The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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China makes ‘inroads’
- Beijing paves patrol path, India stuck in red tape

New Delhi, Sept. 10: China has built roads well into India’s territory at a time Indian road construction to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), particularly in Arunachal Pradesh, is caught in red tape.

Beijing has constructed motorable roads running parallel to the LAC and has paved approach roads into Arunachal Pradesh, Indian sources have disclosed, elevating the nature of alleged transgressions from the usual incursions to building infrastructure.

“What we call Indian territory is different from what their perception of the LAC is. While our patrol forces (Indo-Tibetan Border Police or (ITBP)) have to walk days to reach the LAC, China has roads till what they perceive is the LAC,” a senior home ministry official told The Telegraph.

By the time India constructs roads reaching the LAC, the character of the actual line would have changed irreversibly, it is feared. China does not recognise the LAC or McMahon Line of 1914.

The patrols play a seemingly childish but psychologically important role in establishing territorial rights — much like the kings of the wild that mark out their spheres of influence by urinating.

The patrol parties use stuff less organic than body fluids — troops from both sides are known to leave along the LAC telltale articles identifiable with each other’s country. Favourite with Indian forces are Dalda cans and cigarette packs which Chinese troops painstakingly remove from what Beijing feels is its territory.

“With approach roads on their (Chinese) side and the absence of them on our side, their patrolling parties have more opportunities to collect the stuff and dump it back on what they perceive as the LAC,” said an official.

The marking-out ritual was stepped up in July by Chinese troops who apparently sprayed paint to scrawl “China” on boulders in Ladakh — something the Chinese foreign ministry has denied since.

An Indian China study group made of secretaries from the home, external affairs and defence ministries, besides the heads of the intelligence wings, had also recently recommended that roads be built fast.

Delhi has maintained a stoic silence, sheepishly conceding but publicly denying the existence of any problem.

In reality, however, the fault lies in the slow pace in the movement of files in the government.

Of the 27 roads being constructed to the Chinese border, 11 are in Arunachal Pradesh and they need clearance from the environment and forest ministry. For years, the files kept trudging through the slow corridors.

Four roads were cleared eventually, the number going up to nine recently. Clearances for the remaining two are still pending.

The recent clearances for the five roads came after the home ministry approached the empowered group of secretaries on border roads and sought waivers in view of “national security”, sources said.

According to official sources, work is in progress on 10 border roads meant to cover 196km. Here, 40.08km of formation work and 5.40km of surfacing work has been completed.

To showcase the recent headway, home minister P. Chidambaram had announced that work on the Phorbrank-Chartse-Point 4433 road had been cleared by the Supreme Court.

However, Chidambaram conceded on September 1 that although the pace of road construction to the Chinese border had picked up substantially, some distance still needed to be covered. The bulk of the problems of infrastructure lies in Arunachal Pradesh which China claims is its territory.

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