US lawmaker calls Chinese construction near Indian border ‘provocative’

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PTI

Washington

An influential US lawmaker has expressed concern over reports of China’s continuing construction activities along the Indian border in Ladakh, saying if the reports are true, it is a “provocative measure” on the part of Beijing and fits the pattern of its conduct in the South China Sea.

India and China have been locked in a military standoff, which began in May, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.

Armies of both countries have deployed a large number of troops along the LAC. Multiple rounds of talks between the two sides to resolve the standoff have not yielded any concrete outcome.

“If it (reports) turns out to be true, it would be yet another provocative measure by the Chinese military to change the facts on the ground,” Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi told PTI.

“It would also fit the pattern of their conduct in the South China Sea, where they build islands, where they try to change the facts as we previously understood them, and they would be deeply disturbing, to say the least,” said Krishnamoorthi, who is the first-ever Indian-American to be on the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

China claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory. It has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Beijing has also impeded commercial activity like fishing or mineral exploration by countries like Vietnam and the Philippines in the resource-rich region, claiming that the ownership of the territory belonged to China for hundreds of years.

Krishnamoorthi, who was recently re-elected to the House of Representatives for the third consecutive time, said the US stands with India.

The Congressman from Illinois said reports including satellite images are his source of information about Chinese construction activities.

“I have to say that we currently in the US Congress, but also the Trump and the incoming Biden administration stand by our Indian partners and the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

The recently concluded Malabar exercise of QUAD countries — India, Japan, Australia and the United States — is a signal that the democracies in the Indo-Pacific region will continue to stand with each other and push for a rules-based international order, the Congressman said.