Briefing the Parliament about the ongoing standoff between the two militaries in Ladakh, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said the Indian Army has repeatedly foiled China’s attempts to change the status quo at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and that the Indian forces are fully geared and “prepared to deal with all contingencies".
Singh said while India is fully determined to defend its borders, it has also through high-level meetings with Chinese counterparts proposed several measures that, if implemented, could de-escalate tensions at the LAC. Talking about the conduct of the Indian troops at the LAC, Singh said, “Our brave soldiers laid down their lives and also inflicted costs including casualties on the Chinese side. Throughout, our soldiers behaved with composure where it was required and with valour where it was needed."
Talking about “in-depth discussion" with his Chinese counterpart on September 4 in Moscow, Singh said that he had “conveyed in clear terms our concerns related to the actions of the Chinese side, including amassing of large number of troops, their aggressive behaviour and attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo that were in violation of the bilateral agreements".
Singh added that at a meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on September 10, “the two reached an agreement that, if implemented sincerely and faithfully by the Chinese side, could lead to complete disengagement and restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas".
Singh said China’s repeated attempts to carry out provocative military actions in Ladakh while commanders of the armies of both countries were engaged in dialogue to resolve the issue reflected “a disregard of our various bilateral agreements".
He informed both the houses of Parliament that “the Chinese side has mobilised a large number of troops and armaments along the LAC as well as in the depth areas". Singh said there were several “friction areas in Eastern Ladakh, including Gogra, Kongka La and North and South Banks of the Pangong Lake. In response to China’s actions, our armed forces have also made appropriate counter deployments in these areas to ensure that India’s security interests are fully protected".
Singh said India has maintained the three key principles that have determined its approach towards resolving the issue in Ladakh: both sides should strictly respect and observe the LAC; neither side should attempt to alter the status quo unilaterally; all agreements and understandings between the two sides must be fully abided by in their entirety.
Sharing a brief timeline about the developments in Ladakh, Singh said the Chinese Army in April pushed in a lot of armaments and troops, which was the first sign of an escalation. The next month, the PLA blocked normal and traditional patrolling of the Indian troops, leading to a face-off. While the ground commanders of both armies were still talking, China in Ladakh’s Western sector made several attempts to transgress into the Indian side in Kongka La, Gogra and Pangong Tso.
“Our forces gave a timely and appropriate response. We told China through diplomatic and military channels that such incidents were attempts to unilaterally change status quo. We made it clear that these attempts were unacceptable," Singh said.
In view of increasing friction, he said that a meeting was held on June 6 between the commanders from both sides and it was agreed that through reciprocal actions disengagement will be attempted. Both countries agreed that the LAC will be respected and no activity will be done to change the status quo. However, in violation of this agreement, China on June 15 got into a violent face-off with the Indian troops in Galwan.
Singh said no one should have any doubts about the determination of the Indian troops to safeguard the country’s borders. “While no one should doubt our determination to safeguard our borders, India believes that mutual respect and mutual sensitivity are the basis for peaceful relations with neighbours," he said.
Even as these discussions were going on, Singh said that “the Chinese side again engaged in provocative military manoeuvers on the night of August 29 and August 30 in an attempt to change the status quo in the South Bank area of Pangong Lake. But yet again, timely and firm actions by our armed forces along the LAC prevented such attempts from succeeding".
Singh said as “this is still an ongoing situation and obviously involves sensitive operational issues. I would, therefore, not be able to give more details in public and I am confident about the understanding of the House in this regard".