Amid reports of Chinese troops laying network of optical fibre cables in Ladakh, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is set to make a statement in Parliament on Tuesday on the continuing standoff, sources said. The address would assume significance in the backdrop of demands made by the Opposition for a debate on the issue.
Singh had met his Chinese counterpart Gen Wei Fenghe in Moscow recently. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi had also met in Moscow a few days ago. Sources told News18 that the defence minister has spoke to Jagan Mohan Reddy on the issue and assured him that a statement on the face-off would be made in Parliament.
Despite the talks, China has been moving ahead with it expansion plan as fibre cables have now been spotted to the south of Pangong Tso lake in the Himalayan region of Ladakh.
Reuters quoted a senior government official as saying that such cables would provide forward troops with secure lines of communication to bases in the rear. Another official said that there had been no significant withdrawals or reinforcements on either side since the foreign ministers of the two countries met last week "It is as tense as earlier," he added.
"Our biggest worry is that they have laid optical fibre cables for high-speed communications," the first official said, referring to the lake's southern bank, where Indian and Chinese troops are only a few hundred metres apart at some points. "They have been laying optical fibre cables on the southern bank at breakneck speed," he said.
Indian intelligence agencies noted similar cables to the north of the Pangong Tso lake around a month ago, the second government official said.
The first Indian government official said the authorities were alerted to such activity after satellite imagery showed unusual lines in the sand of the high-altitude deserts to the south of Pangong Tso.
These lines were judged by Indian experts – and corroborated by foreign intelligence agencies – to be communication cables laid in trenches, he said, including near the Spanggur gap, among hilltops where soldiers fired in the air recently for the first time in decades.
Meanwhile, the Union Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs are also likely to meet over video conferencing on Tuesday afternoon, government sources said. During the monsoon session, which began on Monday, the opposition is seeking to corner the government on its handling of the standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, the COVID-19 situation, economic downturn and unemployment, and is pressing for discussions on these issues. The Congress and other opposition parties raised these demands in the first business advisory committee (BAC) meeting for Lok Sabha chaired by Speaker Om Birla on Sunday, but no time has been allocated yet for these discussions.
The BAC for Lok Sabha will be held again on Tuesday afternoon to further discuss the first week's business schedule. Similar demands have been raised by the Congress in the BAC for Rajya Sabha as well.
(With PTI inputs)