The all-party meeting Friday to discuss the border face-off with China saw a combative Congress president Sonia Gandhi raise several tough questions and accuse the government of having lost “valuable time” and failing to use all “avenues” to defuse the crisis.
But she stood virtually isolated as most other Opposition leaders — from Maharashtra CM and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to West Bengal CM and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and DMK’s M K Stalin — sought to express solidarity with the government in dealing with the crisis. The Left was also relatively muted in its criticism.
Gandhi, while extending support to the defence forces, said the nation would have stood together “like a rock” and supported the government in steps required to defend the territorial integrity of the country but “we are still in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis”.
“On which date did Chinese troops intrude into our territory in Ladakh? When did the government find out about Chinese transgressions into our territory? 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?” she asked.
“Did our external intelligence agencies not report any unusual activity along the LAC? Did 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?” Gandhi asked.
Even after the June 6 meeting at the level of Corps Commanders, “efforts should have been made to talk directly, at the political and diplomatic levels, to the leadership of China,” she said. “We failed to use all avenues, and the result is the loss of 20 lives as well as dozens injured.”
However, most other parties expressed confidence in the way the situation was handled, sources said.
While Gandhi said the all-party move came late, Mamata Banerjee said the meeting sent a good message, as it showed the country was united behind its soldiers. She said her party will not say anything that gave a wrong message, and called for Chinese firms to be barred from the telecom, rail and aviation sectors.
“India will win, China will lose. Speak with unity. Think with unity. Work with unity. We are solidly with the government,” sources quoted Banerjee as saying.
NCP leader and former Defence Minister Sharad Pawar favoured intensification of diplomatic talks. He said Chinese forces “must be evacuated from occupying high ground in Galwan Valley on the Indian side” and added that “if we want PLA to evacuate…compulsory measures are required”.
Pawar, incidentally, is also learnt to have said that issues such as whether soldiers carried arms were decided by international agreements, and everyone should respect such sensitive matters. On Thursday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had targeted the government, asking who was responsible for sending “unarmed” soldiers to the border.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, sources said, was critical of the Congress for attacking the government at such a juncture. BSP chief Mayawati asked the government to take steps on trade and investment to counter China, adding that this was not the time for politics.
Thackeray said India wants peace but that doesn’t mean the country is weak. “India is majboot (strong) not majboor (helpless),” sources quoted him as saying. And BJD’s Pinaki Misra said his party stands with the government fully and unconditionally, and sought strong retaliatory action.
While pointing out that there are many questions on lapses and intelligence failures, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury is learnt to have asked whether a committee, on the lines of one set up after the Kargil war, would be instituted to “examine lapses and suggest measures to modernise the Armed forces”.
CPI’s D Raja said there cannot be any compromise on the sovereignty or the territorial integrity of the country. He said the status quo of April must be respected and restored, and that negotiations at a higher level must take place.
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