The defence ministry on Friday said that India has not conceded any territory to China and there are differences yet to be resolved. The clarification came as a rebuttal after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi raised queries about the disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “cowardice” and “giving away Indian territory to China”.
“India has not conceded any territory as a result of this agreement,” the defence ministry statement said. “On the contrary, it has enforced observance and respect for LAC and prevented any unilateral change in the status quo. Raksha Mantri’s [Defence Minister Rajnath Singh] statement also made clear that there are outstanding problems to be addressed, including at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang. The outstanding issues are to be taken up within 48 hours of the completion of the Pangong Tso disengagement.”
The defence ministry also clarified misconceptions related to India’s territory. “The territory of India is as depicted by the map of India and includes more than 43,000 sq km currently under illegal occupation of China since 1962,” the statement said. “Even the Line of Actual Control, as per the Indian perception, is at Finger 8, not at Finger 4. That is why India has persistently maintained the right to patrol upto Finger 8, including in the current understanding with China.”
India had previously patrolled on foot up to Finger 8 as there is no road access from its side to areas east of Finger 4, The Hindu reported. Meanwhile, China has dominated up to Finger 4, and has built a road there with additional logistics in place. Last year, Chinese military had prevented India from reaching Finger 8, leading to the months long standoff between both sides.
The ministry added that permanent posts on both sides at the north bank of the Pangong Tso Lake were “longstanding and well-established”. “On the Indian side, it is Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 and on the Chinese side, east of Finger 8,” it said. “The current agreement provides for cessation of forward deployment by both sides and continued deployment at these permanent posts.”
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told the Parliament that India and China will remove deployments along the Pangong lake in Ladakh in a phased and coordinated manner. His statement confirmed a breakthrough in talks between the two countries to ease border tensions.
The defence minister had said that these were “mutual and reciprocal steps”, adding that any structures built by either side since April 2020 in the North and South bank area will be removed and the landforms will be restored.
Singh’s clarification in the Parliament came a day after the Chinese defence ministry announced that Beijing and New Delhi had started “synchronised and organised disengagement” from Wednesday.
Tensions between the two countries flared up in June after deadly clashes between soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed. China is believed to also have suffered casualties as well, but has not given any details.
The standoff has persisted with both sides bolstering forces along the border. Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time there in 45 years.
Several rounds of diplomatic and military level of talks have been held over the past few months to disengage troops. The ninth round of Corps Commander-level talks took place on January 24.
- ‘PM has given away our territory to China,’ alleges Rahul Gandhi, questions disengagement plan
- ‘India, China to remove deployments from Pangong lake in phased way,’ Rajnath Singh tells Parliament
Cong realises Nehru’s blunder of ‘gifting’ land to China: BJP
After Singh’s comments in Parliament, Gandhi on Friday picked apart the government’s disengagement plan along the Line of Actual Control in Pangong lake in Ladakh and accused it of conceding Indian territory to China. The BJP, however, criticised him saying that this was the Congress’ realisation that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had made a “Himalayan blunder” by giving more than 38,000 square kilometre to China.
“I am glad that the Congress has finally realised that PM [Jawaharlal Nehru created a ‘Himalayan Blunder’ by gifting 38,000 sq km land to China,” BJP leader CT Ravi tweeted. “Will it also question its co-owner, the coward Rahul Gandhi for making baseless allegations against PM Modi?”