Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the India-China border standoff.
“The jawans of the country are fighting PLA [People’s Liberation Army] soldiers in extreme weather conditions from normal tents,” Gandhi said. “They are unafraid. But the Prime Minister of the country flies around in an aeroplane that costs Rs 8,400 crore and he is scared to even take the name of China. Who got achche din [good days]?” Achche din is a slogan of the Narendra Modi government, promising better days of governance.
Gandhi tagged a report, published in The Hindu on Friday, that cited former Bharatiya Janata Party MP Thupstan Chhewang saying he had received inputs from locals, residing in forward areas along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, that Indian troops were living in inadequate tents in sub-zero temperatures. The report also claimed that Chinese soldiers had made inroads into Indian territory and occupied spots in Finger 2 and 3 of the north bank of the Pangong Tso lake.
A day later, the Press Information Bureau refuted the claims. “The Hindu citing a claim, has published that Chinese troops have further transgressed into Indian territory and occupied positions in Finger 2 and 3 of the north bank of Pangong Tso Lake,” it tweeted. “#PIBFactCheck: It is a #Fake news. Additional Directorate General of Public Information of the Indian Army has refuted this statement.”
The Congress leader also referred to a specifically modified Boeing 777 aircraft, which will be used to fly the prime minister, president and the vice president. The aircraft landed in New Delhi on October 2 after its retrofitment in the United States for more than two years.
Another custom-made aircraft for the travel of VVIPs is likely to be delivered by October-end. Officials said the total cost of purchase and retrofitting the two planes has been estimated to be around Rs 8,400 crore.
On October 10, Gandhi had targeted the Narendra Modi government over the purchase of the planes. Gandhi had then shared a two-minute video of a group of Indian soldiers in a moving vehicle, discussing how sending personnel in a non-bulletproof convoy was a dangerous prospect. “Even bulletproof vehicles cannot guarantee the safety of our lives, and here we are, sitting in a non-bulletproof truck,” the soldiers were heard saying. They also spoke about how the authorities were “playing with their lives” and that of their families.
The border standoff
Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15. However, these talks have failed to break the impasse.
Earlier this month, Beijing had said that it did not recognise Indian sovereignty over Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, claiming that India had illegally occupied Ladakh. In response, the Ministry of External Affairs said China has no locus standi to comment on the matter. The ministry said Ladakh as well as Arunachal Pradesh are integral parts of India and this has been conveyed to the Chinese side on many occasions.
On September 10, External Affairs Minister 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”.