"China does not recognise the so-called Ladakh central government region illegally established by India," says Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin as border standoff between both sides continues.

In this September 9, 2020 file photo, an Indian army convoy moves on the Srinagar- Ladakh highway at Gagangeer, northeast of Srinagar, in India-administered Kashmir.
In this September 9, 2020 file photo, an Indian army convoy moves on the Srinagar- Ladakh highway at Gagangeer, northeast of Srinagar, in India-administered Kashmir. (AP)

India's designation of the region along its disputed border with China as a federal territory is an "illegal move," Beijing has said, voicing new objections to construction in the Ladakh region there that seems to strengthen New Delhi's position.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that reports of new Chinese military bases and other facilities being built on its side were "totally untrue and have ulterior motives".

"China does not recognise the so-called Ladakh central government region illegally established by India," Wang told reporters at a daily briefing, saying any new construction violates a pledge by the leaders of both sides. 

"We are also opposed to infrastructure construction aimed at military acquisition and control in the disputed border areas."

Senior commanders agreed earlier this month not to add more troops along their fast-militarising disputed border in the mountainous Ladakh region but appear to have made no progress in disengaging their forces from the ongoing standoff as they had earlier pledged to do.

It is unclear why China rejected India's move last year to reconstitute Ladakh as a federal territory, separate from India-administered Kashmir, or why it considered that illegal. 

It was likely due to the ongoing conflict over the Line of Actual Control or LAC that runs through part of the high desert territory.

'Refrain from unilateral LAC interpretation'

Wang said China's border defence forces operate on their side of the LAC, and "strictly abide by the relevant agreements." 

China “is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the border areas between China and India, and firmly upholds national territorial sovereignty and security”, he said.

Wang did not address reports that China is increasing the building of roads and other infrastructure along its side of the border.

In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that it hopes that China will "sincerely and faithfully” abide by all agreements between the two countries and "refrain from advancing an untenable unilateral interpretation of the LAC".

Border standoff 

The ongoing standoff in Ladakh began in May and escalated in June to the deadliest violence between the two sides in decades, a clash on a high ridge in which soldiers used clubs, stones and their fists. 

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed and dozens of others were wounded. China is believed to have also suffered casualties but has not provided any details.

The two countries have amassed tens of thousands of soldiers, backed by artillery, tanks, and fighter jets, in the Ladakh area since the deadly standoff.

After that clash, the two countries partially disengaged from the site in Ladakh's Galwan Valley and at least two other places, but the crisis has continued in at least three other areas, including the glacial Pangong Lake.

In recent weeks, the world's two most populous nations have accused each other of sending soldiers into each other's territory in the Pangong area and firing warning shots for the first time in 45 years, raising the spectre of a full-scale military conflict.

Undemarcated frontiers 

Relations between the two countries have often been strained, partly due to their undemarcated border. 

They fought a border war in 1962 that spilt into Ladakh and ended in an uneasy truce. Since then, troops have guarded the undefined border while occasionally brawling. The two countries have agreed not to attack each other with firearms.

The fiercely contested control line separates Chinese and Indin-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India's eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. 

It is broken in parts where the Himalayan nations of Nepal and Bhutan border China.

According to India, the de facto border is 3,488 kilometres long, while China says it is considerably shorter. As its name suggests, it divides the areas of physical control rather than territorial claims.

READ MORE: India, China accuse each other of 'provocation' at disputed border

Kashmir's autonomy revocation

India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory and separated it from volatile India-administered Kashmir, also claimed by Pakistan, in August 2019, ending its semi-autonomous status. 

The move further strained the relationship between New Delhi and Beijing, which raised the issue at international forums including the UN Security Council.

In a symbolic move amid soaring tensions, India has banned scores of Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, citing privacy concerns that it said pose a threat to India’s sovereignty and security.

READ MORE: China, India agree to de-escalate tension on Himalayan border

Source: TRTWorld and agencies