Mr. Antony assured the members that the government would continue to strengthen India’s capabilities in border areas "to protect our national interest.’’
Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Friday denied reports in a section of media accusing China of occupying Indian territory in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. There was no question of ceding land to China and New Delhi was negotiating with Beijing to set up a more effective mechanism to settle the border issue.
Mr. Antony categorically denied that Shyam Saran, Chairman of the high-level National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), had stated in a report to the Prime Minister’s Office that China had occupied or had denied access to India to any part of Indian territory. “The government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all measures to safeguard it.”
He, however, admitted to face-offs between the two armies along the border saying the Chinese feared India was strengthening its capabilities to match theirs.
Making suo motu statements in both Houses of Parliament, he assured the members that the government would continue to strengthen India’s capabilities in border areas “to protect our national interest.”
Replying to clarifications in the Rajya Sabha, the Minister said he had raised the issue during his visit to China. The present process of negotiation to iron out differences and find a formula would take some time.
At the same time, he made it clear that there would be no compromise on strengthening capabilities along the border since China had built up its potential. India was catching up despite the delayed start.
While strengthening capabilities along the border and diplomatically engaging China for a negotiated settlement, the objective was to maintain peace and harmony along the borders.
Mr. Antony said Mr. Saran himself had denied media reports about his accepting Chinese incursion in the Ladakh region. The NSAB head visited Ladakh from August 2 to 9 and submitted a report on infrastructure in Ladakh, a copy of which was sent by the PMO to the Defence Ministry on September 2.
“The report is primarily focussed on the border infrastructure, but also deals with several aspects relating to the region covering a broad spectrum of activities and requirements,” Mr. Antony said.
To queries about clippings being telecast by some channels, he said it was an old incident.
In the Lok Sabha, angry members of the BJP and Samajwadi Party referred to the report of the government committee, claiming that China had occupied 640 sq. km. of Indian territory in Ladakh sector.
Chaos erupted after Mr. Antony’s statement. Irate BJP members protested while SP members trooped into the Well, prompting Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the House for an hour.
Mr. Antony said the report of Mr. Saran dealt with requirement of air facilities in the Ladakh region along with matters relating to land acquisition and environmental and wildlife clearances. “Matters such as employment opportunities to local youth, tourism, mobile and Internet connectivity, law and order, better equipment and facilities for the ITBP, certain grievances of local people, among others have been covered in the report,’’ he said.
Earlier, BJP leader and former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, while demanding a statement on the issue, said: “this is a serious matter of national security.’’
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said, “For the last 14 years, I have been saying inside and outside Parliament that China will attack India. It had betrayed Jawaharlal Nehru and this shock led to his death. You discuss the issue of border security and we will be satisfied and will not raise economic and price rise issues. This government has no right to be in power.’’
“I have been defence minister. When the Chinese came one kilometre into our territory, we entered four kilometres into their territory. This government is coward and good for nothing. This government is useless. Are you prepared to tackle China,” he asked.
While agreeing that the issue being raised was a “serious matter,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath rejected the charge that the government was either “weak” or “coward.”
In the Rajya Sabha, Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) said China’s powerful presence in neighbouring countries was a matter of concern to India’s strategic interest.
D. Raja (CPI) expressed concern over incursions along borders with China, Pakistan and Myanmar.
Jaya Bachchan (Samajwadi Party) insisted that the government accept incursions by China rather than deny it.
JD(U) leader K.C .Tyagi regretted India was once the leader in the region but of late it did not even have a friend.
Keywords: A.K. Antony, Defence Ministry, Chinese incursion, Ladakh troop movement, Indian Army, People's Liberation Army, Sino-Indian border, border dispute, BJP, parliamentary proceedings, monsoon session, border security, ndo-Tibetan Border Police, ITBP, Line of Actual Control, LAC