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India facing a 'challenge' in Ladakh but troops ready for 'all contingencies': Rajnath on Sino-India border row

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Tejas fighter jet of the Indian Air Force flies over Ladakh region amid the prolonged India-China face off, in Leh district, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. A PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): Firmly articulating the government's position on the tense Sino-India border row in Eastern Ladakh, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said China has been very clearly conveyed that any attempt to "unilaterally" change the status quo along the LAC is not at all acceptable, while acknowledging that India is facing a "challenge" in the region.

Making a statement in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Singh said there should be no doubt about the country's determination to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and asserted that India's armed forces are ready to deal with "all contingencies" in the high-altitude region.

Referring to the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15, the defence minister said Indian soldiers "inflicted costs including casualties on the Chinese side", adding the House should have "full confidence" that the armed forces will always rise to the challenge and make the country proud.

"I will not hesitate to share with this august House that we are facing a challenge in Ladakh and I urge the House to pass a resolution in support of our armed forces who have been defending our motherland at great heights and most inclement weather conditions," he said.

He said even though the situation this year is very different, both in terms of scale of troops involved and the number of friction points, India remains committed to the peaceful resolution of the current situation.

"At the same time, the House can be assured that we remain prepared to deal with all contingencies," the defence minister said.

Singh also referred to his talks with the Chinese defence minister on the sidelines of a multilateral meet in Moscow recently, and said it was made clear to him that though India wants to resolve the row peacefully, there should be no doubt about its determination to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"I conveyed in clear terms our concerns related to the actions of the Chinese side, including amassing a large number of troops, their aggressive behavior and attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo that were in violation of the bilateral agreements," he said.

In the military and diplomatic talks, Singh said, India has maintained three key principles which are:"Both sides should strictly respect and observe the LAC; Neither side should attempt to alter the status quo unilaterally; And all agreements and understandings between the two sides must be fully abided by in their entirety."

He said the Chinese side, on its part, took the position that the situation should be handled in a responsible manner and ensure peace and tranquility as per bilateral agreements and protocol.

The defence minister said amassing of the troops by China and violent conduct of Chinese military were in violation of all mutually agreed norms and pacts.

"A key element of both the 1993 and the 1996 Agreements is that the two sides will keep their military forces in the areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to a minimum level," he added.

Singh also talked about the five-point agreement reached between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on September 10 and said:"if implemented sincerely and faithfully by the Chinese side, it could lead to complete disengagement and restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas."

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