Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said that India and China failed to arrive at a “meaningful solution” during several rounds of talks between the military and diplomatic heads from both sides, as the months-long standoff along the Line of Actual Control continues, reported ANI.

“It is true that in order to reduce the standoff between India and China, talks were taking place on a military and diplomatic level,” the defence minister told the news agency in an interview. “But no success has been achieved so far. There will be a next round of talks on a military level, which can take place anytime. But no meaningful outcome has come [so far] and there is status quo.”

India and China had on December 18 agreed to continue working towards ensuring complete disengagement of soldiers along the Line of Actual Control.

Singh said that as long as the status quo does not change, India will not consider reducing the number of troops deployed along the border. “There will be no reduction in our deployment and I feel their [China’s] deployment will also not come down,” he added. “I don’t think that status-quo is a positive development at all.”

However, India was hopeful that the multiple rounds of talks, which have been underway, would eventually yield a positive outcome, the defence minister said.

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Singh added that China had been undertaking “a lot of infrastructure development” in its border areas along the LAC. “India is also developing infrastructure at a fast pace for people at the border and for soldiers there,” he added. “We are not developing infrastructure to attack any country but for our people.”

The defence minister added that India would not allow the Chinese to intrude upon Indian territory. “If a country is expansionist and tries to occupy our land, then India has the strength, capability and power to not let its land go into anyone’s hand, whether it is any country of the world,” Singh said.

He reiterated that dialogue with Beijing will continue, but“India will not tolerate anything that hurts its self-respect”. “Being soft does not mean that anyone can attack our pride and we sit and watch silently,” Singh said.

The standoff along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh is in a stalemate since May, when Chinese troops moved to take control of the territory that had been patrolled by Indian soldiers for decades. The initial scuffles led up to a pitched battle – without firearms – in June that saw 20 Indian soldiers killed, with Beijing refusing to release casualty numbers on its side.

Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years.

Attempts at military and diplomatic talks followed, with little success, although authorities on both sides periodically claim that the two sides were disengaging and deescalating. Both sides have made preparations to maintain thousands of troops and equipment in sub-zero conditions, reports said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party sought to downplay the incidents, with the prime minister insisting that there had been no intrusion despite reports that the Chinese were in control of huge swathes of territory previously patrolled by India across various sectors.

In August, The Hindu had reported that intelligence reports had informed the Indian government that Chinese troops are currently in control of as much as 1,000 square kilometres of area in Ladakh.

On ‘love jihad’

In his interview to ANI, Singh also touched upon the new anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh that intends to curb “love jihad”, and said he personally did not support religious conversions for the sake of marriage.

“I want to ask why there should be a [religious] conversion,” the defence minister added. “The practice of mass conversions should stop. As far as I know, in the Muslim religion, one cannot marry someone from another religion. I personally do not approve of conversion for marriage.”

Singh said there was a difference between “natural marriage” and forceful religious conversion for marriage, though he did not elaborate on his statement.

“Love jihad” is a term Hindu right-wing groups use to refer to an unproven conspiracy that Muslims are luring Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting their brides to Islam. The term was recently given credence in Indian law after Uttar Pradesh brought in the ordinance, which purportedly attempts to punish forced religious conversions. In a month since the law was passed, the state government has made a spate of arrests, targeting Muslim men.

On Tuesday, the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet also passed similar ordinance purportedly aimed to prevent forceful religious conversions. Both states are governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Several other BJP-ruled states are also contemplating provisions to curb interfaith marriages. The Haryana government has formed a three-member drafting committee to frame a law on the matter. Karnataka and Assam governments have made similar announcements.

However, Successive investigations have failed to find any evidence that such conspiracy exists and the central government had in February told the Lok Sabha that no “case of ‘love jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies”. Critics say the laws are part of an anti-Muslim agenda by Modi’s party. Critics say the laws are part of an anti-Muslim agenda by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

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