India asks China to confine its activities to its side of LAC; Debunks as 'untenable' Chinese claim of sovereignty over Galwan Valley

New Delhi, Jun 18 (PTI) India on Thursday asked China to confine its activities to its side of the LAC, and trashed as 'exaggerated' and 'untenable' the Chinese Army claim of sovereignty over eastern Ladakh's Galwan Valley, the site of a violent hand-to-hand combat that left 20 Indian soldiers dead three days back.

India is strongly committed to ensuring the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity though it is committed to find resolution of the differences through dialogue, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing.

The Galwan Valley violent face-off significantly escalated tension between India and China with Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserting on Wednesday that India wants peace but is capable of giving a befitting reply if instigated.

     'Given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). We expect the Chinese side to also confine it’s activities to it’s side of the LAC,' Srivastava said.

Earlier, in a separate statement he rejected Chinese army's claim of sovereignty over the Galwan Valley saying such 'exaggerated' and 'untenable' claims are contrary to the understanding reached during a high-level military dialogue on June 6.

The Chinese military on Thursday said the Galwan Valley has always been part of China.

Meanwhile, Indian and Chinese militaries held Major General-level dialogue on Thursday for the third consecutive day on disengagement of troops as well as to restore normalcy in Galwan Valley after the deadly Monday night clashes.

In the dialogue at Patrol Point 14, both sides discussed ways to implement the disengagement of troops from the region as agreed to during a high-level military dialogue on June 6, sources said, adding there was not much progress in the talks.

The Indian Army trashed media reports claiming that a number of its soldiers went missing after the violent clashes at Galwan Valley. 'It is clarified that there are no Indian troops missing in action,' the Army said in a statement.

When asked about reports that China was trying to block the flow of the Galwan river near the site of the dispute, sources said the neighbouring country is carrying out activities on their side of the de-facto border.

They said there was no evidence to suggest that the activities will disturb the flow of the river.

In his media briefing, Srivastava said the two sides are in regular touch through their respective embassies and foreign offices.   'At the ground level the two sides have maintained communication at the commanders' level. Meetings of other established diplomatic mechanisms such as Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on Border Affairs (WMCC) are under discussion,' he said.

'While we remain firmly convinced of the need for maintenance of peace and tranquility in the borders areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue, at the same time, as the prime minister stated yesterday, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,' he said.

The MEA spokesperson also referred to the telephonic conversation between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Wednesday.

Delivering a strong message to Wang, Jaishankar said the 'unprecedented' development will have a 'serious impact' on the bilateral ties and held the 'pre-meditated' action by Chinese army responsible for the violence.

'During his telephone conversation with the Chinese Foreign Minister, the external affairs minister conveyed that the need of the hour was for the Chinese side to reassess its actions and take corrective steps. They should strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control and not take any unilateral action to alter it,' he said.

The clash in Galwan Valley was the biggest confrontation along the Line of Actual Control between the two forces after their 1967 clashes in Nathu La in 1967 when India lost around 80 soldiers while the death toll on the Chinese side was over 300.

The clash took place after Indian troops objected to a surveillance post erected by the Chinese military on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control.

Srivastava also said that no Indian soldiers were missing since the Galwan Valley clash.

Separately, Jaishankar said all Indian troops guarding the border with China carry arms. He was replying to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's poser that why Army personnel killed in Galwan Valley were sent 'unarmed to martyrdom'.

The external affairs ministers said armies of the two sides do not use firearms as per provisions of two bilateral agreements sealed in 1996 and 2005.

'Let us get the facts straight. All troops on border duty always carry arms, especially when leaving post. Those at Galwan on 15 June did so. Long-standing practice (as per 1996 & 2005 agreements) not to use firearms during face-offs,' Jaishankar tweeted.

Gandhi questioned why Indian soldiers were sent 'unarmed to martyrdom' in Ladakh and who is responsible for sending them towards danger.

Multiple military sources said all the Indian troops engaged in the clash with the Chinese Army personnel carried firearms.  Meanwhile in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian in his media briefing skirted questions for a second consecutive day about the casualties suffered by the Chinese troops in their clash with the Indian soldiers at the Galwan Valley on Monday night.

He also declined to respond to queries on reports of it building a dam on the Galwan river at the Sino-Indian border to obstruct its flow.

The two armies were engaged in a standoff in Galwan and several other areas of the eastern Ladakh since May 5 when the two sides clashed on the bank of the Pangong Tso.

After the standoff began, the Indian military leadership decided that Indian troops will adopt a firm approach in dealing with the aggressive posturing by the Chinese troops in all disputed areas of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.

The Chinese Army has been gradually ramping up its strategic reserves in its rear bases near the LAC by rushing in artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment.

The trigger for the face-off was China's stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.

The road in the Finger area in Pangong Tso is considered crucial for India to carry out patrols. India has already decided not to stall any border infrastructure projects in eastern Ladakh in view of Chinese protests.

The situation in the area deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6. The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it.

Prior to the clashes, both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas. PTI MPB PYK PYK