India on Thursday said the area where China is building a second bridge across the strategic Pangong Lake is perceived as an "occupied area", and tensions arising from Chinese deployments since April 2020 "cannot be reconciled with a normal relationship".
The Indian side has conveyed its expectations regarding the military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to the Chinese side, including foreign minister Wang Yi, and will continue to take the matter forward in order to find a solution though talks, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
Bagchi made the remarks while responding to several questions at a weekly news briefing on the second bridge being built between the north and south banks of Pangong Lake. Bagchi indicated there was some lack of clarity on whether this was a second bridge or an expansion and widening of an existing bridge, and said the defence ministry was better placed to speak about details and implications of the structure.
"We have seen reports of the bridge, this is a military issue. As we have said, we believe this whole area is occupied area," Bagchi said.
"The area that is referred to...we have always felt this was occupied and we have had our hope for decades...We monitor such developments," he added.
According to experts who have analysed the latest high-resolution satellite imagery of the site, the new bridge is being constructed parallel to the first bridge, which is narrower and was completed in April. The first bridge is being used to move equipment such as cranes needed to build the second one, which will be capable of accommodating larger and heavier vehicles such as tanks.
When reports of the construction of the first bridge linking the two banks of Pangong Lake emerged in January, the external affairs ministry had said the structure is located in areas under illegal occupation by China for 60 years.
Both structures are located across the narrowest section of the 134-km-long lake. They will cut the distance between Chinese troop positions on the north bank to a key People's Liberation Army (PLA) base at Rutog, on the eastern end of the lake, by around 150 km.
Bagchi said the Indian side has held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks with the Chinese side, at different levels, regarding the standoff on the LAC. External affairs minister S Jaishankar conveyed India's expectations to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi when he visited New Delhi in March, he said.
"As [the external affairs minister] had said then...the frictions and tensions that arise from China's deployments since April 2020 cannot be reconciled with a normal relationship between two neighbours," Bagchi said.
"So we will continue to remain engaged with the Chinese side, both at the diplomatic and military levels, to ensure that the directions given by the two ministers are implemented fully," he added.
The Indian side will try to take matters forward in order to find a solution through talks. "And till this is resolved, we can't move forward on other issues," Bagchi said.
India and China have been locked in the border row since April-May 2020, and despite disengagement of soldiers at Galwan Valley, Pangong Lake and Gogra, the two sides still have around 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the Ladakh theatre.