On the day he was briefed about the June 6 talks between Indian and Chinese army commanders on the faceoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said India not only wants to resolve the “ongoing tussle” but also the boundary dispute between the two countries “as soon as possible”.
Addressing a Maharashtra Jan Samvad virtual rally on Monday, Singh also slammed the Congress for targeting the government on the border issue and said he would make a statement in Parliament and “not mislead the people”.
“Bharat-Cheen ki seema ko lekar ek vivaad ka silsila lambe arsay se chala aa raha hai. Hum chahte hain ki seema ka vivaad jaldi se jaldi sulajhna chahiye (The dispute over the India-China border has been on for a long time. We want this border dispute resolved as soon as possible),” he said.
Talks between India and China, he said, are continuing at the military and diplomatic levels. Describing the June 6 talks between the army commanders as “kaafi (very) positive”, he said both countries agree that talks must continue to resolve the border dispute and the ongoing tussle (is samay ka jo tussle).
The Defence Minister’s remarks are significant given that the talks so far had focussed on clarifying the LAC. Singh has underlined the need to settle the age-old boundary dispute.
Last December, after a meeting of the two Special Representatives, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement that the two sides “exchanged views on the early harvest of the boundary negotiations”. Early harvest is a Chinese proposal for a piecemeal approach to settle the border dispute, starting with an “early harvest” deal on the relatively less disputed boundary in the middle sector or in Sikkim, before discussing the more contentious eastern and western sectors of the 3488-km long boundary.
India has not been receptive to the Chinese proposal for such a piecemeal approach because it prefers negotiations covering the entire length of the boundary between the two countries.
On Monday, Singh held a meeting with Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Army chief General MM Naravane, Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on the situation along the LAC.
It is learnt that they discussed the border meeting between XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District commander Major General Liu Lin, and a roadmap for the future.
Sources said talks with China will continue at the military and diplomatic levels. Brigade commanders, and division commanders “if needed”, will continue to hold discussions on the ground, sources said.
Addressing the virtual rally, Singh said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and “another senior Parliamentarian from the Opposition” have questioned the government on the developments on the India-China border. “As Defence Minister of the country, I want to make it clear that whatever I have to say, I will say clearly in Parliament, and I will not mislead the people”.
He said the country has an “able” and “strong leadership” in Narendra Modi, and will not allow India’s “self-respect” to be hurt.
“Don’t try to tell us,” he told the Opposition, adding that in a dispute between two countries and matters of national security, people must rise above differences and stand together.
Targeting Rahul Gandhi, he said, “You are seeking answers, look at the condition of your own party… You should have faith in the valour and courage of our nation’s forces.”
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