China illegally occupying 38,000 sq km in Ladakh: Rajnath tells Parliament

Till now, there has been no mutually acceptable solution, the defence minister said on the border row

Rajnath
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in the Lok Sabha during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament | Photo: PTI

China continues to be in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq kms in Ladakh, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh while addressing the Parliament on the Sino-Indian border crisis at Ladakh on Tuesday (September 15).

“In addition, under the so-called Sino-Pakistan ‘Boundary Agreement’ of 1963, Pakistan had illegally ceded 5,180 sq. km. of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China,” the defence minister said in his address.

Terming the “violent conduct” of China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as violation of all existing agreements, Singh asserted the border issue between India and China remains unresolved. Till now, there has been no mutually acceptable solution, he said.

China disagrees on the border, the defence minister said. “China doesn’t recognise the traditional and customary alignment of the boundary. We consider that this alignment is based on a well established geographical principle,” Singh said.

However, the defence minister sought to assure the House that the government is “ready to deal with any situation.” He said India has conveyed to China via diplomatic channels the attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo were in violation of the bilateral agreements.

“The violent conduct of Chinese troops is a violation of all past agreements. Our troops have done counter deployments in the area to safeguard our borders,” he said.

Since April, we have seen an increase in troops and weapons deployment along the LAC in Ladakh. In early May, the Chinese had taken action to hinder normal, traditional patrolling pattern of Indian troops in the Galwan Valley area, which resulted in a face-off, he said.

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Singh said even as this situation was being addressed by the ground commanders as per the provisions of the bilateral agreements and protocol, in mid-May the Chinese side made several attempts to transgress the LAC in other parts of the Western Sector.

“This included Kongka La, Gogra and North Bank of Pangong Lake. These attempts were detected early and consequently responded to appropriately by our armed forces,” he said.

“We made it clear to the Chinese side both through the diplomatic and military channels that China was, by such actions, attempting to unilaterally alter the status quo. It was categorically conveyed that this was unacceptable,” he said.

Referring to the hand-to-hand clash during which 20 Indian soldiers were martyred, Singh said, “The Chinese side created a violent face-off on June 15 at Galwan. Our brave soldiers laid down their lives and also inflicted costs including casualties on the Chinese side.”

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Singh said the India-China border areas had seen situations of prolonged stand-off in the past too, which were resolved peacefully. “Even though the situation this year is very different, both in terms of scale of troops involved and number of friction points, we stay committed to peaceful resolution,” he said.

“In a meeting with the Chinese defence minister, I clearly stated that while our troops had always taken a responsible approach towards border management, at the same time there should be no doubt about our determination to protect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he further said.

Singh said that the troops are being provisioned with suitable clothing, habitat and required defence wherewithal. They are capable of serving at forbidding altitudes with scarce oxygen and in extremely cold temperatures, which they’ve done over last many years at Siachen and Kargil, he said.

The defence minister also requested the House to pass a resolution that “we stand shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces who are guarding our borders to safeguard India’s sovereignty and integrity.”

Congress MPs walk out

Congress MPs staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha demanding discussion on the India-China border issue. Speaking to reporters outside, the party’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha, Gaurav Gogoi, said the government feels only they can speak in support of the army.

“Our leader AR Chowdhury wanted to send a message of solidarity with our troops and to send a stern warning to China that they should not test our patience. Unfortunately, the government feels as if only they can speak in support of the army,” he said.

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