New Delhi: Under all-round attack, government on Friday told Parliament that not an inch of the country's territory will be ceded to China and the army is free to act in case of any dispute.
Defence Minister AK Antony said capacities, including military capabilities, are rapidly being built along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and China "fears" India is trying to catch up with it, which sometimes results in face-offs between the armies of the two countries.
Rubbishing reports that China had occupied 640km of Indian land in Ladakh, Antony asserted in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha that no territory has been ceded to that country. He said that with both India and China developing infrastructure along the LAC, the armies of the two countries have come "closer" and "face-to-face", in contrast to the earlier situation when the armies were hundreds of kilometres away.
Antony conceded that China was "superior" in terms of border infrastructure as India, because of the 1962 war, was late in deciding on building roads and other capabilities near the LAC, which he described as a "collective failure". "It is their fear that India is trying to catch up with them," he said answering questions over the reasons for the rise in incursions by Chinese troops over the last few years.
Indian army is actively patrolling along the LAC, including in Depsang valley, the scene of 21-day face-off in April, the Defence Minister said. "Sovereignty will not be compromised and we will not compromise and not even an inch will be given to any foreign country," he said speaking on the issue after members from opposition as well as UPA ally Samajwadi Party wanted to know the ground situation on the China border.
"Whenever any dispute, the government of India has no direction to armed forces to not to act. They are free to handle it as the situation demands... Local field people can handle it.. In border areas, if any situation arises, they are free to handle it. Local incidents are handled by them only. Even the Army headquarters does not intervene," he said.
He was responding to contention by members, including Mulayam Singh Yadav, that the government was holding back armed forces from reacting to provocations. Antony said the government is encouraging military-to-military discussions with China to avoid tensions and as part of confidence-building measures, apart from diplomatic steps.
Noting that the dispute over border was long-pending, he said "till a final solution is found, we have one-point agenda -- to maintain peace and tranquility at the border without sacrificing an inch of our land."
Making statements in the two Houses, he said all steps are being taken to safeguard national security while seeking a peaceful solution to the long-pending boundary disputes between the two sides. "I have no hesitation to say that China is in a better position than India in terms of border infrastructure. It is a mistake, it is all of us who are to be held collectively responsible for it. It is a historical legacy," Antony said.
After "years of neglect", he said India is fast developing capabilities near the China border, including building of roads, raising of two mountain divisions and setting up many new airfields and landing grounds.