Chinese troops and tanks disengaging from the banks of Pangong Lake area in eastern Ladakh
Hours after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the government of ceding Indian territory to the Chinese and raised questions over the agreement with China for disengagement of troops in Pangong lake areas in eastern Ladakh, the ministry of defence issued a strongly-worded statement on Friday.
The defence ministry said India has not conceded any territory as a result of the agreement finalised with China and added that the effective safeguarding of country’s national interest and territory in the eastern Ladakh sector has taken place because the government reposed full faith in the capabilities of the armed forces.
“India has not conceded any territory as a result of this agreement. On the contrary, it has enforced observance and respect for LAC (Line of Actual Control) and prevented any unilateral change in the status quo,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also asserted that India has persistently maintained the right to patrol up to Finger 8, including in the current understanding with China.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh had informed Parliament on Thursday that India and China have reached an agreement on disengagement in the north and south bank of Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh that mandates both sides to cease forward deployment of troops in a “phased, coordinated and verifiable” manner.
Singh had said that China will pull back its troops to the east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake and the Indian Army will be based at its permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 in the region.
The ministry said on Friday that Indian territory is at Finger 8 and not Finger 4. “”The territory of India is as depicted by the map of India and includes more than 43,000 sq km currently under illegal occupation of China since 1962,” the defence ministry said.
It added: “Even the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as per the Indian perception, is at Finger 8, not at Finger 4. That is why India has persistently maintained the right to patrol up to Finger 8, including in the current understanding with China.”
Referring to Singh’s statement, the defence ministry stated that there are outstanding problems to be addressed, including at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang.
“”The outstanding issues are to be taken up within 48 hrs of the completion of the Pangong Tso disengagement,” it added.
More than nine months after the clash in Galwan Valley, troops of India and China on Wednesday started pulling back armoured elements – tanks and infantry combat vehicles – from heights on the southern bank of Pangong Tso.
The withdrawal of the armoured elements from one of the multiple friction points in the east Ladakh sector came nearly a fortnight after military commanders of the two armies agreed on January 24 to push for an early disengagement of their frontline troops.
The Chinese defence ministry’s website on Wednesday had issued a statement and said the frontline units of Chinese and Indian armed forces have begun to disengage at Pangong lake on February 10 in line with the consensus reached during the ninth round of military commander-level talks.