In September last year, Tapir Gao, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Lok Sabha MP from Arunachal East, made a startling claim. He alleged that Chinese troops had crossed the border on the eastern front and built a wooden bridge in Arunachal Pradesh’s Anjaw district. The Indian Army issued a quick denial.
Yet, Gao went on to repeat the allegation in Parliament in November with an ominous warning. “If there were to be a Doklam-like situation in any other part of the India-China border,” he said, referring to the contested plateau near Sikkim where a two-month stand-off had taken place between the forces of the two countries in the summer of 2017, “it would be in Arunachal Pradesh.”
As Indian and Chinese forces face off yet again in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, Gao is back in the news. He has claimed that China’s People’s Liberation Army continues to patrol Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh.
On Wednesday, the Congress played Gao’s speech in a virtual press conference to hit out at the BJP government, demanding that it come clean on Gao’s allegations.
Scroll.in spoke over the phone to Gao. Edited excerpts from the interview.
What is the status of the incursions that you referred to last year?
The matter is still the same as it was. There is no change. The PLA crossing the McMahon Line is not a new thing. They are crossing in all the strategic points.
Can you be more specific about the areas you are referring to?
Asaphilla [located along the Line of Actual Control in the Upper Subansiri Division]; Andrella Valley, which is to the north of Anini in Dibang Valley; Chaglagam in Anjaw district.
But the Army has denied your allegations.
In April, the PLA picked up some local men from Asaphilla who had gone to the jungle to collect medical plants. They were released after intervention by the Indian Army. If they are not on our side, how can they be picked up?
What would you say to the Army then?
Tell them to meet Tapir Gao. I cannot lie to the nation. I have to speak the truth.
So, you stand by your claims?
After your Lok Sabha speech, did anyone in the government get in touch with you?
I have written letters to the prime minister, defence minister, external affairs minister and national security advisor.
But has anyone responded to your letters?
[External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam] Jaishankar had written a letter during the last Parliament session.
What did he say?
Whatever it may be, you should just know that he has written to me.
What do you want the government to do?
For the safety of not only Arunachal Pradesh but the whole country, there should be road construction in the border areas.
Your statements are now being used by the Congress to target the government. What do you have to say?
The failure to build roads lies with the successive Congress government starting from [Jawaharlal] Nehru to [PV] Narasimha Rao. They created a buffer zone along the Indo-China border without constructing roads. It is their mistake and now they are blaming Narendra Modi.
But what has the BJP government done in more than six years of its tenure? Also, it seems there has been no action either after your Lok Sabha speech.
The roads cannot be constructed in a year. It is 200 km-300 km of roads.