Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday asked the Centre whether there had been an intelligence failure on the government’s part related to the reported build-up of Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, the Hindustan Times reported.
Speaking at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s all-party meeting on the border situation with China, Gandhi accused the government of keeping the Opposition “in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis”.
Tensions have surged between India and China after a violent face-off between troops of the two countries in Ladakh along the LAC on June 15. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the confrontation and 76 others were injured. There were reportedly casualties on the Chinese side too, but the country is yet to give an official count for it.
Gandhi said the meeting convened by the prime minister “should have come sooner” and immediately after the government was reportedly informed about the Chinese intrusion in several parts of Ladakh and elsewhere as early as on May 5, NDTV reported.
“As always, the entire nation would have stood together like a rock and fully supported the government of the day in the steps required to defend the territorial integrity of the country,” she said. “Alas, that was not to be. In fact, even at this late stage, we are still in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis.”
However, the Congress president closed her statement with the assertion that her party and the entire Opposition “unitedly stands by our defence forces”, and added that the entire country would like an assurance that status quo will be restored along the LAC.
Other leaders such as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Maharashtra counterpart Uddhav Thackeray also expressed solidarity with the government in its response to Beijing.
Banerjee said the all-party meeting sent across a good message to the nation and showed that “we are united behind our jawans”. “Don’t let China enter telecom [industry], Railway and aviation,” she said, according to NDTV. “We will face some problem but we won’t allow the Chinese to enter.”
Thackeray also set aside his differences with the Bharatiya Janata Party, his former ally, and appreciated Modi’s call for a meeting with Opposition leaders. “We are all one,” he said. “We are with you, prime minister... India is Majboot [strong], not Majboor [helpless]. Our government has the ability to gouge out and hand them their eyes.”
Several media reports suggested the encounter between the Chinese and Indian armies in Galwan Valley did not involve any exchange of gunfire. Instead, the face-off was “violent hand-to-hand scuffles” in which Chinese troops hit Indian soldiers with rods and clubs. However, on Thursday, Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar denied Indian soldiers were unarmed during the clashes, saying the troops were armed but followed protocol not to use firearms.
At the meeting, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar supported the government’s claim on the matter NCP and said that whether the soldiers carry arms or not in such situations, is decided by international agreements. “We need to respect such sensitive matters,” Pawar said.
His remarks also come a day after his ally, the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi wondered why Indian soldiers in Ladakh were sent “unarmed to martyrdom” against China.
Meanwhile, Modi asserted that Chinese troops did not enter India’s territory along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, and nor were any Indian posts taken over during the face-off. “Twenty jawans did die, but they taught a lesson to those who had their eyes on India,” he told the political leaders.