The Chinese presence in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, where 20 Indian Army personnel were killed in clashes with Chinese troops in 2020, is way behind India’s perception of its boundary, Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, B D Mishra, has told The Indian Express.
Mishra, who took over from R K Mathur in February. amid protests seeking restoration of Ladakh’s statehood, also said that while statehood was not “a viable option” for the region, the interests of the local population will be protected.
According to Mishra, his assessment of Galwan came from his own experience, having served in the Army for 40 years and led operations in the 1962 India-China war. “After taking over, I have been to the border areas, to Galwan, to all the places where people say Chinese are now physically present on our land. In Galwan valley, the Chinese are way behind our perception of our boundary. It’s a different issue that they allege that we are sitting on their territory…,” he said.
Stating that there is a difference in the perception of the two countries on what they consider as their territory, Mishra said: “The perception of the Chinese about the LAC is on the territory where we — our Army or civilian habitation — are physically present. Our perception (of LAC) is also on their side, on the no-man’s land. There is no boot of the Chinese on what India perceives to be its territory. The rumours are incorrect.”
Asked if China was a big issue for India, Mishra, who served as the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh for six years before being appointed the Ladakh L-G, said it was the other way round: India was the big issue for China.
“Their (China’s) philosophy is of exploitation – be it in Pakistan, Sri Lanka or even Afghanistan. They are frustrated with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi’s strong stance; unki daal nahi gal rahi (they are not able to have their way with India),” he said.
Comparing India’s position today with that of 1962, Mishra said during the 1962 war India’s “top leadership was ill-prepared, all weapons were imported, and the Army was also not ready”. On the other hand, he said, today the logistics of the Indian Army are “so much better, our tanks are there (at the China border) , roads have been built and the morale of the jawans and their faith in the leadership is at an all-time high”.
“All countries are prepared to cooperate with India today because we are strong. We are not going to them with a begging bowl,” Mishra said.
Saying that “China will never mend their ways”, Mishra quoted various peace initiatives taken by PM Modi with China, and even Pakistan, in the past. “Modi hosted the Chinese premier in Ahmedabad just after taking over as PM in 2014, and then in Chennai in 2019 (for an informal summit). He tried for peace with Pakistan also, even attending (former Pakistan PM) Nawaz Sharif’s daughter’s wedding impromptu,” Mishra said.
On the issue of Ladakh’s statehood, which has sparked protests by local groups also seeking implementation of the Sixth Schedule to protect the rights of the local population, Mishra said, “No Indian state has a population below 14-15 lakh, while the population of Ladakh is merely three lakh. Statehood won’t be viable.”
However, he said, the rights of the local population will be protected. “Ladakh is for Ladakhis. Ladakh will be developed by the Ladakhis and a developed Ladakh will be for Ladakhis,” he said, adding that people wanted jobs, development, and their basic needs to be taken care of; “they don’t care about statehood”.
Mishra also slammed the criticism of the Government on the Chinese incursions, the Agniveer scheme and the Rafale fighter jet deal with France. “Democracy is the best known political system but it has a price tag. In the Rafale deal, India was able to get the best price and best technology, but people said baseless things…” he said.
On the Agniveer scheme, Mishra said it was a way to prepare the Indian youth for any eventuality, “just like in Israel presently, where not just the Armymen, but militarily trained youths are being used as reserve.” “Agniveer training inculcates nationalism and patriotism in them, they become more employable and when they leave after four years, they have Rs 15 lakh kitty,” he said.