New Delhi (NVI): In a strong message to China, which is reluctant to disengage with India at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today told the Parliament that India is prepared to deal with all contingencies as the border issue remains unresolved due to irresponsible and aggressive actions by Beijing at LAC.
While delivering his statement on the Ladakh standoff in Lok Sabha, the Defence Minister said that India and China are yet to resolve their boundary question as Beijing “does not accept the customary and traditional alignment of the boundary” between the two countries.
“We believe that this alignment is based on well-established geographical principles confirmed by treaties and agreements, as well as historical usage and practice, well-known for centuries to both sides,” Rajnath said.
“The Chinese position, however, is that the boundary between the two countries has not been formally delimited, that there exists a traditional customary line formed by the extent of jurisdiction that they claim was exercised historically by each side, and that the two sides have different interpretations of the position of the traditional customary line,” Singh, who also met his counterpart on the sideline of SCO meet in Moscow earlier this month, told the Lok Sabha.
He said the two countries had engaged in discussions during 1950s-60s but these efforts could not yield a mutually acceptable solution.
The Defence Minister further said that as yet, there is no commonly delineated Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the border areas between India and China and there is no common perception of the entire LAC.
“Therefore, in order to ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas, especially along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the two countries have concluded a number of agreements and protocols,” he said.
He said that in the wake of mutual agreemets between India and China to maintain tranquility at LAC, the two sides also saw considerable progress since 1988.
“India’s position is that while bilateral relations can continue to develop in parallel with discussions on resolving the boundary question, any serious disturbance in peace and tranquility along the LAC in the border areas is bound to have implications for the positive direction of our ties,” he said.
Singh said that a key element of both the 1993 and the 1996 Agreements is that the two sides will keep their military forces in the areas along the LAC to a minimum level.
“These agreements also mandate that pending an ultimate solution to the boundary question, the two sides shall strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control,” he said.
While highlighting China’s hypocrisy to reach a common understanding of the alignment, Rajnath said that in late 1990s and upto 2003, the two sides engaged in an exercise to clarify and confirm the LAC. “But, thereafter the Chinese side did not show a willingness to pursue the LAC clarification exercise,” he said.
“As a result, there are some areas where the Chinese and Indian perceptions of LAC overlap. In these areas, as also with other sections of the border areas, the various agreements govern the manner in which troops of both sides should operate and deal with situations of face-offs to maintain peace and tranquility,” he told the lower house.
Rajnath also apprised the parliament this year’s developments at LAC that led to an ugly border row. He said that the India side noticed a buildup of troops and armaments by the Chinese side in the border areas adjacent to Eastern Ladakh.
“In early May, the Chinese side had taken action to hinder the normal, traditional patrolling pattern of our troops in the Galwan Valley area, which resulted in a face-off,” he said.
“Even as this situation was being addressed by the Ground Commanders as per the provisions of our bilateral agreements and protocol, in mid-May the Chinese side made several attempts to transgress the LAC in other parts of the Western Sector,” the Defence Minister said, adding that this included Kongka La, Gogra and North Bank of Pangong Lake.
However, these attempts were detected early and consequently responded to appropriately by our armed forces, he said.
He said that India has maintained through diplomatic and military channels, since the skirmishes began this year, that any attempts by China to change status quo at LAC unilaterally will not be acceptable.
The Defence Minister also mentioned the violent Galwan Valley face-off in Eastern Ladakh on June 15 which led to the loss of lives of 20 Indian soldiers. “Our brave soldiers laid down their lives and also inflicted costs including casualties on the Chinese side,” he said.
“The conduct of our armed forces throughout these incidents shows that while they maintained “Sayyam” (patience) in the face of provocative actions, they also equally displayed “Shaurya” (valor) when required to protect the territorial integrity of India,” he said while mentioning Colonel Santosh Babu and his 19 brave companions that made the supreme sacrifice while protecting their motherland.
Rajnath also highlighted China’s illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq. kms in the Union Territory of Ladakh. “In addition, under the so-called Sino-Pakistan ‘Boundary Agreement’ of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq. km. of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China,” he said, adding that China also claims approximately 90,000 sq. kms. of Indian territory in the Eastern Sector of the India-China boundary in Arunachal Pradesh.