No force on earth can stop Indian soldiers from patrolling along the normal routes, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asserted in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday in response to questions about Chinese troops blocking Indian Army patrols along the disputed boundary in eastern Ladakh.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that at the recent meetings between the Foreign Ministers and the Defence Ministers of the two countries in Moscow, there was consensus that “there should be quick and complete disengagement of troops from all friction areas along the LAC [Line of Actual Control].”
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To a question from former Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Mr. Singh said, “Patrolling patterns are traditional and well-defined. No force on earth can stop our soldiers from patrolling and our soldiers have sacrificed their lives for that. There will be no change in the patrolling pattern.”
Face-offs happened because patrols were interrupted, he said.
“Starting a war is within one’s reach, but its outcome cannot be predicted. India has always sent out a message of peace. However, it was amazed that efforts are being made to disturb that peace,” he said.
At the weekly briefing, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said both sides should focus on easing tensions in the friction areas by refraining from any actions that may lead to an escalation in the situation.
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“This requires strict adherence to the bilateral agreements and protocols and not making unilateral attempts to change the status quo,” he said.
As several political parties expressed support to the government in the ongoing stand-off with China, Mr. Singh stated that the country had fought many wars and “however big the challenge, we stand united.”
He added that he could not say more due to sensitivities around operational requirements. The morale and motivation of the armed forces were very high. “This time also, our soldiers have chosen patience and courage over aggression.”
Since early May, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops have made ingresses into the Indian side of the LAC, undertaken massive build-ups at several locations and blocked Indian Army patrols from going further.
For instance, on the north bank of Pangong Tso (lake), the Indian Army has always held till Finger 4, the mountain spur, while it patrols till Finger 8 up to the Indian claim. Since May, PLA troops have moved in 8 km till Finger 4, blocking India’s movement.
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In Depsang plains
Similarly, there is a heavy Chinese presence in the strategic Depsang plains, at a crucial area called the Bulge, and PLA troops have also been blocking Indian Army patrols from reaching the Patrolling Points (PP) 10 to 13 on the Limit of Patrolling (LOP). The Chinese ingress into this area threatens the Indian positions at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) by bringing Chinese troops closer to the 255-km-long crucial Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road. Depsang is also close to the Karakoram pass overlooking the strategic Saltoro ridge and the Siachen glacier.
Mr. Singh said China had undertaken significant infrastructure construction activity that enhanced their deployment capabilities in the border areas. In response, India too had stepped up the budget for border infrastructure development by doubling the previous levels. As a result, more roads and bridges have been completed in the border areas. “In the coming years too, the government remains committed to this objective. We will not back down from taking any big and tough step in the interest of the country.”
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Since the five-point plan for disengagement agreed between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Moscow on September 10, the situation on the ground has remained calm but tense. The focus now remains on the next round of Corps Commanders talks scheduled to be held soon.