Wading into the political row over the death of 20 soldiers in violent clashes with Chinese PLA troops near the LAC in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be “mindful” of “implications” his remarks will have on the “nation’s security”, as also its “strategic and territorial interests”.
Referring to Modi’s remark at an all-party meet on Friday – that neither has anyone intruded into Indian territory nor has anyone captured any military post – Singh reminded him that “disinformation is no substitute for diplomacy or decisive leadership.” He said the Prime Minister cannot allow China to “use his words as a vindication of their position”.
The ruling BJP hit back, with party president J P Nadda calling Singh’s statement “mere wordplay”. He said the conduct and actions of top leaders of the Congress will not make anybody believe such statements and argued that the Congress has always questioned and demoralised the armed forces.
Nadda also said Singh should have worried about Chinese designs “when, as PM, he abjectly surrendered hundreds of square kilometres of India’s land to China”.
Singh’s hard-hitting statement has set the tone for the Congress Working Committee meeting, convened on Tuesday to discuss the Chinese transgression and the government’s handling of the crisis, as also the economic and social fallout of the nationwide lockdown. Asserting that China is brazenly and illegally seeking to claim parts of Indian territory such as Galwan Valley and the Pangong Tso Lake by committing multiple incursions, Singh said, “We cannot and will not be cowed down by threats and intimidation, nor permit a compromise with our territorial integrity.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, “cannot allow them (China) to use his words as a vindication of their position, and (he) must ensure that all organs of the government work together to tackle this crisis and prevent it from escalating further. This is a moment where we must stand together as a nation and be united in our response to this brazen threat.”
He argued that “the truth cannot be suppressed by having pliant allies spout comforting but false statements.”
While he did not elaborate, Singh’s mention of “pliant allies” were likely aimed at statements made by the chief ministers of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Meghalaya in support of the government after Modi’s remarks.
Referring to the soldiers killed, Singh said their sacrifice cannot be allowed to be in vain and asked Modi to “rise to the occasion, to ensure justice for Col B Santosh Babu and our jawans who have made the ultimate sacrifice and resolutely defended our territorial integrity”. To do any less, he said, would be a “historic betrayal of the people’s faith”.
The former PM said: “At this moment, we stand at historic cross-roads. Our government’s decisions and actions will have serious bearings on how the future generations perceive us. Those who lead us bear the weight of a solemn duty. And in our democracy that responsibility rests with the office of the Prime Minister.”
He said, “The Prime Minister must always be mindful of the implications of his words and declarations on our nation’s security, as also strategic and territorial interests.”
Nadda maintained that Singh can “certainly share his wisdom on many subjects but the responsibilities of the office of the Prime Minister isn’t one of them”, as the “UPA (had) personified systematic institutional erosion of that office, combined with disrespect for our armed forces”. The BJP chief asserted that the NDA, under Modi, has reversed that.
Referring to senior Congress Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of Modi, Nadda said Manmohan Singh’s calls for unity fall flat “when we see exactly who is vitiating the atmosphere of unity”. He hoped that Singh is “able to prevail upon his own party at least”.
Nadda said: “He presided over 600 incursions made by China between 2010 to 2013. Dr Manmohan Singh belongs to the same party which helplessly surrendered over 43,000 km of Indian territory to the Chinese. The UPA years saw abject strategic and territorial surrender without a fight. (This) time and again belittles our forces.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines