'Pangong Tso Bridges in Area Under Illegal Chinese Occupation Since 1960s': MEA

Bagchi said that the government would take all necessary steps to safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of India.

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Responding to reports of China building a second bridge over the disputed Pangong Tso Lake in eastern Ladakh, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Friday, 20 May, that India never accepted such "illegal occupation of our territory" or China's claims on the area and its construction activities.

"We have seen reports of a bridge being constructed by China on Pangong Lake alongside its earlier bridge. Both these bridges are in areas that have continued to be under the illegal occupation of China since the 1960s," MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

He also added that the government would take all necessary measures to safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of India.

"The government keeps a constant watch on all developments that have a bearing on India security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

This was the MEA's second response to reports of a bridge being constructed over the disputed region in eastern Ladakh.

The MEA spokesperson further said that the government was committed to creating infrastructure along the border areas to not only meet India’s strategic and security requirements, but also facilitate economic development in these areas.

'Timid Response Won't Do': Rahul Gandhi

This comes after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Friday that the government's response to reports of China's construction of a bridge in Pangong Tso was "timid and docile".

"India’s National security and territorial integrity is non-negotiable. A timid and docile response won’t do. PM must defend the Nation," Gandhi had said in a tweet.

MEA's Response on Thursday

Reacting to reports of China building a bridge over the disputed region in eastern Ladakh, Bagchi had said on Thursday that the area had been under the occupation of the Chinese side for decades.

"We have seen media reports and other reports on the so-called bridge," he had said while speaking to reporters.

Bagchi also added that India monitors such developments, and that the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had clarified with the media that "the friction and tensions that arise from China’s deployments since April 2020 cannot be reconciled with a normal relationship between two neighbours."

"You are also aware that (Chinese) Foreign Minister Wang Yi was here in March this year, and EAM Jaishankar conveyed our expectations to him," he said.

The spokesman also said that India and China have held several rounds of conversations at the diplomatic and military levels and will continue to remain engaged.

After the MEA's response, Congress leader P Chidambaram had also put out a tweet, questioning the government's stand on the bridge construction.

"The MEA has said that the new bridge under construction on the Pangong lake is in “occupied territory” The refined statement raises two simple questions: a) whose territory? b) who has occupied it?" the former finance minister said in a tweet on Friday.

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