Sending a strong message to Beijing by visiting a forward post not very far from the standoff point at Pangong Tso, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Friday said the “progress made in talks” between the two countries “should resolve the matter” but “I cannot guarantee” the extent to which it will be resolved.
Addressing troops in Lukung, around 40 km from Finger 4 where Chinese troops continue to occupy a ridgeline, Singh said: “Talks are currently underway to resolve the border dispute. The progress made in talks so far should resolve the matter. To what extent it will be resolved, I cannot guarantee that. But I want to assure you that no power in the world can touch an inch of Indian territory or capture it.”
His remarks came a day after the Indian Army, in a statement on the fourth round of talks between the Corps Commanders, said while the two sides remain “committed to the objective of complete disengagement”, this “process is intricate and requires constant verification”.
Pangong Tso remains an area of concern for India since the Chinese have come up to Finger 4, 8 km west of Finger 8 which India says marks the LAC.
PLA troops have vacated the Finger 4 base but not the ridgeline there. In the talks, India has been seeking a status quo ante – of troops on both sides returning to locations before the start of the standoff in May.
Singh told troops that India wants peace, but is capable of a befitting reply if anyone tries to hurt its self-respect. “If a resolution can be found through talks, nothing will be better than that. That process is on, talks are going on at military and diplomatic levels.”
“We do not want disturbance (ashanti), we want peace. It is our character that we have never tried to hurt any country’s self-respect. But I want to make it clear that if any power in the world tries to hurt India’s self-respect, we will not tolerate that. We are ready to give a befitting reply,” he said.
Expressing grief over the death of 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley clash with Chinese troops on June 15, Singh said, “India will never forget their sacrifice” and “whatever has happened between Indian and Chinese troops, I can say, you have not only defended India’s boundaries, you have defended the honour of 130 crore Indians”.
Recalling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks about the soldiers during his visit to Ladakh on July 3, he said “their martyrdom, their sacrifice will not be wasted in any way”, and that under Modi, India’s leadership is “strong” and “decisive”.
In a Twitter post, Singh said: “Witnessed the Fire and Fury of the Indian Army during the Para Dropping and other military demonstrations at Stakna near Leh today. Also, I got the opportunity to interact with them. I am proud of these brave and courageous soldiers.”
Accompanied by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army chief General MM Naravane, Singh reached Leh Friday morning. XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh briefed them on the situation along the Line of Actual Control including real-time positions of troops on both sides.
The Minister witnessed assault drills by troops of the Ladakh Scouts and exercises which, sources said, “involved application of integrated combined force in high-altitude terrain, involving newer generation Indian Air Force helicopters and special forces in vertical envelopment along with mechanised columns of ground forces effecting speedy link-up”.
He later flew to Srinagar where he was briefed on the situation in Kashmir by Chinar Corps Commander Lt General BS Raju.
In the evening, he chaired a security review meeting attended by Lt Governor GC Murmu, General Rawat, General Naravane, the Northern Army Commander and J&K Chief Secretary, DGP and officers of security forces, intelligence agencies and the civil administration.
Sources said Singh may visit Amarnath on Saturday if weather permits. He is scheduled to visit some forward areas before returning to Delhi.
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