India has not conceded any territory to China and there are differences yet to be resolved, the Defence Ministry said on Friday, issuing a nine-point rebuttal to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s questions about the disengagement process in Ladakh.
“India has not conceded any territory as a result of this agreement. On the contrary, it has enforced observance and respect for LAC (Line of Actual Control) and prevented any unilateral change in the status quo,” a statement from the ministry said.
“Raksha Mantri’s (Defence Minister Rajnath Singh) statement also made clear that there are outstanding problems to be addressed, including at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang. The outstanding issues are to be taken up within 48 hrs of the completion of the Pangong Tso disengagement,” it added.
The rejoinder came just hours after Rahul Gandhi held a news conference, asking five questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government about the breakthrough announced on Thursday on the months-long standoff between Indian and Chinese forces in Ladakh.
Alleging that PM Modi has “ceded” Indian territory to the Chinese, Mr Gandhi claimed that Indian forces had been pulled back to the third “finger” or ridge in the Pangong Tso area even though troops were traditionally stationed till Finger 4.
The Defence Ministry firmly denied this charge, saying, “The assertion that Indian territory is up to Finger 4 is categorically false. The territory of India is as depicted by the map of India and includes more than 43,000 sq km currently under illegal occupation of China since 1962.”
“Even the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as per the Indian perception, is at Finger 8, not at Finger 4. That is why India has persistently maintained the right to patrol up to Finger 8, including in the current understanding with China,” it said.
“Permanent posts of both sides at the north bank of Pangong Tso are longstanding and well-established. On the Indian side, it is Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 and on the Chinese side, east of Finger 8. The current agreement provides for cessation of forward deployment by both sides and continued deployment at these permanent posts,” it added.
The government also said those who were casting doubt on the “achievements” in Ladakh were disrespecting the armed forces.
India and China on Thursday began to pull back troops and battle tanks from the bitterly contested Pangong Tso lake area high in the western Himalayas on Thursday as Rajnath Singh told parliament the two sides had reached an agreement after several rounds of talks.
The standoff began in April last year when India said Chinese troops had intruded deep into its side of the Line of Actual Control or the de facto border in the Ladakh area in the western Himalayas and peaked in June when the two sides clashed leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead and an unspecified number of Chinese casualties.