The Congress and other Opposition parties such as the Left will give notices in Rajya Sabha for bringing breach of privilege motions against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for “misleading Parliament”. Leaders alleged Sushma misled Parliament twice during her reply to a discussion on India’s foreign policy and engagement with strategic partners Thursday. Deputy leader of the Congress Anand Sharma accused her of having not mentioned the name of Jawaharlal Nehru during the Bandung Conference in 2015 held to mark the 60th anniversary of the historic Asian-African meet.
Sushma said she had not even addressed the Bandung conference, and the event where she spoke was an Asian-African meet in another city. “These were two different conferences,” she insisted while Opposition members backed Sharma’s charge. The Opposition claims she “deliberately lied” to the House. “The 2015 Bandung conference was the Asia-Africa conference. She was saying it was not Bandung… She had spoken on both days. There were two speeches by her. One was the 10th anniversary of New Asian-African Strategic Partnership and the second day was the Bandung anniversary. Both days she did not refer to Nehru,” a senior Opposition leader told The Indian Express.
The second notice, sources said, would be on her comment that PM Narendra Modi’s 2015 visit to Lahore to meet his then counterpart Nawaz Sharif was not planned. Opposition leaders said the ground for the visit was prepared earlier. They are questioning her statement that ties between India and Pakistan nosedived after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016 and Sharif’s statement glorifying him. Opposition leaders said the attack on Pathankot came just a week after the Modi-Sharif meeting in Lahore. “Wani was killed much later,” a senior leader said.
Before Sushma’s reply, the Opposition had slammed the Centre for “mishandling” India’s foreign policy. Anand Sharma said in the standoff with China, the neighbouring country is being “unusually aggressive” and the “doors of diplomacy seem to be closing”. “De-escalation does not mean retreat. It is safeguarding India’s interest,” he said.
He said Modi has “not uttered a word” on what he discussed with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Astana and Hamburg. “It is his duty to tell us. He cannot remain silent on matters of India’s sensitive interests,” he said. He noted that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval visited China recently and wondered whether after that “a window has opened that this stand-off would be resolved.” Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), whose party had backed the UPA in 2008 on the Indo-US nuclear deal, said Russia should have been taken into confidence when the deal was signed.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said there were serious ruptures in India’s foreign policy that used to be independent. “Good neighbourhood relationship is the bedrock of foreign affairs,” he said, questioning the government on its Palestine policy.
Demanding to know whether it is an independent policy now or aligned, he said instead of multi-polarity, India has joined the unipolarity with the US. India has been reduced to a junior strategic ally of the US, he said. Targeting the PM, Yechury said real strength comes from friendship and not displayed by foreign tours or embraces or jumle. Manish Gupta (Trinamool) said India has not learnt lessons from the 1962 China aggression. Others who participated included A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK) and Dilip Kumar Tirkey (BJD).
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