Defence minister Rajnath Singh (PTI)
NEW DELHI: India and China are talking through diplomatic and military channels to resolve the ongoing troop confrontation in eastern Ladakh, said defence minister Rajnath Singh, adding even the major 73-day Doklam face-off in 2017 had also been defused through bilateral dialogue.
But the minister, in an interview to a television channel, deflected a question on whether Chinese troops had intruded deep into Indian territory across the line of actual control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. “There are perceptional differences with China over the LAC,” he said.
Singh’s remarks are the first by a senior minister since violent clashes between rival troops on May 5-6 after People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers intruded around 1-3 km into what India considers to be its territory on the northern bank of Pangong Tso (Tso means lake), Galwan Valley region and Demchok in eastern Ladakh.
Since then, the PLA troops have further consolidated their positions at the four to five face-off sites by digging trenches, building bunkers and extending roads in the high-altitude region, while being backed by over 5,000 soldiers amassed within Chinese territory across the LAC. The PLA, for instance, is “blacktopping” an earlier make-shift track in the disputed “Fingers 4 and 5 (mountainous spurs)” on the northern bank of Pangong Tso.
India has evenly matched the PLA build-up by moving forward troops of the Leh-based 3 Infantry Division into their “operational alert areas”, while several rounds of talks between the local military commanders have failed to break the deadlock till now, as earlier reported by TOI.
“India’s policy has been very clear that we want good relations with all our neighbours. But sometimes, circumstances arise with China that things like this happen. They have happened in the past also,” said Singh.
Both countries have made it clear that they want to resolve the present troop confrontation peacefully. “India’s effort is to ensure that border tensions do not increase…China also agrees,” said Singh.
To a question on whether Beijing was arm-twisting New Delhi, the minister said India had a strong and committed leadership that will not allow the country’s self-respect and dignity to be hurt under any circumstances.
Referring to the Doklam face-off near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction in 2017, he said: “It appeared at that time that the situation was very tense. But we did not step back… Ultimately, we were able to resolve the situation.”
Singh said he had told his US counterpart Mark Esper on Friday that India and China already have existing bilateral mechanisms to resolve problems and that they had already been set into motion.