Wednesday 28 October 2020

Rajnath to China: Do not try to unilaterally change status quo at LoAC

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today told his Chinese counterpart Gen Wei Fenghe that China must strictly respect the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) and not make attempts to unilaterally change its status quo. The Indian minister asserted his country was determined to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, officials said on Saturday.

In the first highest-level direct interaction between the two sides after border tension erupted in eastern Ladakh in early May, Singh and Wei met for 2 h 20 min in Moscow last evening on the sidelines of a meeting of the defence ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Officials said Singh had conveyed to his Chinese counterpart that the current situation should be handled responsibly. He said neither side should take any further action that could either complicate the situation or escalate matters in the border areas.

Rajnath Singh told Wei that China’s actions, including that of amassing a large number of troops, their aggressive behaviour and attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo violated the bilateral agreements, the officials said.

The defence minister underscored the importance of continuous dialogue between the two sides, including through diplomatic and military channels, to ensure “complete disengagement and de-escalation” along the LoAC at the earliest.

Rajnath Singh conveyed to his Chinese counterpart that both sides should take guidance from the consensus of the leaders of the two countries that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas was essential to the development of ties. He said that the two sides should not allow differences to become disputes.

At the talks, the defence minister categorically conveyed India’s position on the developments along the LoAC, including at the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, in the last few months, the officials said.

They said the minister made it clear that while the Indian troops had always taken a very responsible approach towards border management, there should also be no doubt about India’s determination to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Tensions flared up again in eastern Ladakh after China unsuccessfully attempted to occupy Indian territory in the southern bank of Pangong lake five days ago when the two sides were engaged in diplomatic and military talks to resolve the prolonged border row.

India occupied a number of strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong lake and strengthened its presence in Finger 2 and Finger 3 areas in the region to thwart any forward movement by the Chinese. China has strongly objected to India’s move. However, India has maintained that the strategic heights are on its side of the LoAC.

India has rushed in additional troops and weapons to the sensitive region following China’s transgression attempts.

Following China’s fresh attempts to change the status quo in the southern bank of Pangong lake, India has further bolstered its military presence in the region.

The tension between the two sides escalated manifold after the violent clashes in Galwan Valley on 15 June in which 20 Indian Army personnel were confirmed dead and 50 Chinese counterparts were estimated to have been killed. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35 whereas many more soldiers of the PLA suffered grievous injuries.

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