By Amit Agnihotri
New Delhi: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi today clarified the nation had lost no territory to China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, amidst a continuing border face-off between the militaries of nuclear-armed Asian neighbors.
“Neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of our post captured. India wants peace and friendship, but upholding sovereignty is foremost,” Modi said, addressing an all-party meeting through video conferencing.
Noting the country was hurt over the death of 20 soldiers, the Prime Minister said the armed forces are leaving no stone un-turned to protect the borders and they have been given a free hand to devise an appropriate response.
The remarks came in the wake of opposition parties’ charge that the government responded late to the intrusion by the PLA in the Galwan valley region in eastern Ladakh and could not gauge the Chinese intentions properly as the Asian dragon pushed its troopers towards the LAC, pitched tents and built defence structures.
The June 15 clashes were the worst between India and China since 1975 and left the nation in shock and anger in a grim reminder of the 1962 border war between the two nations.
“Twenty of our brave soldiers made the supreme sacrifice for the nation in Ladakh but also taught a lesson to those who had dared to look towards our motherland. The nation will forever remember their valour and sacrifice,” Modi said.
India, the prime minister remarked, was more capable today in dealing with any threat. “Be it deployment, action or counter-action through land, sea or air, our forces are taking the necessary steps to protect the country,” he said. “Today, no one can even dare look towards an inch of our land.”
Ramping up border infrastructure
India is improving its border infrastructure at a fast pace, the PM noted, saying that the provision has been made for fighter planes, modern helicopters, missile defence systems and other such needs of the armed forces.
“Today, Indian forces are capable of moving together across sectors. While on the one hand, the army has been given freedom to take necessary steps, India has also conveyed its position clearly to China through diplomatic means,” Modi said.
Noting India is in a better position to track Chinese troop movement along the LAC, he said that earlier such movement used to take place without any disruption, but is now challenged by the Indian soldiers.
The situation had been tense for nearly a month-and-a-half and as India too moved troops on its side of the LAC to match the Chinese aggression, military tension on the India-China border in eastern parts of the Union Territory of Ladakh peaked.
A truce was then worked out to restore status quo ante on June 6, but China reneged on its assurances on de-escalation leading to the bloody clashes on June 15. The death of Indian soldiers has angered the Indian citizens across the country, amidst demands from various sections for an appropriate military and economic responses against China.
After India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr S. Jaishankar warned Chinese Foreign Mnister Wang Yi over the PLA behaviour and urged him to take corrective steps to avoid an adverse impact on the bilateral relations, New Delhi rebuffed Beijing‘s false claims over the Galwan Valley region, saying the Asian dragon should limit its activities to its side of the LAC.
Though diplomatic and military level dialogue are taking place between the two countries to find a peaceful solution, Modi has warned that the country will give a befitting reply if provoked.
On its part, China has blamed India for the situation and noted it does not want any more clashes between the two armies.
Most opposition parties back Modi
India’s opposition parties and the central government appeared to be on the same page on the country’s strong response to China over the death of the Indian soldiers in the June 15 clashes.
The all-party meeting was attended by All India Trinamul Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhara Rao, Shiv Sena chief and Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhhav Thackeray, Janata Dal-United chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, YSR Congress Party leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. K. Stalin, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal among others. Bharatiya Janata Party president Jagat Prakash Nadda was also present.
These leaders backed the government for the steps taken to deescalate the border tension and expressed their full support to the Indian armed forces.
The only sour noise was from the Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who blamed the Modi government for “lack of transparency” over the sensitive issue raging since May 5 when the troops of the two countries clashed near the Pangong Tso lake.
As many as 20 political parties attended the virtual meeting conducted to build political consensus over the deadly clashes which India has alleged took place after China decided to violate the de-escalation steps agreed upon between the two armies in the June 6 meeting between Lieutenant General-ranked officers from either side.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar briefed the leaders on the current situation.
Remarks by opposition leaders
Sonia Gandhi: “This meeting, in my view, should have come sooner and immediately after the government had been reportedly informed about the Chinese intrusion on May 5 into several places in Ladakh and elsewhere. As always, the entire nation would have stood together like a rock and fully supported the government of the day in the steps required to defend the territorial integrity of the country. Alas, that was not to be. In fact, even at this late stage, we are still in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis. The Congress party and the entire opposition unitedly stand by our defence forces. The entire country would like an assurance that China will revert back to the original position on Line of Actual Control.
Mamata Bannerjee: “Our party stands strongly in solidarity with the government.”
Nitish Kumar: “There should be no difference among the leaders and parties should not allow any disunity, which can be exploited by other nations.”
Uddhav Thackeray: “The entire country is one with the prime minister.”
Sharad Pawar: “Whether soldiers carried arms or not are decided by international agreements and the parties need to respect sensitivities involved in such matters.”
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma: “The prime minister has been working on infrastructure in the North-East and that must go on.”
Mayawati: “This is not the time for politics and our party firmly stands with the prime minister on whatever decisions he takes.”
M. K. Stalin: “I welcome the recent statement by the prime minister on the issue.”