Conceded no territory as result of agreement with China: MoD
New Delhi: India has not “conceded” any territory to China by firming up an agreement on the disengagement process in Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh, and other outstanding “problems” including in Depsang, Hot Springs ad Gogra will be taken up at the upcoming talks between military commanders of the two countries, the defence ministry said on Friday.
The statement by the ministry came hours after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that the government has “ceded” Indian territory to China and raised questions over the agreement on the disengagement process.
The ministry also dubbed as “categorically false” the assertion that Indian territory is up to Finger 4 in the Pangong Tso area, adding the permanent posts of both sides in the area are “longstanding and well-established”.
“India has not conceded any territory as a result of this agreement. On the contrary, it has enforced observance and respect for LAC and prevented any unilateral change in the status quo,” the ministry said in the strongly-worded statement.
In a statement in Parliament on Thursday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said China will pull back its troops to east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake while the Indian personnel will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 in the region.
“The defence minister’s statement also made clear 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 said.
At a press conference, Gandhi 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.
“The assertion that Indian territory is up to Finger 4 is categorically false. 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.
“Even the Line of Actual Control, 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.
The ministry said the current agreement provides for cessation of forward deployment by both sides and continued deployment at the permanent posts.
Noting that permanent posts of both sides at the north bank of Pangong Tso are longstanding and well-established, the ministry said,”on the Indian side, it is Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 and on the Chinese side, east of Finger 8.”
The ministry said effective safeguarding of the country’s national interest and territory in the Eastern Ladakh sector has taken place as 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 said.
Besides Gandhi, people on social media had also raised questions over India deciding to keep its troops in Finger 3.
In the statement, the ministry said it has taken note of some “misinformed and misleading” comments being “amplified” in the media and on social media regarding the disengagement currently underway at Pangong Tso.
It reiterated that the factual position has already been clearly communicated by the defence minister in his statements in both Houses of Parliament.
“However, it is necessary to set the record straight and counter certain instances of wrongly understood information being amplified in media and social media,” it said.
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 was specifically insisted on withdrawal of Chinese troops from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the North bank of Pangong Lake.
Meanwhile, when asked about India’s decision to keep its troops at Finger 3 and other related issues, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava referred to Singh’s statement in Parliament as well as that of the defence ministry.
“This agreement was reached after several rounds of sustained negotiations at the military and diplomatic level,” Srivastava said.
The MEA also said the two countries have agreed to convene the 10th round of senior commanders meeting within 48 hours after complete disengagement in the Pangong Lake area to address the remaining issues, and added that no date has been set for Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs.
The agreement on disengagement in the north and south banks of Pangong lake mandates both Chinese and Indian sides to “cease” forward deployment of troops in a “phased, coordinated and verifiable” manner.