China engaged in provocative action: MEA

Representational Photo

India on Tuesday said China again engaged in “provocative action” even as their military talks were underway two days after the PLA made a bid to change the status quo in the South Bank area of Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh, calling the attempts a reflection of “complete disregard” to bilateral understandings.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo due to the timely “defensive action”, and asked China to “discipline and control” their frontline troops from undertaking such “provocative” actions.

He said the Chinese side violated previously agreed understanding and engaged in provocative military manoeuvres in the late night of August 29 and on August 30 in an attempt to change the status quo in the South Bank area. The attempt seen as China’s bid to open a new front in the prolonged border standoff in a fresh confrontation was thwarted by the Indian troops.

“As stated yesterday by Indian Army, the Indian side responded to these provocative actions and took appropriate defensive measures along the LAC in order to safeguard our interests and defend the territorial integrity,” he said.

“Furthermore, yesterday on August 31, even as the ground commanders of the two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation, the Chinese troops again engaged in provocative action. Due to the timely defensive action, the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo,” he added.

China, meanwhile, claimed it has “not occupied an inch” of other country’s territory nor “provoked” a war in its 70-odd year history and its border troops never crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.

As tension mounted in eastern Ladakh, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the situation in the region at a two-hour meeting which was attended by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and Army Chief Gen MM Naravane among others.

Government sources said India will maintain its aggressive posturing in all sensitive areas along the LAC to effectively deal with any Chinese “misadventure”.

In his response to a media query on the situation, Srivastava referred to the telephonic conversation between foreign ministers of India and China as well as talks between Special Representatives of the two countries on the boundary question after the border row erupted.

At the talks, both sides had agreed that the situation should be handled in a responsible manner and either side should not take any provocative action or escalate matters, he recalled.

“The actions and behaviour of the Chinese side since earlier this year along the LAC has been in clear violation of the bilateral agreements and protocols concluded between the two countries to ensure peace and tranquility on the border,” Srivastava said. He also said such actions are also in complete disregard to the understandings reached between the two foreign ministers as also the special representatives.

“We have taken up the matter of recent provocative and aggressive actions with Chinese side through both diplomatic and military channels and have urged them to discipline and control their frontline troops from undertaking such provocative actions,” he added.

The MEA spokesperson said the Indian side is firmly committed to resolve all outstanding issues along the LAC in the Western Sector through peaceful dialogue.

“In this context, we expect the Chinese side to sincerely abide by the understanding reached earlier and earnestly work with India to resolve the situation and to restore peace and tranquility in the border areas,” he said.

Following the Chinese attempts, the Indian Army has significantly strengthened its presence on a number of “strategic heights” around the Pangong lake besides further bolstering its presence in the area. A battalion of the Special Frontier Force was also deployed in the area.

It is learnt that Gen Naravane reviewed the overall situation in eastern Ladakh at a high-level meeting in the Army headquarters.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying while responding to a question at a media briefing why there were mutual allegations of provocative moves, said, “The Indian side’s statements may be different from the Chinese (side) but there is only one truth and fact.”

“Perhaps there are some communication issues. I think both sides should stick to facts and have goodwill to maintain the overall bilateral relations and take concrete measures to jointly safeguard peace and tranquility along the border,” she added.

Hua said that in “70 odd years since the founding of new China, China never provoked any war or conflict and never occupied an inch of other country’s territory,” skirting any reference to the 1962 border war with India.