India has categorically conveyed to China that there should be no doubt about its determination to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, the defence ministry said in a statement on Saturday, summing up the Moscow meeting between Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart the day before.
Singh met Chinese defence minister General Wei Fenghe on Friday in the first political contact between the two sides since tensions flared up along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh in May and then again last month. The meeting, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) defence ministers’ meeting, continued for more than 2 hours.
“Hon’ble Raksha Mantri categorically conveyed India’s position on the developments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) including in the Galwan valley in the Western Sector of the India-China Border Areas in the last few months. He emphasised that the actions of the Chinese troops, including amassing of large number of troops, their aggressive behaviour and attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo were in violation of the bilateral agreements and not in keeping with the understandings reached between the Special Representatives of two sides,” the statement said.
“Hon’ble RM stated clearly that while the Indian troops had always taken a very responsible approach towards border management, but at the same time there should also be no doubt about our determination to protect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it added.
An official privy to the meeting said, “It seemed the Chinese don't want an escalation. They asked for the meeting… they came to the RM's (defence minister’s) hotel. The discussion was very frank.”
RM emphasised that the actions of the Chinese troops, including amassing of large number of troops, their aggressive behaviour and attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo were in violation of the bilateral agreements.— रक्षा मंत्री कार्यालय/ RMO India (@DefenceMinIndia) September 5, 2020
RM stated clearly that while the Indian troops had always taken a very responsible approach towards border management, but at the same time there should also be no doubt about our determination to protect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.— रक्षा मंत्री कार्यालय/ RMO India (@DefenceMinIndia) September 5, 2020
RM said that both sides should take guidance from the consensus of the leaders that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas was essential for the further development of bilateral relations & that2 sides should not allow differences to become disputes— रक्षा मंत्री कार्यालय/ RMO India (@DefenceMinIndia) September 5, 2020
“RM advised that it was important therefore that Chinese side should work with the Indian side for complete disengagement at the earliest from all friction areas including Pangong Lake as well as de-escalation in border areas in accordance with the bilateral agreements & protocols,” the statement further said.
Raksha Mantri conveyed that the two sides should continue their discussions, including through diplomatic and military channels, to ensure complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC at the earliest.— रक्षा मंत्री कार्यालय/ RMO India (@DefenceMinIndia) September 5, 2020
The statement clearly counters the Chinese state media claims that “sole responsibility” for the tensions was placed on India at the meeting.
China’s state-run Global Times had earlier quoted Wei as saying that India had owned “full responsibility” for the current tensions. “India bears full responsibility for current China-India border tensions and Chinese military has determination, capability and confidence to safeguard China’s territorial integrity, Chinese defense minister Wei Fenghe said during meeting with his Indian counterpart Fri in Moscow,” it tweeted.
Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Indian Ambassador to Russia DB Venkatesh Varma were part of the Indian delegation at the talks that began at around 9:30 pm IST at a prominent hotel in Moscow. The meeting was requested by the Chinese defence minister, the sources said.
Sources said the Indian delegation strongly objected to Chinese army's fresh attempts to change the status quo in the southern bank of Pangong lake and insisted on resolution of the standoff through talks. "The focus of the talks between the two defence ministers was on ways to resolve the prolonged border standoff," a source said.
In a significant move apparently aimed at building international consensus in favour of India, Singh postponed his return to the country and will now meet the defence ministers of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which share a border with China, and Uzbekistan. Singh will also reportedly make a stopover in Tehran before turning to India.
Tensions flared up again in the region after China unsuccessfully attempted to occupy Indian territory in the southern bank of Pangong lake five days ago when the two sides were engaged in diplomatic and military talks to resolve the border row. India occupied a number of strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong lake and strengthened its presence in Finger 2 and Finger 3 areas in the region to thwart any Chinese actions. China has strongly objected to India's move. India has, however, maintained that the strategic heights are on its side of the LAC.
India has also rushed in additional troops and weapons to the sensitive region following China's transgression attempts. The tension between the two sides had escalated manifold after the violent clashes in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on June 15 in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is also scheduled to travel to Moscow next week to attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of the SCO on September 10. He is expected to have a meeting with Wang Yi on the sidelines of this meeting.