Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday again criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his silence on the subject of Chinese intrusion into the Indian territory, as reports emerged of a face-off between the troops of the two countries in Sikkim.
“China is expanding its occupation into Indian territory,” Gandhi said in a tweet. “Mr 56 [inch-chest] hasn’t said the word ‘China’ for months. Maybe he can start by saying the word China.”
The Congress leader also tweeted a video of his address to businessmen in Tamil Nadu, in which he blamed Modi for weakening the country. “India’s strength is a strong economy, employed youth and social harmony,” Gandhi said. “Had Mr Modi protected our farmers-labourers-workers instead of hollowing out India by helping his crony capitalist friends, China wouldn’t have had the guts to take our land.”
Earlier in the day, the Army confirmed that there had been a “minor face-off” between Indian and and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control near Naku La in Sikkim last week. Naku La is known to be sensitive area, connecting Sikkim to the Tibet region in China.
The reports came after Indian and Chinese military commanders held the ninth round of talks on Sunday to address the ongoing border standoff in eastern Ladakh. The meeting continued for almost 15 hours.
Relations between India and China have hit a multi-decade low since clashes in eastern Ladakh in June that killed 20 Indian soldiers. China is also believed to have suffered casualties, but has not given any details.
Both India and China have accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time in 45 years. The Opposition has consistently criticised the Centre for its inadequate response to Chinese aggression.
On Arnab Goswami’s WhatsApp chats
Gandhi, who is campaigning in election-bound Tamil Nadu, also brought up the purported WhatsApp chats of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, PTI reported. He accused Modi of leaking information about the Balakot air strike to him.
The Congress leader said that only Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and the then Air Force chief BS Dhanoa knew about the strike. “Now I want to understand why an enquiry has not started on who told this journalist about Balakot before it happened,” Gandhi said. “The reason is that one of these five people told this man. One of these five people betrayed our Air Force.”
Gandhi asked why the prime minister had not ordered an investigation into the matter. “If the prime minister did not do it [leak the information], then why is he not ordering an enquiry,” he asked. “Think about it. The only reason that the prime minister has not ordered an enquiry is because he is the person through which that message has gone to this journalist.”
Last week, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had also said that the Centre’s silence on the purported WhatsApp chats was deafening.
The WhatsApp chats in question are part of the supplementary chargesheet that the Mumbai Police filed in the Television Rating Points scam case. It revealed that three days before the Balakot strike, Goswami had told Partho Dasgupta, the former chief executive officer of Broadcast Audience Research Council, that it would be “bigger than a normal strike”.
Details from those transcripts – which have not so far been denied by Goswami – also exposed how Goswami and Dasgupta had extensively discussed ways to rig Republic TV’s ratings. The messages also show close proximity and coordination between Goswami’s TV channel and BJP leaders including ministers. These include someone named “AS”, as also the “PMO”, presumably the Prime Minister’s Office.
On February 26, 2019, the Indian Air Force carried out a strike targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp in the Pakistani town of Balakot. It was billed as India’s response to an attack on February 14, 2019, in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed after an explosive-laden car driven by a suicide bomber rammed into their bus.