Even as India and China agreed to ease the standoff in eastern Ladakh, there are reports that China has built a second village near the Arunachal Pradesh border, which is inside the Indian territory.
This comes even as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday that India and China were going through an extraordinarily bad patch in their diplomatic ties.
PTI quoted Jaishankar as saying, “We are going through a particularly bad patch in our relationship because they have taken a set of actions in violation of agreements for which they still don’t have a credible explanation and that indicates some rethink about where they want to take our relationship, but that’s for them to answer." The minister made the remarks at the Bloomberg New Economic Forum in Singapore.
The latest such alleged violation seems to be near the LAC.
What has exactly happened?
NDTV reported that new satellite images it accessed show that there is a cluster of at least 60 buildings, that it said is inside Arunachal Pradesh. The report said that this cluster of houses did not exist in 2019 and lies 6 kilometres within India in the region between the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the International Boundary.
The army has denied that this is within Indian territory. It told NDTV that it lies north of the LAC, in Chinese territory. Meanwhile, it told The Times of India that there has been "no such construction" within India's perception of the LAC.
The satellite images showed that China has also built several such clusters inside the territory of Bhutan, near Doklam in Sikkim.
A tweet by Twitter user @detresfa, a global researcher with The Intel Lab, said, "Disputed land between #Bhutan & #China near Doklam shows construction activity between 2020-21, multiple new villages spread through an area roughly 100 km² now dot the landscape, is this part of a new agreement or enforcement of #China's territorial claims ?"
Disputed land between #Bhutan & #China near Doklam shows construction activity between 2020-21, multiple new villages spread through an area roughly 100 km² now dot the landscape, is this part of a new agreement or enforcement of #China's territorial claims ? pic.twitter.com/9m1n5zCAt4
— d-atis☠️ (@detresfa_) November 17, 2021
India and China had a 74-day long standoff at Doklam with China in 2017.
What is the first village?
In January 2021, China built a village of 101 homes in Arunachal Pradesh, around 4.5 kilometres within Indian territory. The village was located at the banks of the Tsari Chu river in the Upper Subansiri district, which lies along the LAC. This too was reported by NDTV, while comparing two different satellite images — one from August 26, 2019and the other from November 1, 2020. The first one did not have any constructions showing.
Reacting to India reports, China had said that it never recognised Arunachal Pradesh and hence the building of the village was a "sovereign" matter. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had said that China was aware of the construction activities on Zangnan — what China refers to Arunachal or South Tibet as — and said that it was an internal matter. The Hindu quoted Chunying as saying, "China and India haven’t demarcated the border line of this area yet. So they cannot accuse China of building a village on the Indian side."
China and India have their ties worsening in the past few years. In May 2020, China and India had a standoff near Pangong Tso Lake in eastern Ladakh. Videos from the time had showed troops from both sides being involved in fist fights and throwing stones. Around 72 soldiers were said to have been injured in the incidents and they had reportedly been flown to regions like Delhi, Leh and Chandi Mandir. The tension further escalated after a deadly clash in Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in February and in the Gogra area in August. The last round of military talks on October 10 ended in a stalemate.
On Friday, speaking on the Sino-Indian relations, Jaishankar further said, "I don’t think the Chinese have any doubt on where we stand on our relationship and what’s not gone right with it. I’ve been meeting my counterpart Wang Yi a number of times. As you would’ve experienced, I speak fairly clear, reasonably understandably (and) there is no lack of clarity so if they want to hear it, I am sure they would have heard it."