Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday again hit out at the central government for not being clear about the India-China border tensions and asked the prime minister why he was “scared”.
“Understand the chronology,” he said in a tweet, in an apparent dig at Home Minister Amit Shah who had used the phrase last year while talking about the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act. “PM [prime minister] said no one crossed the border. Then, took a huge loan from a China-based bank.”
Gandhi added: “Then, defence minister said China occupied our land Now, MOS Home [Minister of State for Home] says there’s no infiltration. Is Modi Govt [government] with the Indian Army or with China? Modi ji, why so scared?”
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Parliament that there had been no Chinese infiltration into India in the last six months. The government’s response came even as both India and China are trying to resolve the border stand-off along the Line of Actual Control, which began in May, but neither side has backed down.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on the other hand, had told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that China had mobilised a large number of troops and armaments along the LAC as well as in the “depth areas”.
The Congress has in the past too criticised the Centre for conflicting statements on China. At an all party meeting on June 19 after the Galwan valley clash in June, the prime minister had claimed that Chinese troops neither entered India’s territory along the LAC nor overtook Indian posts taken during the face-off.
After the Congress and other Opposition parties’ criticism of Modi’s claim, his office had issued a clarification saying that India would respond firmly to any attempts by China to transgress the LAC. It had also accused the Opposition of misinterpreting the comment.
Gandhi’s “loan from a China-based bank” reference was to a report that the Centre borrowed $750 million [Rs 5,514 crore approximately] from Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank amid its fight against the coronavirus crisis in June.
The Congress leader and his party colleagues have consistently criticised the Centre’s strategy to handle the coronavirus situation, Chinese intrusion and the Facebook hate speech row.
On Tuesday, he had accused 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 had asked on Twitter. “Don’t be afraid of taking China’s name.”
Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months. But these talks have failed to resolve the impasse. Tensions between India and China have flared up after the June 15 clash in Galwan Valley, when 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed.
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.
China had on September 7 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 by troops on the border in more than four decades.
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”.