New Delhi: A day after the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi questioned Centre of conceding Indian territory to China, a 30-member parliamentary standing committee on defence intends to visit the Galwan Valley and the Pangong lake in the eastern Ladakh region which has been witness to a violent standoff between the two nations, as per reports. The panel’s visit to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), however, depends on the approval from the government.
The committee, chaired by senior BJP leader and former Union Minister Jual Oram and of which Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is a member, reportedly intends to visit the eastern Ladakh region in the last week of May or June.
The decision to visit these areas was taken in the panel’s latest meeting, in which Rahul Gandhi wasn’t reportedly present. As per reports, the committee may seek the permission of the government before visiting the strategically-located areas.
On February 11, after a nine-month standoff, the militaries of India and China reached an agreement on disengagement in the north and south banks of Pangong lake that mandates both sides to cease forward deployment of troops in a “phased, coordinated and verifiable” manner. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the same day had made a detailed statement in Parliament on the disengagement pact.
According to the agreement, China has to pull back its troops to east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank while the Indian personnel will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 in the region. Similar action will take place on the south bank of the lake as well, Rajnath Singh said.
Replying to Rahul Gandhi’s five questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government about the breakthrough in Ladakh, Defence Ministry said India has not “conceded” any territory to China by firming up an agreement on the disengagement process in Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh. While talking about other outstanding “problems” including in Depsang, Hot Springs ad Gogra, the ministry said they will be taken up at the upcoming talks between military commanders of the two countries.
The rebuttal by the defence ministry came hours after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that the government has “ceded” Indian territory to China and raised questions over the agreement on the disengagement process.
The ministry also firmly denied the assertion that Indian territory is up to Finger 4, dubbing it as “categorically false” and that “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 added.
“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 further said.
The standoff between two Asian giants began in April last year when India said Chinese troops had impinged deep into its side of the Line of Actual Control or the de facto border in the Ladakh area in the western Himalayas. The tension escalated between the two neighbouring countries in June when both the sides clashed, killing 20 Indian soldiers and nearly 45 Chinese military personnel dead, as per reports.