New Delhi, Sep 6: China has not occupied Indian territory afresh or stopped Indian troops from accessing any part of Indian land, Defence Minister A.K. Antony asserted Friday but admitted that China’s infrastructure in the border areas was superior and this “mistake” had to be accepted by all.
Replying to clarifications on his statement on the report by National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) chairman Shyam Saran on infrastructure in Ladakh, Antony told the Rajya Sabha that India had started building its infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) after years of indifference.
The minister said there had been a policy in the past not to develop border areas. He said while trying to improve relations with China and find solution to the boundary problem, the government will continue to strengthen capabilities along the border.
Antony said there were disputed areas along the LAC and both sides conduct patrols according to their perception. Earlier, in his statement in the two houses, Antony denied reports that Saran had said in his report that China had occupied 640 km of Indian territory.
“I would like to state categorically that Shyam Saran has not stated in (his) report that China has occupied or has denied access to India to any part of Indian territory,” Antony said.
A former foreign secretary, Saran visited Ladakh last month and submitted a report to the Prime Minister’s Office and the defence ministry.
“There is no question of India ceding to China any part of Indian territory. The government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all measures to safeguard it.”
“I would further like to assure the house that the government would continue to strengthen our capabilities in border areas to protect our national interest,” said Antony.
According to the minister, Saran’s report was primarily focused on border infrastructure and also dealt with several aspects relating to the region.
India and China fought a bitter border war in 1962 and both countries accuse one another of occupying territory. A series of border talks have not helped overcome the differences. Members in the Rajya Sabha sought clarifications from Antony and expressed concern over growing incursions by Chinese troops and extent of India’s infrastructure in border areas.
Antony said India had lost territory to China in 1962 and 1963.
“This is a legacy, this is a reality,” he said. He said there were many points along the LAC on which the two countries do not agree and the areas were regarded as disputed. He said even though the border issue was unsettled, there were vast areas of agreement about the LAC.
“The reality is in disputed area, patrol goes upto the area we consider is our land. Their patrol goes to the area they feel is their land. On LAC, there is no conflict in patrolling. In disputed areas, it is upto our and their perception,” Antony said.
He said patrols of two sides sometimes cross and there had been face-offs in the last few years.
Antony said solutions had been found in cases of border incursions. In this context, he referred to an incursion in the Depsang area of Ladakh in April when Chinese troops pitched tents and pulled back after 21 days following flag meetings and talks at the official level.
The minister said in the “older days” there was a policy not to develop border areas as undeveloped border was considered a better option.
“China started (development) years ago. In areas of infrastructure, China (is) superior. From day one, China continued to develop roads, airfields in their areas,” Antony said, adding that India started developing it after years of indifference and that too at a slow pace.
“In border areas, China in a better position than India. If (it is a mistake), it has to be accepted by all,” Antony said. He said maximum infrastructure improvement along the China border had taken place during the 10 years of the United Progressive Alliance government and forces had been strenthened.
“They (China) feel, India trying to catch up,” Antony said. Antony said the government was trying to resolve border issue amicably at the diplomatic level. “Till solution (is found) our minimum concern is to maintain peace and tranquility on the India-China border.”
He said there will be no compromise on building border capabilities. “We will continue to strengthen border capabilities, at the same time protect every inch of Indian land. At the same time, we want peaceful solution to the longstanding border issue.”