No power on earth can stop the Indian Army from patrolling, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said today in parliament on the dispute with China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. Responding to opposition questions on the Chinese not allowing Indian soldiers to patrol traditional posts, he said: “That is the reason for our fight with China.”
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on the India-China dispute, Rajnath Singh also assured opposition members that there would be no change in patrolling patterns in eastern Ladakh, the site of the dispute. He was responding to Congress member AK Antony’s comment on Indian soldiers being pushed back from traditional patrolling points.
“The patrolling pattern is traditional and well-defined. No power on earth can stop Indian soldiers from patrolling,” Mr Singh told Mr Antony, who was Defence Minister in the previous Congress government.
The Defence Minister said he would not be able to share much more because these were sensitive operational issues. “I hope the House will understand the sensitivity of the matter,” he said. Rajya Sabha Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu urged the minister to call select leaders for a separate meeting to address deeper issues and answer their questions.
Mr Singh’s statement on China in the Rajya Sabha was similar to what he said in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, but for some crucial points.
“Even though the situation this year is very different both in terms of scale of troops involved and the number of friction points, we remain committed to peaceful resolution. Starting a war is in our hands but the end is not in our hands. I am astonished at times that peace is compromised. I want to tell our 130 crore countrymen that we will not let the country down. Neither will we bow before anyone, nor is it our intention to make anyone bow before us,” he said.
He also commented that what China said and what China did were very different. The Chinese engaged in provocative military manoeuvres on the night of 29th and 30th August while the two sides were engaged in diplomatic and military dialogue. Unki kathani aur karni alag hai (their words and actions are different),” he said.
As the floor was opened to comments, several opposition leaders expressed solidarity with the armed forces. “Two words, Jai Hind!” – said Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien.
AK Antony asked the minister what the “protecting sovereignty” meant to the government. “The government said it will do everything to protect sovereignty – what does it mean – you have to clarify. Is there status quo ante as on April?”
The former Defence Minister added: “Galwan Valley was never a disputed site. But even there our soldiers are not being allowed to patrol. And Pangong…We used to patrol Finger 8. I request the government to ensure that we are able to patrol the entire border as earlier.”
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said his party stood by the government, but questioned whether the government would ensure restoration of status quo ante.
“As a resident of the state, I have been associated with this since I was born. I want to say on behalf of my party – we stand with the government. But we must go back to the position that was prevalent before April,” Mr Azad said.
Prasanna Acharya, a member of Odisha’s ruling BJD, warned the government to be guarded with China. “You cannot trust China. They have gone back on every agreement and the government must be careful while negotiating with the country,” he said.