NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has "ceded" Indian territory to the Chinese, and questioned the government over its agreement with China on disengagement of troops in eastern Ladakh.
His attack on the government came a day after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh assured Parliament that India has not conceded anything in the sustained talks with China and it will not allow even an inch of its territory to be taken away by anyone.
Addressing a press conference, Gandhi questioned why the prime minister did not make a statement on the LAC situation and said Singh "sheepishly" made a statement on the issue in both Houses of Parliament.
"Why has he asked the Defence Minister to make the statement, the Prime Minister should say - I have given Indian land to China, this is the truth," he alleged.
He said it has emerged that Indian troops are now going to be stationed at Finger 3 at Pangong Tso lake.
"Finger-4 is our territory, that is where our post used to be. So, now we have moved from finger-4 to finger-3. Why has the Prime Minister Modi given up Indian Territory to the Chinese? This is the question that needs to be answered by him and by the Defence Minister," Gandhi said.
Why have Indian troops, after the hard work that they had done in capturing Kailash ranges, been asked to move back, the Congress leader asked.
What has India got in return for this? Most importantly, the more important strategic area, Depsang plains, why have the Chinese not moved back? These are the real questions.
Why have they not moved from Gogra-Hot Springs, the former Congress chief asked.
"It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to protect the territory of the country. The Prime Minister has ceded Indian Territory to the Chinese. It is his responsibility to solve the problem," he alleged.
Asked if India will lose its strategic advantage once status quo ante is restored, Gandhi said there was no strategic advantage as the Chinese were on our land in Depsang and Pangong.
"Our soldiers risked everything, they had, to go to Kailash ranges. That's where the strategic advantage, if any, arose. Now, the Prime Minister has given back the land. Status quo ante is irrelevant. Kailash has been given back and nothing has happened on the key area of which China wants, Depsang plains.
"This is absolute 100 per cent cowardice. This is nothing else. The Prime Minister is a coward who cannot stand up to the Chinese. He is betraying the sacrifice of our army," he charged, and added, that nobody in India should be allowed to do it, nobody in the rest of the world should be allowed to do it.
The Indian government's position at the beginning of this was status quo ante as in April 2020 that is what they were negotiating for, he asserted.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has continued to negate Gandhi's claims and reiterates that it has not conceded any territory to China and on the contrary, has enforced respect for the LAC.
The ministry issued a strongly-worded statement, saying the effective safeguarding of country's national interest and territory in the Eastern Ladakh sector has taken place because the government 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", the statement said.
The ministry also made certain clarifications in the statement, and said, "the assertion that Indian territory is up to 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 up to Finger 8, including in the current understanding with China," the MoD said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told Parliament that as per provision of the agreement, China will pull back its troops to east of Finger 8 areas in the northern bank of Pangong lake while the Indian personnel will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3 in the region.
"India has not conceded any territory as a result of the agreement.
"On the contrary, it has enforced observance and respect for LAC and prevented any unilateral change in the status quo," it said.
The ministry also asserted that 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 MoD said, adding the current agreement provides for cessation of forward deployment by both sides and continued deployment at these permanent posts.
Meanwhile, Union minister Pralhad Joshi also hit back at Gandhi for his remarks against the prime minister.
"Perhaps Rahul is depressed that he could not become PM. He knows that even his shadow won't support him.
"The selective amnesia which Rahul often displays seems a regular order," Joshi tweeted, asking why he was denigrating the efforts and sacrifices of security forces.
In a breakthrough after a nine-month border standoff, Defence Minister Singh had announced in Parliament on Thursday that India and China have reached an agreement on disengagement in the North and South banks of Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh that mandates both sides to "cease" forward deployment of troops in a "phased, coordinated and verifiable" manner.
Singh had shared the details of the pact to defuse the tense military face-off in eastern Ladakh that severely strained ties between the two Asian giants.
In an identical statement later in the Lok Sabha, he had said the disengagement process was "going on well", and that the implementation of the pact will "substantially restore" the situation to the one which existed prior to the standoff that erupted on May 5 last.