.
“What is ironic about this situation is that the Chinese had already built up infrastructure on their side of the border previously. And so, what I’m very concerned about is that the Chinese making yet another series of provocative moves on the heels of having done similar things with regard to border disputes, or other tensions with Taiwan, Japan Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea,” he said.
Tensions have escalated manifold along the LAC in eastern Ladakh after the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15 in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details.
China, Krishnamoorthi said, was not acting like a good neighbour. He said it is time for China’s neighbours to join hands.
“I think the neighbourhood association, so to speak, the countries in the region, along with others, need to make it very clear that the Chinese government cannot use military measures to try to get their way when diplomacy should always be the mode of settling differences,” he said.
Krishnamoorthi said the neighbouring countries of China are increasingly having dialogue about how to create a rules based international order in the Indo-Pacific region.
“That is why the United States, India, Australia, Japan and others have come together to discuss how to avoid aggression or military moves that could really disrupt the region,” he said.
To China’s motive behind stopping India from building defence infrastructure, Krishnamoorthi said Beijing does not want to handover strategic advantage. “They feel that they had an advantage when only they had the requisite infrastructure whether it was airfields or roads or railways on their side, and India did not.”
“I think it’s entirely within a sovereign nations prerogative to shore up its own defences wherever it perceives them to be short of what they need to counter aggression,” he said.
Observing that the United States and India have a deep and growing relationship, Krishnamoorthi said the US should make it very clear to whoever would violate international norms or rules and conventions that they are going to stand with those who abide by those same rules and norms and conventions, such as India, in this situation.
Krishnamoorthi has introduced a bipartisan resolution against China and in support of India. The resolution, in the form of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, was passed by the House with overwhelming support.
“I think it’s really important that we resolve this diplomatically as soon as possible,” he said.
Krishnamoorthi said the Chinese move does not seem to be in response to India revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August last year.
Amidst the tense situation in eastern Ladakh, India and China reached an agreement to resolve their border row at a meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet.
The agreement included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.