New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Tuesday that Chinese soldiers are present in “sizeable numbers” in eastern Ladakh, as the stand-off between the two countries is about to hit the one-month mark.
“The Chinese have come in sizeable numbers. But India has done what needed to be done,” Singh told CNN News18 in an interview Tuesday, without going into further details. The phrase he used in Hindi for the number of Chinese troops was “achhi khaasi sankhya”.
While the Chinese have reportedly built up a large number of troops on their side of the LAC, including artillery and armoured units, India too has moved in additional troops, including two additional divisions strength-level forces.
Singh’s comments come days after he said in another TV interview that the situation in eastern Ladakh was different from earlier face-offs.
These are the first comments from the Government of India on the troop build-up along the Line of Actual Control, and the transgressions committed by the Chinese in at least four locations, including Pangong Lake.
However, the minister underlined that talks are on between India and China, and another round of “high-level” military talks is scheduled for 6 June.
According to the established protocols between the two countries, divisional commander-level talks are the highest level.
Divisional commanders from both sides met earlier in the day for the third round of talks, and sources said, though there aren’t any tangible results yet, the fact that talks are being held is a positive.
Rajnath Singh also said in the interview that the perception of the LAC between India and China in the region is different, and that hardly a year has gone by when the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army have not faced off or jostled with each other.
“I think China should seriously deliberate on this, so that the differences can be resolved amicably,” he said.
Singh said whenever there has been a difference between India and China in the past, including the Doklam stand-off in 2017, the issues have been resolved at the military and diplomatic levels.
He, however, said that while India doesn’t want to hurt the self-respect of any country and wants to have good terms with everyone, India will not tolerate it if someone tries to hurt India’s self-respect, and that has been India’s clear policy.
Asked why China is resorting to such measures at the LAC when the world is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the defence minister said since talks are going on, he would not like to give a statement.
He pointed out that China had also made it amply clear during the recent diplomatic-level talks that it was keen to resolve the issue through dialogue.
Asked about the need for the US intervention in the matter, he said India already has a mechanism with China to solve such issues.
Last Friday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had questioned the government’s silence about the situation with China, saying it was fuelling massive speculation and uncertainty in a time of crisis, and that the government should come clean to its people.
However, Rajnath Singh said border disputes should not be politicised, and the country should stand united during such times.
Relations with other countries
Speaking about Nepal and its controversial new map that shows the disputed Lipulekh-Kalapani-Limpiyadhura areas as its territory, Singh said: “I consider Nepal as our brother and I cannot accuse Nepal of anything.”
He said at times, there there are misunderstandings between brothers, too, and those can be resolved through talks.
On Pakistan, Singh said the country refuses to give up its old habits by continuing to provoke India, but added that whoever tries to destabilise or weaken India, will get a fitting reply.
He also maintained that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will continue to be an integral part of India.
He also said Muslims are safe in India, and no community is discriminated against. Those who say otherwise are part of a ploy to defame India, he claimed.
Swadeshi and self-reliant India
On calls to boycott Chinese products, Singh said merely giving out such statements will not work, but if some country wants to progress financially, it can take steps to do so.
Talking about PM Narendra Modi’s call for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India), he said the target is to be an “exporting country” instead of an “importing country”.
On the issue of only ‘swadeshi’ goods being available at paramilitary canteens, Singh also said there is a consensus among the three services too for military canteens, and “we are working towards that”.