Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday warned against politicising matters of national security and said that people must not forget the Indo-China war of 1962, after which Beijing had captured about 45,000 square kilometers of Indian land, NDTV reported. Pawar added that the violent clashes of June 15 in Galwan Valley cannot be immediately labelled as a defence failure.

Troops from both the countries got into a brutal altercation on June 15 after the Indian side attempted to burn down a Chinese tent that had not been removed despite a mutual agreement between the two armies days earlier. The violent clash led to the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers and was the first fatal fight on the Line of Actual Control, the disputed border between India and China, in more than 40 years.

His statement came amid incessant criticism from his ally, the Congress, of the Centre’s handling of the border tensions along the Line of Actual Control. Party leader Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of surrendering Indian territory to the Chinese troops and concealing the truth from the public.

Responding to these allegations, Pawar reminded the Congress leader about 1962. “That land [45,000 sqkm captured after the 1962 war] is still with China,” the NCP chief said, according to The Indian Express. “I don’t know if they [China] have encroached on some area now again. But when I make an allegation, I should also see what had happened when I was there [in power]. If such big land was encroached upon then, it cannot be ignored. It is a matter of national security and it should not be politicised is what I feel.”

Pawar added that the entire episode was sensitive, but asserted that it was China who provoked the face-off in Galwan Valley. Pawar said India had been constructing a road in Galwan Valley within its side of the border for communication purposes.

“What happened was they [the Chinese troops] tried to encroach on our road and were pushed physically,” he added. “It was not somebody’s failure. If somebody comes [within your territory] while you are patrolling, they can come at any time. We cannot say it is the failure of the defence minister sitting in Delhi.”

The former defence minister said it was self explanatory that the Indian side was alert as it put up a fight against the Chinese soldiers during the violent face-off. “Had you [Indian soldiers] not been, you would not even have realised when they [Chinese troops] came and went,” he added. “Hence, I don’t think it is right to make such an allegation at this juncture.”

A controversy had erupted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week said that no outsider was inside Indian territory in Ladakh nor had any border post of the Indian Army been captured during the clashes with Chinese troops. However, a clarification issued by Modi’s office claimed that attempts were being made to give a “mischievous interpretation” to his remarks and said his comments referred to the situation at the Line of Actual Control after Indian soldiers had foiled China’s intrusion.