Ministry of Defence on Friday quashed "misinformed and misleading comments being amplified in the media and on social media" regarding the disengagement currently underway at Pangong Tso.
"At the outset, Ministry of Defence reiterates that the factual position has already been clearly communicated by the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in his statements to both Houses of the Parliament. However, it is necessary to set the record straight and counter certain instances of wrongly understood information being amplified in media and social media," clarified the ministry in a statement.
"The assertion that Indian territory is upto Finger 4 is categorically false. 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 ministry added.
MoD said permanent posts of both sides at the north bank of Pangong Tso are longstanding and well-established. On the Indian side, it is Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 and on the Chinese side, east of Finger 8. "The current agreement provides for cessation of forward deployment by both sides and continued deployment at these permanent posts," the ministry said.
Under the India-China agreement on the disengagement process in eastern Ladakh, the Chinese army will pull back its troops to east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament on Thursday, in what is seen as a significant step to dial down tensions in the key face-off site.
Reciprocally, the defence minister said, Indian troops will be based at their permanent location at Dhan Singh Thapa post near Finger 3 areas.
Singh's statement clearly implied that the areas between the Indian position in Finger 3 and Finger 8 will effectively become a no patrolling zone till a resolution on future deployment is reached, defence experts said.
"India has not conceded any territory as a result of this agreement. On the contrary, it has enforced observance and respect for LAC and prevented any unilateral change in the status quo. Rajnath Singh’s statement also made clear that there are outstanding problems to be addressed, including at Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang. The outstanding issues are to be taken up within 48 hrs of the completion of the Pangong Tso disengagement," the ministry further said.
The effective safeguarding of India's national interest and territory in the Eastern Ladakh sector has taken place because the Government has reposed full faith in the capabilities of the armed forces. Those who doubt the achievements made possible by the sacrifices of our military personnel are actually disrespecting them, said MoD.
The Chinese military built several bunkers and other structures in the areas between Finger 4 and 8 and had blocked all Indian patrols beyond Finger 4, triggering strong reaction from the Indian Army.
In the nine rounds of military talks, India was specifically insisting on withdrawal of Chinese troops from Finger 4 to Finger 8 on the North bank of Pangong Lake. The mountain spurs in the area are referred to as Fingers.
In his address in Rajya Sabha, the defence minister said similar action would be taken in the South bank of the Pangong lake areas by both sides.
Around five months ago, Indian troops occupied a number of strategic heights in the Mukhpari, Rechin La and Magar hill areas around the southern bank of the Pangong lake after the Chinese military attempted to intimidate them in the area.
"A similar action would be taken in the South bank area by both sides. These are mutual and reciprocal steps and any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both North and South bank areas will be removed and the landforms will be restored," the defence minister said.
He said it was also agreed to have a temporary moratorium on military activities by both sides in the North bank of Pangong lake including patrolling to the traditional areas.
"Patrolling will be resumed only when both sides reach an agreement in diplomatic and military talks that would be held subsequently.The implementation of this agreement started yesterday in the North and South Bank of the Pangong Lake," he said.
Singh said it was also agreed to hold the next meeting of Senior Commanders of the two armies within 48 hours after complete disengagement in Pangong lake areas to resolve any remaining issues.