India on Tuesday rejected China's claims on the position of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, stating it has never accepted the location of the LAC in border areas that was unilaterally defined by China in 1959.
The stand by China spelt out by its foreign ministry insisting that it takes the 1959 line on perception of the LAC amid a nearly five-month-long border standoff in eastern Ladakh triggered a strong reaction from India.
In a statement, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said China's insistence on the location of the LAC is contrary to the commitments made by the country in several bilateral agreements in 1993, 1996 and 2005.The spokesperson's comments came after a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson told Hindustan Times that China abides by the LAC as proposed by then Premier Zhou Enlai to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter dated November 7, 1959.
Under these bilateral agreements, including the 1993 Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the LAC, the 1996 Agreement on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in the military field, the 2005 Protocol on Implementation of CBMs, the 2005 Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question, both India and China have committed to clarification and confirmation of the LAC to reach a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC.
The two sides had engaged in an exercise to clarify and confirm the LAC up to 2003, but this process could not proceed further as the Chinese side did not show a willingness to pursue it, the statement read.
India has always respected and abided by the LAC, Srivastava said, adding that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had stated in Parliament recently, "It is the Chinese side, which by its attempts to transgress the LAC in various parts of the Western Sector, has tried to unilaterally alter the status quo."
In the last few months, the Chinese side has repeatedly affirmed that the current situation in the border areas should be resolved in accordance with the agreements signed between the two countries, said Srivastava.
In the agreement reached between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart on September 10, the Chinese side has reiterated its commitment to abide by all the existing agreements, the statement noted.
"We therefore expect that the Chinese side will sincerely and faithfully abide by all agreements and understandings in their entirety and refrain from advancing an untenable unilateral interpretation of the LAC," Srivastava said.
India is hurriedly building a strategic highway near the hamlet of Chilling in Ladakh, around 250 km (150 miles) west of the area where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in the most serious confrontation in decades. When ready, the road will provide the only year-round access to large parts of Ladakh, including the border zone. That will go some way to bringing India on par with China, which has a network of roads and helipads on its side of the border.