SOURCE: INDIA TODAY
Defence minister Rajnath Singh today made the strongest statement by any Indian leader since the tense military standoff with China began in May. Rajnath called Beijing out for being a serial violator of bilateral agreements to maintain peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and, more importantly, did not fight shy of naming China in his speech on the second day of the monsoon session of Parliament on September 15. The defence minister’s strong line on China seems to be in keeping with the assertive position of the Indian army post-August 29.
On the night of August 29 and 30, the Indian Army pre-empted the PLA by moving in and occupying heights along the LAC south of the Pangong lake. China has termed the Indian move a violation of its territorial sovereignty.
Singh squarely blamed China for the violent face-off on June 15 at Galwan in which 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of PLA men were killed. “Our brave soldiers laid down their lives and also inflicted costs including casualties on the Chinese side,” he said.
The defence minister praised the Indian armed forces for their restraint and mentioned how, even as discussions were going on between the two sides, “the Chinese side engaged in provocative military manoeuvres” on the night of August 29 and 30 in an attempt to change the status quo in the south bank area of the Pangong lake.
He reiterated the official government line that China “continues to be in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq. km in the Union territory of Ladakh” but, interestingly, did not name the territory—Aksai Chin–as Union home minister Amit Shah did last August.
Singh also defended the government from charges of an intelligence failure in reading the Chinese military deployment along the LAC. The government had an elaborate mechanism for intelligence sharing among central police forces and the armed forces, he said. “Technical and human intelligence is continuously gathered in a well-coordinated manner and shared with the armed forces which help them in taking decisions,” he added.
Singh also struck a conciliatory note and reiterated India’s commitment to resolving the current issues in our border areas through peaceful dialogue and consultations. The defence minister had earlier met his Chinese counterpart General Wei Feng He in Moscow on September 4 where he conveyed his concerns on the actions of the Chinese side, including their “amassing troops, aggressive behaviour and attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo that were in violation of the bilateral agreements”.