Former finance minister P Chidambaram posed five questions to the BJP-led Centre while discussing an appropriation bill in the Rajya Sabha linked to the government seeking ₹500 crore for defence capital expenditure for strategic roads in the country’s Northeast. These roads form a key part of the government’s infrastructure push in forward areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Firstly, the Congress MP wanted to know whether the conflict in the India-China border was raised with Chinese President Xi Jinping when PM Modi met him at the G20 Summit held in Bali in November. This was in response to the India-China clash that took place in the Tawang province of Arunachal Pradesh on December.
“I just want to know if the border situation was discussed (between Modi and Xi). I am entitled to ask this question as you are asking ₹500 crore for the border,” Chidambaram said. He further added that he was not asking for the disclosure of meeting details between the Prime Minister and Xi. He simply wished to understand whether the matter had been raised at all.
In his second question, Chidambaram asked the BJP-led union government if China had conceded anything on Hot Springs in Ladakh, which was one of the friction areas along LAC in the Ladakh sector. Indian and Chinese soldiers had in September disengaged from Patrol Point-15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area, with the breakthrough coming after the 16th round of military talks between the two armies in July. Inspite of four rounds of disengagement from Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Gogra (PP-17A) and Hot Springs (PP-15), the two armies still have over 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the sector.
The MP's next question pertained to other friction points between India and China such as the Depsang Plains. The Depsang Plains come under India’s Sub Sector North (SSN) and as elsewhere, the LAC here is disputed. The SSN is sandwiched between the Siachen Glacier on one side and Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin on the other.
The disputed area has seen two major standoffs between Indian and Chinese forces in 2013 and 2015. This is aside from the dozens of annual clashes that both sides engage in when soldiers come face-to-face while patrolling.
Outstanding issues in Depsang were revealed after the disengagement at the Ladhak Hot Springs. PLA’s deployments in Depsang have hindered access of Indian soldiers to PP-10, 11, 11-A, 12 and 13.
Chidambaram’s fourth question was on whether the Indian Army had stopped patrolling areas it was patrolling before because of the creation of buffer zones in areas where disengagement had taken place.
For instance, back in September, the Indian and Chinese armies moved back their frontline troops to the rear locations from the face-off site of Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hotsprings area in eastern Ladakh and dismantled temporary infrastructure there as part of a five-day disengagement process.
Writing for the Deccan Herald, Anirban Bhaumik says about the buffer zones, "Each deal [of creating buffer zones] made India leave vast tracts of land well within the territory claimed by it vulnerable to future aggression by China."
Chidambaram's final question was on details infrastructure that China had built across the LAC.
“We know they have built roads, bridges, settlements, helipads and communications...What is the massive infrastructure China is building... I don’t want you to tell us what is the matching infrastructure you are building,” he said. Both sides have gone into an infrastructure overdrive on their respective sides of LAC.
On November 12, the India army chief Gen Manoj Pandey had said about the Chinese infrastructure along the LAC, "It is going on unabated."
The Centre is said to reply to these questions this evening.