Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday told the Lok Sabha that no mutually acceptable solution has yet been found to restore peace and tranquility on the India-China border. Tuesday was the second day of the shortened Monsoon Session of Parliament.
Singh said both India and China have resolved to keep peace and tranquility on the Line of Actual Control, and for this, bilateral relations must be improved. “India believes bilateral relations can be improved and the border conflict resolved,” he said. “But till now, there has been no mutually acceptable solution,” he said.
From 1990 to 2003, both countries tried to reach a common understanding on the Line of Actual Control, but following this China stopped the effort, Singh said. He said that because of this, there is some overlap between Indian and Chinese perceptions of the Line of Actual Control.
“China doesn’t recognise the traditional and customary alignment of the boundary,” Singh said. “We consider that this alignment is based on well established geographical principles.”
Singh said India and Pakistan had agreed in May that neither country will unilaterally alter the position on the Line of Actual Control. However, China violated this agreement, leading to the death of many Indian soldiers, the defence minister said. But he also added that the Indian Army managed to kill many Chinese soldiers.
“We have told China through diplomatic channels that the attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo were in violation of the bilateral agreements,” he said.
The defence minister said China has amassed men and materiel along the Line of Control in Eastern Ladakh, Gogra, Kongka La and the south and north banks of the Pangong Lake. He said India has made counter-deployments in these areas to protect its interests. “We should be confident that our armed forces will handle the situation successfully,” he said. “We are all proud of our armed forces.” He said nobody should doubt the commitment of the government.
“China continues to be in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 square km in Ladakh,” he said. “In addition, under the so-called Sino-Pakistan ‘Boundary Agreement’ of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China.”
Singh said India has built roads, bridges and other infrastructure along the India-China border.
Singh said he spoke to his Chinese counterpart on September 4 in Moscow, about China’s aggressive deployment and posture on the border. “We also made it clear that we are fully prepared to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country,” he said.
The defence minister said the Indian Armed Forces have been provided with suitable clothing and habitat in difficult climatic conditions. “They are capable of serving at forbidding altitudes with scarce oxygen and in extremely cold temperatures, something that they’ve done over last many years on Siachen and Kargil,” he added. “I want to assure you that we are prepared to deal with any situation.”
The defence minister said the morale of the armed forces is high, and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Ladakh in July has sent the message that people of India stand behind their Army.
Singh called for a resolution in Parliament that the country stands with its armed forces, with belief in its capability and bravery.
Following Singh’s statement, the House moved on to other matters. However, Congress MPs walked out of the Lok Sabha, demanding a discussion on the India-China conflict, ANI reported.
India-China border conflict
Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months. But these talks have failed to break the impasse. Tensions between India and China have flared up after the June 15 clash in Galwan Valley, when 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed.
On September 10, India’s Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The two ministers agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh was “not in the interest of either side”. They agreed, therefore, that the border troops of both sides should “continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”.
On September 7, China accused India of “outrageously firing warning shots” in a new confrontation on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake, describing it as as “a serious military provocation”. India denied this and said Chinese troops attempted to close in on Indian forward positions along the Line of Actual Control and “fired a few rounds in the air”. This was the first confirmed use of firearms on the Line of Actual Control by troops in more than four decades.
On September 1, the Ministry of External Affairs had said that Chinese troops engaged in “provocative action” on August 31, while discussions between ground commanders were underway. This followed by earlier moves on the intervening night of August 29 and 30, which, the Indian Army said, were “provocative” military movements to change the status quo.