LAC Clash: All Party Meet

There has been no intrusion into our borders by the Chinese troops, nor have they occupied any of our forward posts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in response to questions raised by the Opposition on the deadly clash in Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives.

PM Modi, while addressing an all party meeting convened to discuss the tense border situation with China, maintained that ‘not an inch of land has been occupied by anyone.’ Instead, he attributed the incident to robust patrolling of the Line of Actual Control during which ‘our jawans constantly stop them at every point.’ Even as the four-hour long marathon virtual meet largely saw the Opposition parties rally behind the prime minister and his handling of the situation in eastern Ladakh, Modi chose to respond to the allegations raised by the Congress party, particularly its former chief Rahul Gandhi over the government’s lapses.

“Though 20 of our bravehearts lost their lives, those who tried to look into our eyes have been taught a befitting lesson. China’s actions at the LAC has hurt and agitated the entire country…our defence forces are leaving no stone unturned to protect the country. Be it our deployment, action, counter-action, our air force, navy and army are doing what needs to be done. Today, our capability is such that no one can eye an inch of our land. Our forces in every sector are equipped to move together,” Modi told political party chiefs, who attended the meet.

“Our capacity for patrolling has gone up especially along the LAC because of which we get regular updates of the movements even in areas that could not be tracked earlier. Our jawans are able to track and respond now. So far, no one stopped them (Chinese). Our jawans now stop them at every point. Unhe rokte hain,tokte hain.”

Modi reiterated the defence minister’s earlier statement that the armed forces have been given full freedom to take due action at the border. “Apart from that, through diplomatic channels also we have made it clear to China that India wants peace and friendship but our priority remains to protect our sovereignty,” Modi added.

He claimed that in the last five years his government has prioritised ramping up defence infrastructure and has invested heavily in fighter planes, modern helicopters, missile systems and other equipment. “The nation’s best interest is our priority. Be it in trade, connectivity, counter-terrorism, India has never accepted external influence. Whatever is needed for nation-building will continue at a fast pace. I want to reassure all of you that our forces are fully capable to secure our borders,” Modi added in a bid to allay apprehensions over the economic implications of the tension with China.

At the beginning of the meet that was attended by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, presentations explaining the ground situation at Galwan Valley and the diplomatic and military engagements with China were shared with the Opposition leaders through presentations.

The opening speaker from the Opposition, Congress president Sonia Gandhi was the sole leader to raise questions on the ‘delay and laxities’ in the government’s response to the ongoing tension in eastern Ladakh since May. Gandhi said that the all-party meet ‘should have come sooner and immediately after the government had been reportedly informed about the Chinese intrusion on May 5.’ “As always, the entire nation would have stood together like a rock and fully supported the government of the day in the steps required to defend the territorial integrity of the country. Alas, that was not to be. In fact, even at this late stage, we are still in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis,” Gandhi hit out at the Centre.

She sought answers to a range of questions such as ‘on which date did the Chinese troops intrude into our territory in Ladakh? When did the government find out about the Chinese transgressions? Was it on May 5, as reported, or earlier? Does the government not receive, on a regular basis, satellite pictures of the borders of our country? Did our external intelligence agencies not report any unusual activity along the LAC? Did the Military Intelligence not alert the government about the intrusion and the build-up of massive forces along the LAC, whether on the Chinese side or on the Indian side? In the government’s considered view, was there a failure of intelligence?’ She asked the government to share the sequence of events beginning April this year till date on what panned out at the LAC.

Most other leaders including NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackarey, DMK leader MK Stalin, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K Chandrashekar Rao, Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar, Biju Janata Dal head Naveen Patnaik and even Modi-baiter Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee expressed solidarity with the Modi government and backed the PM’s decisions on the ongoing tension with China.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Thackeray said that it was ‘China’s nature to betray’ but ‘India is mazboot (strong), not majboor (helpless).’ In what seemed to be a jibe at Rahul Gandhi’s questions to the government whether Indian soldiers were armed or not during the clash, NCP chief Sharad Pawar commented that such protocols are decided by international agreements and that ‘we should respect such sensitive matters.’ Several prominent parties such as the Aam Aadmi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, AIMIM were not invited to join the virtual meet drawing sharp reactions from their leaders. They were informally informed that parties with more than five MPs were being extended an invite to which the RJD countered that it did have as many MPs in the Upper House.

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