Rajnath talks tough, says no one can stop Army from patrolling

The Defence Minister assures Opposition members that there would be no change in patrolling patterns in eastern Ladakh, the site of the ongoing standoff between India and China.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday asserted that no force in the world can stop Indian troops from patrolling the country’s border in the Ladakh region. The Union Minister was replying to clarifications sought by MPs in the Rajya Sabha on his earlier statement.

During the monsoon session of Parliament, Rajnath Singh assured the country that India will not bow down or even wish to make some- one else bow down before them. He said that questions with China over the border issue remain unresolved and if tensions on the LAC remain, an amicable relationship would not be possible. The Defence Minister had earlier talked about the same issue in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

Rajnath Singh revealed that on 15 June, Colonel Santosh Babu and 19 brave soldiers made the supreme sacrifice for the country in the Galwan Valley to safeguard the integrity of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself travelled to Ladakh to boost the morale of the Army. Singh further revealed that there were many agreements between India and China over border issues to ensure peace, but China does not accept formal boundaries. It does not accept the customs and traditional alignments of the border which was based on well-established geographical principles.

The minister also said that China has unauthorised occupation of approximately in 38,000 square km of land in Ladakh. In addition, under a so-called Boundary Agreement in 1963, Pakistan illegally handed over POK’s 5,180 square km of Indian land to China. He further said that there is no commonly delineated Line of Control (LAC) in the India-China border area and both have different perceptions regarding borders. Therefore, there are many agreements and protocols between the two countries to maintain peace and restore.

He said the 1993 and 1996 agreements mention that both countries will keep minimal forces at the LAC. The agreement also states that until the boundary issue is fully resolved, the LAC will be strictly respected. He further said that the In- dian government has made China aware by diplomatic and military means that such activities are an attempt to change the status quo one way. It has also been made clear that this effort is not acceptable to India under any circumstances.

Singh requested the House to praise India’s soldiers for their bravery. “Our brave soldiers are keeping all the countrymen safe by their untiring efforts in extremely difficult circumstances,” he said.

He said that in the last several decades China has introduced large-scale infra- structure activity, which has increased their deployment capacity in the border area. In response, the Indian government has also increased the budget for border infrastructure development, which has almost doubled already. The Defence Minister assured countrymen that all Indian Armed Forces soldiers have great enthusiasm and courage, and the soldiers are determined to face any crisis. “The message of unity and complete trust, given from the House, will reverberate throughout the country and all over the world, and our youth, who stand steadfast with eye to eye with Chinese forces, will have a new morale, energy and enthusiasm,” said Rajnath Singh.

At the same time, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said, “On behalf of my party, I will say that we are standing with the government equally on the issue of China. Where they were till this April, they should go back. That is where our efforts should lie.”

Earlier, several members, including former Defence Minister A.K. Antony, had expressed concerns about Indian patrol not being allowed up to traditional points in Ladakh.