Senior Congress leader and former Defence Minister AK Antony on Sunday said that India’s disengagement from the Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake in Ladakh amounted to a “surrender” to China.
Antony said during a press briefing that Galwan Valley, where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops last year, was not a disputed land even in 1962. “We are surrendering our rights,” Antony said. “Reducing tension is good but not at the cost of national security.”
The former defence minister added that the government wasn’t realising the dangers of the precedent set by disengagement and buffer zones.
Antony accused the government of not giving priority to national security at a critical time. He said that India was facing “a two front war-like situation” with Pakistan continuing to promote terrorism and China becoming more aggressive. “The Chinese are building up infrastructure and military mobilisation across the India-China border, from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, to Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh,” he added.
The Congress leader said that the “meagre” increase in defence budget in 2021 was “a betrayal” of the country. The defence allocation for 2021-’22 is Rs 3.62 lakh crore – an increase of about 7.34% from last financial year. Antony said that the armed forces needed adequate resources to counter China. “The government has let down our armed forces,” he added.
The Opposition has repeatedly criticised the Centre for not adopting a firm stance against China. The Centre, on the other hand, maintains that India has not surrendered even an inch of its territory to the Chinese.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had on Thursday made a statement in the Parliament about India-China tensions, and detailed the disengagement plan that the two countries would follow.
However, Singh added that India and China were yet to resolve some concerns related to deployment and patrolling at some other points along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. “These will be the focus of further discussions with the Chinese side,” he had said. “We have agreed that both sides should achieve complete disengagement at the earliest and abide fully by the bilateral agreements and protocols.”
The Chinese defence ministry had also announced that Beijing and New Delhi had started “synchronised and organised disengagement” from Wednesday “at the southern and northern bank of the Pangong Tso”.
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. Singh’s statement in the Parliament confirmed a breakthrough in talks between the two countries to ease border tensions.