Prime Minister Modi's famous disclaimer – denying any intrusion in Ladakh and abject refusal to even name China -- were put in sharp relief with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh stating in the Lok Sabha that "China has illegally occupied over 38,000 square km of land in Ladakh."
Rajnath’s statement is consistent with the admissions by the government in the past on the issue and this is not the first time the figure of 38,000 sq. km has been put on record.
The defence minister further said that China has not only usurped land in Ladakh but it also occupies 5180 sq. km of Indian territory in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir that was ceded to it by Pakistan under the so-called Sino-Pakistan 'Boundary Agreement' of 1963.
In a suo motu statement on the second day of the monsoon session of Parliament, which witnessed a Congress walkout over its demand for a discussion, Singh explained that India and China have different perceptions about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and that the border issue remains unresolved.
He further accused China of not recognising the traditional and customary alignment of the boundary.
Rajnath Singh did not mince words when he warned China that "we are prepared for all outcomes to ensure that India's sovereignty is maintained." Giving details of a key meeting in Moscow he had with his Chinese counterpart, Singh said he made it clear that India wants to resolve this issue in a peaceful manner and "wants the Chinese side to work in tandem, but there should also be no doubt about our determination to protect India's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
He said a similar stance was taken by foreign minister S Jaishakar when he met his counterpart in Moscow. "We do remain committed to the peaceful resolution of the current situation. At the same time, the House can be assured that we remain prepared to deal with all contingencies," he said.
Singh said the border issue remains unresolved since China historically "does not recognise the current boundary." There is no commonly delineated Line of Actual Control in the border areas and no common perception of the entire LAC. The difference in perception led to the face-off at the Line of Actual Control, he said.
He also revealed that when the situation was being addressed by the ground commanders, the Chinese side made several attempts to transgress the LAC in other parts of the Western Sector in mid-May.
Informing Parliament about the current situation, Rajnath Singh said, "As of now, the Chinese side has mobilised a large number of troops and armaments along the LAC as well as in the depth areas. 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."
Not taking refuge in semantics, Rajnath Singh blamed China for the standoff and its disregard of various bilateral agreements especially those signed in 1993 and 1996. (The 1993 agreement is first pact that formalised the LAC between India and China. This agreement is crucial for keeping the LAC a friction-free zone.).
The 1996 agreement is more specific in keeping the LAC a shelling-free zone. It says neither side shall open fire within two kilometres of the LAC. It further calls for minimum military presence, including keeping deployment of tanks, artillery guns, and missiles to mutually agreed levels. (Input India Today)