New Delhi: Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat on Thursday said the controversy about the Chinese coming into the Indian territory and building a new village is "not true", and that the villages were well within the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
He also asserted that China has not transgressed the Indian "perception" of the LAC. In its recent report, the US Department of Defence said China built a large village inside disputed territory between its Tibet Autonomous Region and India's Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern sector of the LAC.
Earlier in an official reaction to the US report, the external affairs ministry said India has neither accepted China's "illegal occupation of its territory nor any unjustified Chinese claims".
In a weekly media briefing on Thursday, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "China has undertaken construction activities in the past several years along the border areas including in the areas that it has illegally occupied over the decades. India has neither accepted such illegal occupation of our territory nor has it accepted the unjustified Chinese claims."
However, Rawat, at 'Times Now Summit 2021', said, "as far as we are concerned, no such village development has taken place on our side of the LAC."
"The present controversy - that has erupted - that the Chinese have come across into our territory and built a new village is not true," he said. "But what I wish to come out with is that Chinese are building villages possibly for billeting and locating their civilians or for their military in the future all along the LAC, particularly after the recent face-offs that we have had," the CDS added.
Rawat also said both the Indian and Chinese forces have posts on their respective side of the LAC. "Wherever the Chinese have now developed their posts, we have seen some old dilapidated huts that existed in that area," he said.
So, some of those huts have been broken and newer infrastructure was being built up and modern huts are coming up, he added. "Yes, maybe a couple of them, the villages, have increased in size. What I would probably feel is that these are to billet the Chinese soldiers and subsequently, they may also be planning to facilitate the arrival of their families once in a while... Our civilians going there, our families visiting forward areas, so they are watching all this," he explained.
Noting that Chinese soldiers are isolated, Rawat said,"he (Chinese soldier) is living thousands of miles away from the mainland. And he sees our people that they are in a much happier state. They get to go home much faster."
The Indian soldiers do get leave to go home from the positions on LAC at least twice a year if not thrice, he said, adding that the Chinese soldiers do not have this luxury. "They are building this infrastructure, this kind of so-called villages, which are well within their side of the LAC. They have not transgressed anywhere on our perception of the LAC," he said.
He said there are different perceptions of the LAC but the Indian armed forces know where the LAC lies because they have been told that this is your alignment of the LAC and this is the territory you are expected to defend. "Chinese have a perception and in some areas, we know about it, and in some areas, we don't know about it. Because they have never really explained where the LAC lies according to their perception," he noted.
When asked if he thinks such village development is muscle-flexing on their part, he replied: "Certainly not, I won't call it muscle-flexing. With the development of these villages, they are trying to make sure that they reach out to their border areas, and it is something we should also be doing."
India was also concerned about its border area development and the government has released funds for BADP (Border Area Development Programme) projects, he mentioned.
"In fact, we are encouraging people to go there and stay back in those villages because a large number of villages along the LAC are being vacated. Why are they being vacated? Because people find job opportunities, education, health infrastructure, more in the inner areas," he explained.
Last month, India and China failed to make any headway in resolving the 18-month standoff in the remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh during the 13th round of military talks between the two countries. Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the LAC in the sensitive sector of eastern Ladakh .