In the Modi government’s first statement on the military tensions along the LAC in Parliament, Singh spoke for close to 25 minutes, saying China had consistently refused to accept customary and traditional boundaries, had previously grabbed 38,000 sq km in Ladakh, claimed 90,000 sq km in Arunachal Pradesh and was also ceded land illegally in PoK by Pakistan.
He blamed China for attempting to unilaterally alter the status quo and said while India wanted to peacefully resolve the ongoing military confrontation, it was fully prepared to deal with any situation.
Singh said all provisions have been made for Indian troops deployed in the high altitude terrain, indicating India’s preparedness to dig in. He said India had foiled repeated Chinese intrusions, and said he as well as foreign minister S Jaishankar had clearly told their Chinese counterparts in recent meetings that violent actions, including the Galwan clash, were a violation of agreements reached in 1993 and 1996. As India and China’s perception of the LAC overlapped, there were protocols governing how troops should deal with face-offs which China had cast aside.
“As of now, the Chinese side has mobilised a large number of troops and armaments along the LAC as well as in the depth areas,” Singh said, adding India had counter-mobilised as well.
He also spoke of the most recent August 29-30 action, saying a fresh move by Chinese troops to change the status quo on the south bank of Pangong Tso had been resolutely countered. The reference was to the Indian Army’s success in taking control of key heights on the south bank that has more than neutralised the advantage the PLA held after it had surprised India by occupying the Finger 4-8 ridgeline.
Singh agreed that the situation was serious when he said the current face-off, in terms of the extent of deployment of rival troops, was fairly unprecedented as compared to previous confrontations. He admitted India was “facing a challenge” in eastern Ladakh this time and did not elaborate on the current ground situation, saying he could not go into “sensitive operational issues”.
“Even though the situation this year is very different, both in terms of scale of troops involved and the number of friction points, we do remain committed to the peaceful resolution of the current situation. At the same time, the House can be assured that we remain prepared to deal with all contingencies,” the defence minister said.
Stressing that no one should doubt India’s determination to safeguard its borders, Singh said the armed forces have made “appropriate counter-deployments” in the friction areas in eastern Ladakh, which included Gogra, Kongka La and the north and south banks of Pangong Tso.
The military confrontation has seen over 50,000 soldiers each from the two armies as well as tanks, howitzers and other weapon systems amassed within firing distance of each other along the frontier in eastern Ladakh for over four months now.
With casualties and shots being fired for the first time in 45 years, India has also reinforced its troop positions all along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) right till Arunachal Pradesh, as was earlier reported by TOI.
The minister said Col Santosh Babu and 19 other soldiers had gallantly laid down their lives after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “created the violent face-off” in Galwan Valley on June 15 in violation of all agreements and understandings. But Indian troops also inflicted heavy costs, including casualties, on the Chinese side, he said.
The PLA once again engaged in “provocative military manoeuvres” in an attempt to change the status quo on the south bank of Pangong Tso on August 29-30. “But yet again, timely and firm actions by our armed forces along the LAC prevented such attempts from succeeding,” he said.
“The conduct of our armed forces throughout these incidents shows that while they maintained ‘sayyam’ (restraint) in the face of provocative actions, they have also equally displayed ‘shaurya’ (valour) when required to protect the territorial integrity of India,” he added.
The minister said China does not accept the “customary and traditional alignment” of the boundary, which is based on well-established geographical principles as well as historical usage and practice well known for centuries to both sides.
But the two countries had agreed to maintain peace and tranquillity along the border by minimal deployment of forces and strictly respecting the LAC, through both the 1993 and 1996 agreements and other protocols, till the complex boundary question was settled in a fair and mutually acceptable manner.
Consequently, China’s recent attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo was simply “unacceptable’, and this had been made clear to the country through both diplomatic and military channels, he said.
“India’s position is that while bilateral relations can continue to develop in parallel with discussions on resolving the boundary question, any serious disturbance in peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the border areas is bound to have implications for the positive direction of our ties,” Singh said.
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