New Delhi: A Ministry of Defence document which contradicted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s televised assurance in June that “no one has intruded into our territory” has gone AWOL from the MoD’s official website.
The document which stated that Chinese troops had “transgressed” into eastern Ladakh was a four-page compilation of “Major activities of Department of Defence for the month of June, 2020” ad was reportedly uploaded earlier this week but is now unavailable.
The second page had a sub-section with the title, “Chinese Aggression on LAC”. In it, the first paragraph stated:
Chinese aggression has been increasing along the LAC and ore particularly in Galwan valley since 5th May, 2020. The Chinese side transgressed in the areas of Kugrang Nala, Gogra and north bank of Pangong Tso lake on 17-18 May, 2020
The phrase that the “Chinese side transgressed” into multiple points in Ladakh is contrary to the language carefully used by the Indian government. The last PMO statement on the LAC situation had mentioned that Chinese soldiers had “attempted transgression” which was foiled by Indian troops.
The phrasing used to describe the position at the LAC has become a political hot potato, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s televised statement at the all-party meeting to discuss the India-China border tensions on June 19. The meeting had been called in light of the violent face-off at Galwan valley, which had left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
As the PMO’s official Twitter account also posted, Modi had stated in Hindi, “Na koi wahan hamari seema mein ghus aaya hai aur na hi koi ghusa hua hai, na hi hamari koi post kisi dusre ke kabze mein hai (‘No one has intruded and nor is anyone intruding, nor has any post been captured by anyone’)”.
This had led to raised eyebrows, as the MEA’s previous note dated June 17 describing the incident had said that the “Chinese side sought to erect a structure in Galwan valley on our side of the LAC”. If the Chinese had attempted to build the structure, it would mean that they would have stepped into Indian territory at some point.
The confusion over the prime minister’s remarks had led his office to issue a detailed clarification a day later.
“…As regards transgression of LAC, it was clearly stated that the violence in Galwan on 15 June arose because Chinese side was seeking to erect structures just across the LAC and refused to desist from such actions…The Prime Minister’s observations that there was no Chinese presence on our side of the LAC pertained to the situation as a consequence of the bravery of our armed forces. The sacrifices of the soldiers of the 16 Bihar Regiment foiled the attempt of the Chinese side to erect structures and also cleared the attempted transgression at this point of the LAC on that day”.
This template that Chinese troops had gone “just across the LAC” and it was only an “attempted transgression” was, thereafter, followed by the MEA. Sources had then explained that the phrase “across the LAC” does mean the Indian side of the LAC, but not too far from the boundary.
Following the Galwan valley clash, there have been talks between India and China at various levels. The military commanders have met five times to agree on the implementation of the consensus of the Special representatives for complete disengagement and de-escalation of troops at the LAC.
But, China has, so far, been adamant that it will not move from its position in Pangong Tso lake, which is much further into India’s territory along the undefined boundary.
“We also expect that the Chinese side will work with us sincerely for complete disengagement and de-escalation and full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas,” said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava at the weekly briefing on Thursday.