Some 1,179 days have passed but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 2020 denial of the Chinese intrusion in Ladakh seems to remain in need of reiteration in the face of widespread scepticism and contrary accounts.
Ladakh lieutenant governor B.D. Mishra, a former army brigadier, on Monday insisted that China had not occupied “one square inch” of Indian land in the region and credited the Prime Minister with strengthening the country’s borders.
Mishra’s comment came at an event in IIT Jammu when journalists asked him to respond to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that China had occupied a large chunk of Indian territory in Ladakh.
“I won’t comment on anybody’s statement. But I will say what is the fact because I have seen myself on the ground that not even one square inch of land which the Chinese have occupied,” Mishra said.
He claimed that “whatsoever happened” had happened in 1962, in line with the BJP’s claim that China had occupied Indian territory during the tenure of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
“That (the 1962 occupation) is immaterial now. But today we are in occupation of our land to the last inch,” the former brigadier said.
Rahul has repeatedly said that China has occupied more than 1,000sqkm of Indian territory in Ladakh since May 2020. During his tour of Ladakh last month, when he visited the Pangong Lake close to the Line of Actual Control, he said Modi’s no-intrusion claim had no takers in Ladakh.
“They (local people) can’t go there (to their grazing fields). They all are clearly saying this. The Prime Minister said not an inch of land was taken but that is not the truth. You can ask anybody. They will tell you,” Rahul had said.
Modi had on June 19, 2020, said that no one had entered or was occupying Indian territory. The claim came four days after a clash on the Galwan Valley — one of the friction points in eastern Ladakh — killed 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops.
China had seized on Modi’s comment to deny any border transgression and claim ownership of all the territory it held close to the LAC.
However, the 19 rounds of military talks between the two countries since May 2020, and the references in official statements to partial “disengagements” — that is, pullouts —have been a giveaway.
Many Ladakhi politicians and residents too have confirmed the Chinese intrusions.
Unlike Mishra, scores of military veterans have rejected Modi’s no-intrusion claim. They have accused the government of capitulating before the Chinese and “ceding more territory” by agreeing to demilitarised “buffer zones” within Indian territory, and failing to press for a return to status quo.
In January this year, a research paper submitted at the DGPs’ conference in Delhi by an IPS officer posted in Ladakh said that India had lost access to 26 of its 65 patrolling points in eastern Ladakh following the Chinese incursions.
Told that Rahul and others were not willing to accept the no-intrusion claim, Mishra said: “I would not say anything about that but I will make a statement of facts. The statement of facts is our armed forces are prepared for any eventuality and God forbid, if the balloon goes up, people will get a bloody nose from us.”
He added: “Nobody can dare to come towards India with any design to have a foothold here. I think all the credit goes to the great leadership under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
Mishra was speaking at the North Tech Symposium, which began at IIT Jammu on Monday with several companies and start-ups showcasing their military equipment.
The Northern Army commander, Lt General Upendra Dwivedi, said at the symposium that the situation along the LAC in eastern Ladakh was “normal and very fine”.
“As an army commander, the area I am guarding is our area, and I will not allow anyone to come on the Indian soil,” he said, when asked about Rahul’s recent statement.