India on Thursday hardened its position in the standoff with China in the western Himalayan region of Ladakh, accusing it of not matching its words with actions, as troops on both sides held their freezing mountain positions. There have, however, been no incidents since a military disengagement agreement made between the rival powers’ foreign ministers in Moscow on September 10.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament that while India is committed to a peaceful resolution to the current border imbroglio, there should be no doubt about its determination to protect its sovereignty and maintain its territorial integrity.
“Our soldiers are committed to overcome any challenge that may come their way,’’ Singh told the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament.
Indian soldiers have fought and held positions over the decades in Siachen Glacier and Kargil, which are at much higher altitudes and have low oxygen levels.
China made its initial attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) when it started amassing troops in April and then made incursions into several parts of Ladakh in May.
During discussions between the two countries, India made it clear that both sides must respect and maintain the Line of Actual Control, neither side should try to alter the status quo unilaterally, and that all agreements and understandings should be abided by, Singh said.
“However, it is apparent from Chinese activities that their words don’t match their actions,’’ Singh said, citing an incident on August 29 when Chinese troops unsuccessfully tried “a provocative military maneuver” around Pangong Lake while talks were underway.
Singh also cited the agreements of 1993 and 1996, which state that the Line of Actual Control is the basis for maintaining peace between the two neighbors and therefore must be respected.
“While our armed forces abide scrupulously by it, this has not been reciprocated by the Chinese side,’’ he said, adding that the agreements outline procedures and norms for defusing border confrontations. In recent months, the violent conduct of Chinese forces has been in complete violation of all mutually agreed norms, said Singh.
Singh revealed that Indian forces are digging in for the long haul, requisitioning more weapons and special warm clothing and tents, as well as establishing a supply line that can function in extreme weather conditions.
The two countries’ military commanders are scheduled to hold meetings in an effort to alleviate the border tension and disengage their troops, in line with the decisions made at the meeting between Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on September 10.
Later on Thursday, India’s Foreign Ministry called for complete disengagement as soon as possible in areas including Pangong Lake, as per the September 10 agreement.