Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of deliberately misleading the country about the extent of Chinese encroachment of Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh. “When will you take our land back?” Gandhi asked on Twitter. “Don’t be afraid of taking China’s name.”
Gandhi’s latest jibe at the government and the prime minister came after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh offered a statement in Parliament on the ongoing military standoff between India and China in Ladakh. Singh noted that China does not accept the “customary and traditional alignment” of the border and had attempted to transgress it. He stated those attempted transgressions “included Kongka La, Gogra and North Bank of Pangong Lake”.
In a tweet in Hindi, Gandhi said Singh’s statement was a testament to the extent of Chinese intrusion. “It is clear from the Defence Minister’s statement that Modi ji has misled the country on China’s encroachment,” the Congress leader tweeted. “Our country has always rallied behind the Indian Army and it will do so in the future. But Modi ji, when will you stand up to China? When will you take our land back? Don’t be afraid of taking China’s name.”
Gandhi was referring to Modi’s visit to Leh, Ladakh in July, during which he told the Army troops that India’s enemies have seen how they fought with “fire and fury”. The prime minister, however, did not make any direct references to China.
The Congress leader’s statement was also in response to Modi’s claim 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 in Galwan Valley in June. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed and 76 injured in a violent clash. The incident marked a massive escalation of border tensions between the two nations, which have been rising since then.
India-China border conflict
Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months. But these talks have failed to break the impasse.
On September 10, India’s Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The two ministers agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh was “not in the interest of either side”. They agreed, therefore, that the border troops of both sides should “continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”.
On September 7, China accused India of “outrageously firing warning shots” in a new confrontation on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake, describing it as as “a serious military provocation”. India denied this and said Chinese troops attempted to close in on Indian forward positions along the Line of Actual Control and “fired a few rounds in the air”. This was the first confirmed use of firearms on the Line of Actual Control by troops in more than four decades.
On September 1, the Ministry of External Affairs had said that Chinese troops engaged in “provocative action” on August 31, while discussions between ground commanders were underway. This followed by earlier moves on the intervening night of August 29 and 30, which, the Indian Army said, were “provocative” military movements to change the status quo.