The government on Saturday said attempts are being made to give a 'mischievous interpretation' to Prime Narendra Modi's remarks at an all-party meeting that no one has entered Indian territory or captured any military post while referring to the eastern Ladakh standoff.
A day after Modi's comments triggered massive criticism, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) issued a statement clarifying that his observations that there was no Chinese presence on our side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) pertained to the situation as a consequence of the bravery of our armed forces, who foiled an attempt by Chinese troops to transgress into the Galwan Valley.
At the all-party meeting on Friday to discuss the situation along the India-China border, Modi said: "Na wahan koi hamari seema mein ghusa hua hai, na hi hamari koi post kisi dusre ke kabze mein hain (Neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of our post captured).
India lost 20 of its army personnel, including a colonel, in the violent face-off on the night of June 15/16 in Ladakh's Galwan Valley, the biggest confrontation between the militaries of India and China after their 1967 clashes in Nathu La when India lost around 80 soldiers while the death toll on the Chinese side was over 300.
Following Modi's comments, Congress accused him of surrendering Indian territory to Chinese aggression, and asked where the 20 Indian soldiers were killed if the Chinese military did not come to the Indian side of the LAC, the de-facto boundary between the two coutries.
Clarifying Modi's remarks, the PMO said, 'the Prime Minister paid glowing tributes to the valour and patriotism of our armed forces who repulsed the designs of the Chinese there.
'The prime minister's observations that there was no Chinese presence on our side of the LAC pertained to the situation as a consequence of the bravery of our armed forces.'
'Attempts are being made in some quarters to give a mischievous interpretation to remarks by the prime minister at the all-party meeting on Friday,' it said.
It further said: 'As regards the transgression of LAC, it was clearly stated that the violence in Galwan on June 15 arose because Chinese side was seeking to erect structures just across the LAC and refused to desist from such actions.'
'The sacrifices of the soldiers of the 16 Bihar Regiment foiled the attempt of the Chinese side to erect structures and also cleared the attempted transgression at this point of the LAC on that day,' the PMO said.
The PMO said what is Indian territory is clear from the map of India and the current government is strongly and resolutely committed to that.
'Insofar as there is some illegal occupation, the all-party meeting was briefed in great detail how over the last 60 years, more than 43,000 sq km has been yielded under circumstances with which this country is well aware,' it said.
'It was also made clear that this government will not allow any unilateral change of the LAC. At a time when our brave soldiers are defending our borders, it is unfortunate that an unnecessary controversy is being created to lower their morale,' the PMO said.
'The words of the prime minister 'those who tried to transgress our land were taught a befitting lesson by our brave sons of soil', succinctly summed up the ethos and the values of our armed forces,' it said, adding Modi assured that India's armed forces will leave no stone unturned to protect the country's borders.
However, the Congress accused the PMO of making a 'lame attempt to obfuscate truth' and belittling the gravity of the situation along the LAC after it issued a clarification.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala urged Modi to follow 'Raj Dharma' and rise to protect India's national security and territorial integrity.
He said the PMO and the government need to clearly state their position, after the PMO called as 'mischievous interpretation' the criticism of the prime minister's remarks.
'Is Galwan Valley not part of Indian territory? Why is Government not coming forward and strongly rebutting the Chinese claim over Galwan Valley? If Chinese troops are present there, does it not amount to intrusion into and occupation of Indian territory? Also, why is the Government silent on intrusions in the Pangong Tso area,' Surjewala asked in a statement.
He also said the PMO's statement 'belittles the gravity of the situation' along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Before the PMO clarification, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Modi of having 'surrendered' Indian territory to Chinese aggression.
'PM has surrendered Indian territory to Chinese aggression. If the land was Chinese: Why were our soldiers killed? Where were they killed,' Gandhi asked on Twitter.
Some strategic affairs experts too criticised Modi for his remarks.
'How Modi's speech has become a Chinese propaganda coup: New Delhi has released one clarification, but it won't be the last. Undoing the damage will not be easy. The Chinese, of course, are celebrating. They have translated Modi's key words into Mandarin,' tweeted Brahma Chellaney.
The two armies were engaged in a standoff in Galwan and several other areas of eastern Ladakh since May 5 when the two sides clashed on the banks of the Pangong Tso.
The situation in the area deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6.
The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.