Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told the Rajya Sabha that China continues to illegally occupy approximately 38,000 square kilometre of land in Ladakh. His statement came as both India and China are trying to resolve the border stand-off along the Line of Actual Control, which began in May, but neither side has backed down.
“China continues to be in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq kms in the Union Territory of Ladakh,” the defence minister said at the fourth day of Parliament’s Monsoon Session. “In addition, under the so-called Sino-Pakistan ‘Boundary Agreement’ of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in PoK [Pakistan-occupied Kashmir] to China. China also claims approximately 90,000 sq kms of Indian territory in the Eastern Sector of the India-China boundary in Arunachal Pradesh.”
Singh told Parliament that respecting and strictly observing the Line of Actual Control was the basis for peace and tranquility in the border areas. “While our armed forces abide scrupulously by it, this has not been reciprocated by the Chinese side,” he added.
He mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself went to Ladakh to boost morale of the armed forces. “One June 15, Colonel Santosh Babu, along with 19 brave soldiers made the sacrifice in Galwan Valley towards the cause of defending the territorial integrity of India,” he said.
He said that the Chinese actions reflect a disregard of our various bilateral agreements between the countries. Singh said the Chinese side has also mobilised a large number of troops and armaments along the LAC as well as in the depth areas. “The amassing of the troops by China goes against the 1993 and 1996 agreements,” he added. “There are several friction areas in Eastern Ladakh including Gogra, Kongka La and North and South Banks of the Pangong Lake.”
The minister, who made a similar statement in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, assured the MPs that India remains committed to resolving the current problems through peaceful dialogue and consultations.
“In the past too we have had situations of prolonged stand-offs in our border areas with China which have been resolved peacefully,” he said. “The situation this year is very different both in terms of scale of troops involved and 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.”
Singh added that it was the Chinese Army that provoked the Indian troops. “The conduct of our armed forces throughout these incidents shows that while they maintained ‘sayyam’ [patience] in face of provocative actions, they also equally displayed ‘shaurya’ [courage] when required to protect the territorial integrity of India,” he said.
Opposition stands with Centre
Rajya Sabha chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu asked Singh to take political leaders into confidence.
Members of the House expressed solidarity with the armed forces. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said all of them are one when it comes to the integrity and sovereignty of the country.
Congress MP Anand Sharma sought clarification on the defence minister’s statement and questioned if the restoration of the status quo ante will remain non-negotiable for India. Samajwadi Party MP Ravi Prakash Verma said the electronic media seems to have created situation of war.
Congress MP and former Defence Minister AK Antony said that the nation supports Indian soldiers. “What does it mean when defence minister says government will do everything to protect the sovereignty,” he asked. “Galwan Valley was never a disputed site. Now our soldiers not allowed patrol areas they used to earlier. We should be allowed to patrol where we used to.”
Singh, responding to Antony, clarified that the standoff is a result of Chinese side not allowing Indian soldiers to patrol traditional posts. “There will be no change in patrolling pattern,” Singh said. “No force in the world can stop our brave soldiers from patrolling along our land. It is to keep it that way that the discussion is underway. I cannot say more due to operational reasons.”
The minister also appreciated the expressions of solidarity by the Rajya Sabha MPs. “I do not want to say thank you, because we are one,” he said.