Reacting sharply to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s claim that India has surrendered its land to China in eastern Ladakh, the government today asserted that the country has not conceded any territory to the neighbouring country as a result of the agreement on disengagement at the North and South Banks of the Pangong Tso Lake.
In a statement, the Defence Ministry refuted as ”categorically false” Gandhi’s claim that Indian territory was up to 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. 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,” it added.
At a press conference earlier, Mr Gandhi had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “ceding” Indian territory to China, saying why Indian troops are moving back from Indian territory of Finger 4 to Finger 3. The mountain spurs in the region are referred to as Fingers. Gandhi questioned why the prime minister did not make a statement on the LAC situation, and said Singh “sheepishly” made a statement on the issue in both Houses of Parliament.
“Why has he asked the Defence Minister to make the statement, the Prime Minister should say~ I have given Indian land to China, this is the truth,” he alleged.
He said it has emerged that Indian troops are now going to be stationed at Finger 3 at Pangong Tso lake. “Finger-4 is our territory, that is where our post used to be. So, now we have moved from finger-4 to finger-3.
Why has the Prime Minister Modi given up Indian Territory to the Chinese? This is the question that needs to be answered by him and by the Defence Minister,” Gandhi said. The ministry said permanent posts of both sides at the north bank of Pangong Tso were long-standing and well-established. On the Indian side, it was Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 and on the Chinese side, east of Finger 8.
The current agreement provided for cessation of forward deployment by both sides and continued deployment at these permanent posts.
The statement said rather than conceding any land, India has enforced observance and respect for LAC and prevented any unilateral change in the status quo.
The ministry said the factual position on the agreement has already been clearly communicated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in his statements in both Houses of Parliament yesterday.
However, there were still some misinformed and misleading comments being amplified in the media and on social media regarding the disengagement under way at Pangong Tso.
The statement said the effective safeguarding of India’s national interest and territory in the Eastern Ladakh sector has taken place because the government has reposed full faith in the capabilities of the armed forces.
“Those who doubt the achievements made possible by the sacrifices of our military personnel are actually disrespecting them,” it added.
Last year, the Chinese military built several bunkers and other structures in the areas between Finger 4 and 8 and had blocked all Indian patrols beyond Finger 4, triggering strong reaction from the Indian Army. In the nine rounds of military talks, India specifically insisted on withdrawal of Chinese troops from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the North bank of Pangong Lake.