Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said progress has been made in the ongoing talks with China to find a solution to the border standoff in Ladakh but he cannot guarantee to what extent it would be resolved as he sent a strong message to the neighbouring country that no power in the world can touch even an inch of the country’s land.
In an address to a group of Army and ITBP personnel at a high altitude forward post in Lukung in eastern Ladakh, Singh said India is not a weak country and it will give a befitting reply to anyone hurting its national pride.
“Talks are underway to resolve the border issue(with China). Whatever progress has been made, the issue should be resolved. But, I cannot give a guarantee to what extent it will be resolved. I want to assure that no power in the world can touch even one inch of India’s land or can occupy it,” he said from a makeshift stage just a few hundred metres from the Pangong Tso lake.
“There cannot be a better option than finding a solution through talks,” he said in the backdrop of a huge Indian flag fluttering in the wind.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Army Chief Gen MM Naravane, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Yogesh Kumar Joshi, Commander of the 14 Corps Lt Gen Harinder Singh and several other senior Army officials were on the stage when Singh made the remarks.
It was Singh’s first visit to Ladakh after the bitter border face-off between India and China began in multiple locations following a violent clash between the two sides on May 5 in the Pangong lake area. The visit also came a fortnight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unannounced visit to Ladakh during which he signalled India’s firmness in dealing with the border row with the neighbouring country.
Before reaching Lukung, Singh visited a forward post in Stakna where he witnessed a major military drill involving attack helicopters, T-90 tanks, infantry combat vehicles and special forces.
The exercise showcased integrated combat prowess of the Army and the Indian Air Force in dealing with complex security scenarios in the high altitude terrain.
A large number of ground commandos, T-90 tanks, infantry combat vehicles, Apache, Rudra and Mi-17 V5 helicopters featured in the drill.
In his address at Lukung, Singh, referring to the Galwan Valley clashes said the Indian soldiers killed in the incident not only showed exemplary courage in safeguarding the border but also protected the pride of 130 crore Indians. Twenty Indian army personnel were killed during the clashes with Chinese troops on June 15.
“I want to say that the country will never forget them. You inspire the whole nation. We do not want unrest, we want peace. We never hurt the pride of any country. But if any country tries to hurt our self-respect and pride, we will not tolerate it at any cost. We will give a befitting reply.”
“India is the only country in the world that has given a message of peace to the world. We have never attacked a nation and have never staked claim to any country’s land. India considers its bordering countries as its family. We believe in the message – ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (world is one family),” he said addressing the soldiers at the Lukung post located at an altitude of 14,000 feet.
The defence minister also carried out a comprehensive review of the security situation in Ladakh and India’s combat readiness with the top military brass. He also interacted with the troops.
The Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh since May 5. The tension escalated manifold after the violent clashes in Galwan Valley.
Following a series of diplomatic and military talks, the two sides began a mutual disengagement process at most of the friction points from July 6.
The Indian Army on Thursday said both sides are committed to “complete disengagement” of troops, and the process is “intricate” that requires “constant verification”. The comments came following the fourth round of Lt General-level talks which was aimed at finalising modalities for further de-escalation of tension in the region.
Separately, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said there is absolutely no change in India’s position on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and any “unilateral attempts” to change the status quo are not acceptable to it. It also said the disengagement process was complex.
The disengagement process began a day after a nearly two-hour telephonic conversation between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on ways to bring down tension in the area. Doval and Wang are designated special representatives for boundary talks.
From Ladakh, the defence minister travelled to Srinagar where he is carrying out a review of the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan.