NEW DELHI, Dec 13 (PTI): Chinese troops tried to “unilaterally” change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Yangtse area of Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang sector last week but the Indian Army compelled them to retreat by its “firm and resolute” response, defence minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament on Tuesday.
In similar statements in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Singh said there were “no fatalities” or serious injuries to the Indian soldiers and that the clash led to injuries to a few personnel on both sides.
With the opposition questioning the government’s handling of the border issue with China, home minister Amit Shah told reporters that no one can capture an inch of India’s land till the Narendra Modi government is in power.
In his statement, Singh said, “On December 9, PLA troops tried to transgress the LAC in the Yangtse area of Tawang Sector and unilaterally change the status quo. The Chinese attempt was contested by our troops in a firm and resolute manner.”
“The ensuing face-off led to a physical scuffle in which the Indian Army bravely prevented the PLA from transgressing into our territory and compelled them to return to their posts. The scuffle led to injuries to a few personnel on both sides,” he said.
Singh’s comments came a day after the Indian Army issued a statement on the incident.
“I wish to share with this House that there are no fatalities or serious casualties on our side,” the defence minister added.
Singh said as a follow-up of the incident, the local commander of the Indian Army in the area held a flag meeting with his counterpart on December 11 to discuss the issue in accordance with established mechanisms.
“The Chinese side was asked to refrain from such actions and maintain peace and tranquility along the border. The issue has also been taken up with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels,” Singh said.
The defence minister assured the Parliament that Indian forces are committed to protecting the country’s territorial integrity and will continue to thwart any attempt made on it.
“I am confident that this entire House will stand united in supporting our soldiers in their brave effort,” he said.
Ahead of his statement in Parliament, the defence minister held a meeting with Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan, Army Chief Manoj Pande and some other senior officials.
Sources said the Chinese troops were armed with spiked clubs and bamboo sticks and that the soldiers from both sides sustained injuries in the hand-to-hand combat.
In a related development, the top brass of the Army and the IAF separately reviewed their overall operational preparedness along the nearly 3,500 km LAC in view of the incident, which is the first such flare-up in more than a year.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, without specifically commenting on the December 9 incident, said the situation along the border was “generally stable” and two sides have maintained smooth communication on border-related issues.
However, hours after the Chinese foreign ministry briefing on the Sino-India border situation, senior Colonel Long Shaohua, spokesman of the Western Theatre Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), claimed that the December 9 clash took place when its troops on regular patrol on the Chinese side of the LAC were blocked by Indian soldiers.
Meanwhile, Congress said defence minister Singh’s statement on the clash in Tawang was “incomplete” and accused the government of hiding the truth from the nation.
Congress spokesperson and deputy leader of the party in Lok Sabha Gaurav Gogoi and party leader Pawan Khera also accused the government of diplomatic failure with China, claiming that India has lost its pre-eminent position in Southeast Asia.
Both the leaders demanded that the government should agree to a detailed discussion on the border situation and ties with China, alleging that Prime Minister Modi’s remarks made in June 2020 that “no one has entered Indian territory nor has anyone occupied its territory” has emboldened China to indulge in such misadventures.
“Why did Rajnath Singh give a statement so late as the incident is of December 9. Why was this not given yesterday in Parliament? What are they hiding? This government wants to hide the truth from the nation and our demand from day one has been to tell the truth to the nation,” Gogoi said at a press conference.
Meanwhile, people familiar with the development said the Indian Air Force scrambled fighter jets last week following China’s increasing air activities on its side of the LAC in the Tawang sector and the force is now closely monitoring the situation. The IAF mobilisation happened before the December 9 clash.
They said a number of Chinese drones flew close to the LAC prompting the IAF to scramble the jets and increase the overall combat readiness.
Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a brief face-off near Yangtse in October last year as well and it was resolved following talks between local commanders of the two sides according to established protocols.
The ties between India and China nosedived significantly following the fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades. Both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers and heavy weaponry.
Following the eastern Ladakh standoff, the Indian Army significantly bolstered its operational capabilities along the LAC in the eastern theatre.
The army put into place an effective surveillance apparatus and there has been a substantial improvement in overall monitoring of the areas in the last two years, military officials said.