18:24 GMT03 March 2021
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    Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday announced that India and China had reached an agreement on disengagement in the North and South bank of Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh that mandates both sides cease forward deployment of troops in a "phased, coordinated, and verifiable" manner.

    Refuting the charges made by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, India's defence ministry stated that government has not conceded any territory to China under the disengagement agreement with Beijing.

    "On the contrary, it has enforced observance and respect for Line of Actual Control and prevented any unilateral change in the status quo," a clarification issued by the defence ministry reads.

    The statement also emphasised that there are outstanding problems that will be addressed, including at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang with China. "The outstanding issues are to be taken up within 48 hrs of the completion of the Pangong Tso disengagement," it reads.

    Earlier in the day, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hit out at the government questioning why the government has given some territory to China.

    In a scathing attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi pointed out that the aforementioned agreement will see Indian troops stationed at Finger 3 instead of Finger 4, asking, "Why has Modi given up our territory to the Chinese?"

    "The prime minister is a coward who cannot stand up to the Chinese...He is betraying the sacrifice of our Army. Nobody in India should be allowed to do it", Gandhi said while addressing a Friday press conference on the matter.

    The Line of Actual Control (LAC) passes through the lake Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh which is marked by Fingers 1 to 8. India controls the western portion of the 45-km lake, while the rest is under Chinese control. India has traditionally stationed its troops at Finger 4 and patrolled up to Finger 8, where it claims the LAC is. However, China lays claim up to Finger 4. As per the agreement reached between the two countries on 10 February, patrolling between Finger 4 and Finger 8 will be temporarily suspended.

    ​Rahul Gandhi also targeted Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for not speaking in parliament about the "most important strategic area – Depsang Plains – from where China had entered".

    Nevertheless, the Indian defence ministry underscored that the territory of India is as depicted by the map of India and "includes more than 43,000 sq km currently under illegal occupation of China since 1962".

    "Even the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as per the Indian perception, is at Finger 8, not at Finger 4. That is why India has persistently maintained the right to patrol upto Finger 8, including in the current understanding with China," the Indian defence ministry underlined.

    The nine-month standoff started when Indian and Chinese soldiers engaged in a brief duel over a patrolling disagreement in Pangong Tso. New Delhi accused Beijing of erecting permanent infrastructure on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control while China came forward with similar allegations against India.

    Tensions, however, escalated as frequent physical altercations ensued between the troops at different locations, including one in the Galwan Valley last June in which at least 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives.

     

    Related:

    India, China Begin Disengagement Process in Ladakh Region, China's Defence Ministry Says
    Tanks, Troops Returning to Permanent Bases as Disengagment Between India, China Begins - Video
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    border clashes, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Sputnik, Sputnik News, Sputnik Radio, Ladakh region, Rajnath Singh, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, People's Liberation Army, Indian Army
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