GT Voice: India should not make a fuss about Pangong Lake bridge
Published: Jan 19, 2022 09:11 PM
A general view of the shores of Bangong Lake, known as Pangong Lake in India on October 10, 2017 Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China's construction of a new bridge across the Pangong Lake is nearing completion, several Indian media outlets reported on Wednesday, citing high-resolution satellite imagery obtained from a US space technology company.

Ever since the border tensions between the two countries simmered to the surface, it appears that any progress connect to China's infrastructure construction in its southwestern territories touches a nerve in New Delhi. And the news of the bridge across the Pangong Lake appears to be no exception.

In fact, the emergence of the satellite imagery that showed the bridge being constructed by China already triggered a political uproar in India early this month. For instance, The Hindustan Times recently quoted Maj Gen (retired) Ashok Kumar, a visiting fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), as saying that China's accelerated construction of infrastructure and model villages along the border has created "conditions for a militarized solution to the boundary issue."

It would be nothing but regrettable if some in India continue to misinterpret China's infrastructure buildup along the border as serving military purposes. It is this kind of misunderstanding that has, to a certain extent, contributed to the continuing tensions between the two countries, undermining efforts to ease the tensions.

China has been strengthening construction of infrastructure projects in Southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region during recent years, as a result of the rapid economic growth in the region. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Xizang reported the fastest economic growth among China's 31 provincial-level regions in 2020, with its gross domestic product exceeding 140 billion yuan ($22 billion), up 7.8 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, Xizang's per capita GDP increased by 7.04 percent to reach more than $8,000 yuan, about four times that of India.

At present, Xizang still lags behind other provinces of China in terms of infrastructure buildup, and the regional accelerated infrastructure construction is a natural development with the local economy expanding at a fast pace, not to mention that the support of China's central government has always facilitated the process. 

China's infrastructure efforts are aimed at improving local economy and Chinese people's livelihood, while in Xizang, the development of the local economy and infrastructure also contributes to social stability, which is also of great significance to border stability. In this sense, it will be a long-term trend for China to push forward infrastructure construction in the border region.

If some people in India keep aiming to stir up trouble by claiming that China's infrastructure in the border region is unsettling, which would bring more pressure on India, it only shows that they are too narrow-minded to see the importance of economic development to the border region.

China and India are neighbors for better or for worse. China's willingness to work toward stability in the border region and bilateral relations has never changed.

Now Xizang's economic achievement and infrastructure development is more advanced than India. If anything, India's political elite should realize that economic development, not other issues, should be the top priority for Indian government, which is facing growing urgency to improve the living standards of Indian people. Hyping border tensions or vilifying China's infrastructure buildup in Xizang region may only create a distraction for New Delhi.