As PMO clarifies on PM remarks, Congress urges government to explain Galwan

Former finance minister P. Chidambaram.   | Photo Credit: PTI

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concluding remarks at the all-party meeting on Friday and the subsequent clarification issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) the day after, the Congress raised several questions on the government’s position on Galwan valley and the sequence of events that claimed the lives of 20 Indian soldiers.

At the all-party meeting, Mr. Modi said, “Neither anyone has intruded into our territory nor took over any post”. The Congress attacked him for his comments, with its former president Rahul Gandhi terming it a “surrender” in the face of the Chinese aggression.

At a press conference on Saturday, senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram asked Mr. Modi that if there was no intrusion how did the 20 Indian soldiers die. “If no Chinese troops were inside Indian territory, where did the clashes take place on June 15-16? Where were 20 Indian soldiers killed and 85 injured?” he said.

Chidambaram’s query

Mr. Chidambaram flagged the statements made by Minister for External Affairs Jaishankar and the Ministry demanding the “restoration of status quo ante”. “What was the meaning of “status quo ante”? What was the meaning of the “disengagement” that the government said was “underway”,” he asked.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), in a detailed clarification to all the questions raised by the Congress and other parties, claimed that no part of India’s territory was under Chinese occupation, and that the statement made at the all-party meet was also a reference that the state of affairs was a “consequence of the bravery of our soldiers”.

The Congress called the clarification by PMO “a lame attempt to obfuscate the truth”. Its chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “First of all, the PMO and the Government need to clearly state their position on the Galwan Valley. Is Galwan Valley not part of Indian territory? Why is the 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?”.

Mr. Surjewala said the PMO’s statement belittled the gravity of the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), pointing out that security experts, Generals and satellite imagery have confirmed not only one intrusion on June 15 but several into and occupation of Indian territory in the Ladakh area. While the PMO’s statement indicated that there was only one intrusion that was repulsed, he noted.

“But what about the intrusions between May 5 and June 15? We refer to several statements of the Defence Minister admitting to the presence of Chinese forces ‘in large numbers’ and the statement of the Chief of the Army Staff on ‘disengagement’,” he added.

The Congress pointed out that on June 7, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in a statement, said that both sides agreed to “resolve the situation in the border areas” and called for an “early resolution”. On June 17, again the MEA referred to the agreement reached on June 6 on “disengagement” and “de-escalation”. The June 17 statement also said “the Chinese side sought to erect a structure in Galwan Valley on our side of the LAC.” “If Chinese troops are not present in Indian territory, why is the MEA harping on disengagement and de-escalation as late as on June 17, 2020” he asked.

Congress’s deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said the Prime Minister’s statement amounted to oversimplification of a grave situation with serious implications on national security. “While India stands united behind its armed forces and the government, the government should be clear and firm about the roadmap to resolve the present challenge. India’s territorial integrity is non-negotiable. Let’s all put India first, always,” he tweeted.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that even the clarification issued by the PMO needed another clarification. “The clarification issued on behalf of the PM says: China's structures were across the LAC. The MEA statement had said:China's structures were on our side of the LAC. Will the PMO now issue a clarification on the clarification to enlighten the nation on the situation?” he tweeted.

Opposition charge

Other Opposition parties also attacked the oscillating positions of the PMO.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury advised the Prime Minister to make up his mind before he spoke. “What else did the PM say in the all- party meeting last evening which he did not mean? Can we trust anything that was said on an issue of such strategic importance, if he changes his statements so quickly,” he asked.

CPI general secretary D. Raja called the ‘flip-flop’ from the PMO as “misleading” and “irresponsible”. “We are not sure whether his statement from yesterday is correct or the clarification issued today. This is not an issue on which he can have an ambiguous stand,” he said.

The Samajwadi Party, which had supported the government unilaterally during the all-party meeting, also appeared unconvinced. “Confused by the Prime Minister's India-China LAC statement, the people are asking that if China did not enter our territory, then under what conditions our soldiers were martyred. Is the PM giving a ‘clean chit’ to China,” party president Akhilesh Yadav said.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 16, 2021 5:13:27 AM |

Next Story