The parliamentary standing committee on defence is likely to visit the Galwan Valley and Pangong lake in the eastern Ladakh region, PTI reported on Saturday. A standoff has persisted between Indian and Chinese troops in the area since a violent clash took place in June.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jual Oram, who is the head of the 30-member panel, said that some members of the committee had 10 days ago proposed to visit the eastern Ladakh region after May 15, reported ANI. Oram added that he has forwarded the proposal to the Speaker and the Centre for consideration.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar are members of the panel. Gandhi reportedly did not attend the meeting.
The 30-member committee is likely to visit the region in the last week of May or in June depending upon the approval of the government.
On Friday, Gandhi had 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”.
The Congress leader pointed out a part of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s reply in the Parliament on Thursday where he had said that China will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8 along the Pangong lake, while Indian troops will be based at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3.
“Now we find our troops are going to be stationed at Finger 3...Finger 4 is our territory,” he said. “Now, we have moved from Finger 4 to Finger 3. Why has Mr [Narendra] Modi given up our territory to the Chinese?”
The Congress leader further said that Singh did not say anything on the Depsang Plains area from where, he claimed, the Chinese troops had transgressed into Indian territory.
Later in the day, the defence ministry said that India has not conceded any territory to China and there are differences yet to be resolved.
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 up to 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. Meanwhile, China has dominated up to Finger 4, and has built a road there with additional logistics in place. Last year, the Chinese military had prevented India from reaching Finger 8, leading to the months-long standoff between both sides.
On Thursday, Rajnath Singh had told the Parliament that India and China will remove deployments along the Pangong lake in a phased and coordinated manner. His statement confirmed a breakthrough in talks between the two countries to ease border tensions.
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.