Defence Minister Rajnath Singh interacting with Jawans during his recent visit to Ladakh

NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said dialogue was on to resolve tensions between India and China along the 3,488 kilometre long border, and progress made so far in the discussions should resolve the matter.

But he added a caveat that he could not guarantee how far tensions would be resolved -- a message to Indian soldiers not to lower their guard.

Singh was addressing troops at Lukung near the scenic Pangong Tso lake, one of the current friction points between India and China. Singh’s remarks were put out by ANI in a Twitter post.

Singh also said that India was determined to ensure that no part of its territory was taken away.

“I can assure you, not an inch of our land can be taken by any power in the world," Singh was quoted as saying by PTI in remarks to Indian soldiers amid tensions with China following a spate of intrusions and mass mobilisation of troops by both countries.

Earlier in the day, Singh took stock of India’s battle preparedness during a visit to areas near the Line of Actual Control – the border with China – that is yet to be demarcated by the two sides.

According to a person familiar with the matter, Singh arrived in Leh and then witnessed an exercise by the troops including some battle drills by personnel of the Ladakh Scouts. Singh also witnessed some manoeuvres by an integrated combined force – Army and Air Force -- in high altitude terrain that included newer generation Indian Air Force helicopters, special forces and ground forces (mechanised columns), the person cited above said. The minister was then briefed on the situation including actual position of the troops on both sides, the person said.

The visit comes days after senior commanders of India and China met at Chushul on the Indian side of the border on Tuesday to take stock of the first phase of de-escalation and disengagement and work on the next steps of the process.

A statement from the Indian army on Thursday said that the process was intricate—a pointer to the difficulties in resolving the problem.

“The two sides remain committed to the objective of complete disengagement," the army statement said, adding the “process is intricate and requires constant verification."

“They (India and China) are taking it (disengagement and de-escalation) forward through regular meetings at diplomatic and military level," it added.

Trust levels between the two countries have dropped especially after the large scale mobilisation of Chinese troops along their 3,488 km undemarcated border since May in violation of many pacts signed by the two countries to stabilise the border, pending its final demarcation.

The two sides had agreed to disengage in early June but an Indian army team that went to verify the process was involved in a violent clash with Chinese troops, leaving dead 20 on the Indian side and an unspecified number of troops on the Chinese side on 15 June. This first instance of casualties on the border in 45 years exacerbated tensions.

Talks at the military and diplomatic level seem to have ensured a pullback from three key points along the LAC with discussions expected to focus on withdrawal of Chinese troops from a fourth area on the border. In the first three areas, the two countries have agreed to the creation of buffer zones that will keep the soldiers of the two sides apart and prevent any sudden flare ups like that which took place on 15 June.

At all diplomatic and military level meetings between India and China, “The two sides have agreed on complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas for full restoration of peace in the border areas as per bilateral agreements", Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said on Thursday.

Srivastava said the process of disengagement was “complex", and the process underway at PP 14, 15 and 17-A “is aimed at addressing face-off situations and close-up deployments of troops along the LAC."

“Both sides have agreed at specific points to redeploy towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the LAC. These are mutually agreed reciprocal actions to be taken by both sides," Srivastava said in a reference to buffer zones. Some news reports had expressed concern that the buffer zones meant Indian troops stepping back further into Indian territory and the Chinese troops withdrawing 2 km still meant that they were inside India.