Indian Army chief General MM Naravane on Tuesday asserted that the country has not lost “an inch” of its territory during its dispute with China in the eastern Ladakh region, ANI reported.
“We have not lost out on territory, we are where we were before this whole thing started,” Naravane said in an interview to the news agency. “...Not an inch has been lost.”
Naravane’s comment came a month after he announced an agreement for soldiers to disengage on either side of the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh, where the first clashes occurred in May.
Commenting on the process of disengagement along the Line of Actual Control, Naravane gave credit to military commander-level talks between the two sides.
“After ninth round of Corps Commander-level talks, we agreed for phased disengagement from friction areas,” Naravane said, according to ANI. 10th February onwards disengagement started and went as per plan. From north and south bank of Pangong Tso [lake] and Kailash Range, people have gone back to their nearest permanent locations.”
The army chief added that in the absence of “face-to-face deployment”, there was “relative peace and tranquility” at the LAC.
While speaking at an event last week, Naravane had warned that the threat to India from China had only subsided, but had not been entirely resolved. In February too, he had said that while the disengagement process was a “win-win situation” for both sides, there was “still a long way to go” before de-escalation and eventual de-induction of rival soldiers can be achieved through talks.
In what was the last official statement on the matter, the ministry of external affairs earlier this month said that India and China had held “in-depth discussions” on the remaining matters along the LAC in the western sector. The statement also mentioned that the two sides agreed to hold the 11th round of senior commander-level military talks at an “early date”.
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 on February 19 for the first time named four soldiers who died, and another who was injured during the clash. This came eight months after China refused to disclose details of casualties in the deadly brawl with India.
The standoff persisted with both sides bolstering forces along the border. Both India and China accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time there in 45 years.
The talks between Indian and Chinese militaries began in June following the clashes. However, a breakthrough came only in February. Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed Parliament that the two countries will disengage from the Pangong Tso lake in a phased and coordinated manner.
“The Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8. Reciprocally, the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3,” he told the Rajya Sabha on February 11. The disengagement process along the Pangong Tso began on February 10, with tanks and mechanised columns being pulled back from the south bank of the lake.