Updated: August 7, 2020 7:48:44 am
A Defence Ministry document that contained an admission, for the first time, that China had “transgressed” into Indian territory in eastern Ladakh disappeared from the Ministry’s website on Thursday afternoon, a day after it was uploaded. The document, which listed “major activities of Department of Defence” for June, warned of a “prolonged” standoff — which is already in its fourth month — between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). In its previous report, for the months of April and May, the Ministry had not mentioned the Chinese transgression.
Based on what the document said, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “lying” — and, after the document was no longer available, mocked the government for “removing documents from websites”. In his concluding remarks at an all-party meeting called by the government on June 19, the Prime Minister had said that no one had entered Indian territory.
When contacted on Thursday, the Defence Ministry spokesperson declined to comment on why the document had been pulled from the Ministry’s website. The document, the Defence Ministry’s latest monthly activity report, said under the heading “Chinese aggression on LAC” that “the situation in Eastern Ladakh arising from unilateral aggression by China continues to be sensitive and requiring close monitoring and prompt action based on evolving situation”.
“Chinese aggression”, it said, “has been increasing along the LAC and more particularly in Galwan Valley since 5th May, 2020. The Chinese side transgressed in the areas of Kugrang Nala, Gogra and north bank of Pangong Tso lake on 17-18 May, 2020”.
The document said “ground level interactions” were held between the two militaries to “defuse the situation”, and mentioned the Corps Commander-level meetings of June 6 and June 22. “However, a violent faceoff incident took place between the two sides on 15th June, 2020, resulting in casualties of both sides,” it said.
“While engagement and dialogue at military and diplomatic level is continuing to arrive at mutually acceptable consensus, the present standoff is likely to be prolonged.”
In his June 19 statement to leaders of major political parties, the Prime Minister had said: “Na wahaan koi hamari seema mein ghus aaya hai, na hi koi ghusa hua hai, na hi hamaari koi post kisi doosre ke kabze mein hai.”
After opposition parties asked why there was a conflict with China if there had been no intrusions, the Prime Minister’s Office had decried the alleged efforts to give a “mischievous interpretation” to Modi’s remarks. In a statement issued the following day, the PMO had said that the June 15 clash in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives had occurred because China was trying to erect structures “just across the LAC”.
“The APM (all-party meeting) was also informed that this time, Chinese forces have come in much larger strength to the LAC and that the Indian response is commensurate. As regards transgression of LAC, it was clearly stated that the violence in Galwan on 15 June arose because Chinese side was seeking to erect structures just across the LAC and refused to desist from such actions,” the statement said.
On Thursday morning, Rahul Gandhi asked on Twitter, “Why is the PM lying?” A few hours later, he posted: “Forget standing up to China, India’s PM lacks the courage even to name them. Denying China is in our territory and removing documents from websites won’t change the facts.”
At a press conference, Congress leader Ajay Maken said it was “surprising” that the Defence Ministry had pulled the document. “Are they trying to save the Prime Minister? We want to know from the government what is the truth. Is the Defence Ministry telling the truth or is the Prime Minister telling the truth? Earlier also, we saw the government speaking in different voices,” he said.
“The winters are approaching. What is the level of preparation of our forces? What is the plan of action and the strategy of the government? The country wants to know… how deep have the Chinese come in, have they occupied our territory, there should be transparency…,” Maken said.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Prime Minister had “categorically misled the nation” on June 19. “The Ministry of Defence puts out a document which then disappears! Whatever the PM and his government are trying to hide is very serious and the government must clearly tell the truth,” Yechury posted on Twitter.
Manoj Kumar Jha of the RJD asked, “What does one make out of the Prime Minister’s ‘no intrusion’ statement at the June 19 all-party meeting?”
Indian and Chinese Corps Commanders have met five times so far. The two sides had completely disengaged from Patrolling Point 14 (PP14) in Galwan Valley and PP15 in the Hot Springs area before July 14.
However, at PP17A in Gogra sector, the two armies are within a kilometre of each other. On the north bank of Pangong Tso, the Chinese continue to occupy the Finger 4 ridgeline. Finger 4 is 8 km to the west of Finger 8, through which India says the LAC passes.
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