MoD, Army Chief downplay China’s Aksai Chin move

Reports claimed that China is attempting to establish an astronomical observatory in Aksai Chin.

Updated: Apr 16, 2012, 16:11 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Hours after reports claimed that China is attempting to establish an astronomical observatory in Aksai Chin - a remote part of J&K that Beijing occupied after the 1962 war, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Monday downplayed any threat emanating from the move to the nation’s security.

“We are aware of China’s defence spending and modernisation plan and its latest move in the Aksai Chin region. It poses no significant threat to the country,” a statement released by the MoD said.

Meanwhile, Army Chief Gen VK Singh also sought to play down reports that Beijing has dared India again by trying to legitimise its control over Aksai Chin in Ladakh.

Speaking to reporters, Gen Singh said, “Aksai Chin is at a considerable distance from the Siachin Glacier region so there is absolutely no threat to the country’s borders.”

The reaction from the MoD and the Army Chief came in the wake of reports that China is pushing Japan and South Korea to establish an astronomical observatory in Aksai Chin.

Defence analysts see the Chinese proposal for the observatory as an attempt to complicate the Aksai Chin dispute by drawing in Japan and South Korea.

Aksai Chin is a remote part of Jammu & Kashmir that Beijing occupied after the 1962 war. Pakistan ceded parts of the region to China a year later.

The East Asia Core Observatories Association (EACOA) with China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan as its members has identified Aksai Chin for the observatory after surveying several areas in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and Pamirs Plateau in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

A remote area in Tibet can also be chosen as the location for the new international astronomical observatory, because of "limited clouds and vapour" but "high transparency" ideal for observation activities.

The planned observatory will enable scientists from China, Japan and South Korea to build large-scale telescopes and carry out joint research programmes, said Yao Yongqiang, chief researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A possible location for the new observatory will be in the mountains of Tibet`s Ngari prefecture, at an altitude of over 5,000 metres.

As per reports, the astronomical telescopes will be installed at the Ngari observatory this year to carry out research on planetary science, star formation and gamma-ray bursts.

The Qinghai-Tibet plateau has long been a popular location for stargazers. The 13th king of ancient Tibet`s Yuyuhun kingdom, who reigned from 481 to 490 AD, built an observatory in the Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan prefecture in Qinghai province.

A cosmic ray observatory has also been built in Yangbajing in Damxung county, about 90 km from Lhasa.