Rajnath Singh kicks off Ladakh visit, hails war veterans

The dedication of Indian soldiers and veterans towards the country is an “exemplary example”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday soon after arriving in Ladakh on a three-day visit.

Official sources said the Minister will carry out a comprehensive review of India’s operational readiness in eastern Ladakh amid a stalemate in the next stage of disengagement with China at several friction points.

‘Govt committed’

Addressing veterans in Leh, Mr. Singh said the decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to roll out the ‘One Rank One Pension’ scheme, ending a decades-long wait, was testimony to the government’s unwavering commitment towards the welfare of ex-servicemen. “Our aim is to take care of you in the same way as you all have taken care of the security of the country,” Mr. Singh said.

He later interacted with 300 veterans, including Ashok Chakra winner Naib Subedar (Honorary) Chhering Mutup (Retd) and Maha Vir Chakra winner Colonel Sonam Wangchuk (Retd).

Listing various measures taken by the government for the welfare of veterans, Mr. Singh said a number of steps have been taken to address the issue of resettlement, including organising job fairs through Directorate General Resettlement, in which a large number of veterans were given employment.

Later, Mr. Singh met the elected representatives of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils, Leh, Kargil and officials in Leh. During his visit, he will also inaugurate infrastructure projects constructed by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and interact with troops deployed in the region. He was accompanied by Army Chief Gen Manoj Naravane and Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh R.K. Mathur. The BRO has taken up infrastructure development in a big way to beef up connectivity in the border areas.

This is the Defence Minister’s first visit to the region since the first phase of disengagement in February, in which both sides pulled back thousands of troops, tanks and armoured vehicles from Pangong Tso

Last week, India and China held the 22nd meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China Border Affairs at the diplomatic level where they agreed to hold the next round military commander talks at an early date to achieve “complete disengagement” from “all the friction points” along the LAC in the Western Sector.

Since the beginning of standoff in early May last year after ingress by Chinese troops into the Indian side of the LAC at several locations, the two sides have been holding alternate WMCC and Corps Commander level talks to resolve the standoff and restore status quo of pre-April positions. Foreign Ministers of the two countries held a meeting in Moscow in September 2020 during which they had agreed on a framework for the resolution.

The two sides have so far held 11 rounds of military talks for disengagement and de-escalation in Eastern Ladakh. While disengagement has been completed at Pangong Tso, friction points remain at Gogra and Hotsprings as well as in Demchok and the strategic Depsang valley. However, there has been no progress in the last few rounds of talks for disengagement at Gogra and Hot Springs.

(With inputs from PTI)

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