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Is Modi redrawing map?

PM statement leaves veterans shell-shocked
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an all-party meeting to discuss the situation along the India-China border via video conferencing in New Delhi.
(PTI)
J.P. Yadav


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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday told an all-party meeting that “na wahan koi hamari seema me ghus aaya hai aur na hi koi ghusa hua hai, na hi hamari koi post kisi dusre ke kabje me hai”.

The Hindi sentence can normally be translated as “neither has (stress added by this newspaper to highlight the word) anyone intruded into our frontier there, nor is any intruder there, nor is any of our posts occupied by someone else”.

Modi, whose recorded comments were later telecast by TV channels, mentioned neither China nor its President Xi Jinping.

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The statement triggered the question whether Modi was “redrawing the Sino-Indian map on TV” by accepting the current situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at a time reports have suggested the Chinese have intruded into Indian territory.

An hour after Modi spoke on Friday, China rubbed it in. The Chinese embassy in India uploaded an account saying foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian “pointed out that the Galwan Valley is located on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in the west section of the China-India boundary. For many years, the Chinese border troops have been patrolling and on duty in this region”.

The Galwan Valley is the massacre site and has been held by India without dispute since 1962. In fact, it is named after the 19th-century Ladakhi adventurer-explorer Ghulam Rasool Galwan. China does not have an indigenous name for the Valley or the river.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi had pointedly told Modi at the virtual meeting that “the entire country would like an assurance that status quo ante would be restored and China will revert to the original position” on the LAC. Modi’s statement came during his closing remarks at the meeting.

The word “has” is also loaded with implications. It would suggest that the Prime Minister is echoing what the Chinese have been saying and contradicting what the Indian foreign ministry has been saying.

But on Friday night, a translation of highlights uploaded by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), the publicity wing of the Centre, omitted the first part of Modi’s statement and focused on the latter half.

“Neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of our post captured: PM,” the PIB said, attributing the highlights to the Prime Minister’s Office.

As several shell-shocked military veterans and others tried to figure out what Modi meant, an interpretation was shared with The Telegraph by a former foreign secretary of India.

The former foreign secretary said on Friday night: “I think he’s basically saying that at this moment neither side can be said to be in the area that saw the action on Monday night. All quiet on the western front. The bloodshed happened, our men were martyred, we fought bravely, taught the enemy a lesson and the area now is clear.”

If Modi meant “neither has anyone intruded into our frontier there”, it would be in line with the Chinese claim that they did not intrude into India.

On Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had tweeted: “Indian front-line troops broke the consensus and crossed the Line of Actual Control, deliberately provoking and attacking Chinese officers and soldiers, thus triggering fierce physical conflicts and causing casualties.”

This, in spite of the Indian foreign ministry declaring on record on June 16 after the casualties became public that “India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the LAC”.

In his speech on Friday, Modi said: “Twenty of our jawans were martyred but not before they taught a lesson to those who had dared to raise an eye towards Bharat Mata.”

“I want to assure you that our forces will spare no effort to protect our nation. Today we have the capability that no one can look at even an inch of our territory,” Modi added.

He said the infrastructure in the border areas had improved vastly under him, leading to heightened patrolling and close monitoring of movements at the border.

The armed forces have been given a free hand to take all necessary steps, Modi said.

The following tweets by military veterans capture the sense of shock and disbelief that greeted the Prime Minister’s speech. The tweets also suggest that most people heard the “has” even though the PMO highlighted the present tense.

Colonel (retd) Ajai Shukla: Did I see prime minister @narendramodi redrawing the Sino-Indian border on TV today? Modi said nobody entered Indian territory. Has he conceded to China the Galwan River valley and Fingers 4-8 in Pangong Tso -- both on our side of the LAC -- and where Chinese troops now sit.

If, as @narendramodi said today, nobody entered Indian territory, what is all the fuss about? Why the military-to-military dialogue, why the diplomatic talks, why the military disengagement, why the deaths of 20 soldiers?

20 Indian soldiers gave up their lives while evicting Chinese intruders from Indian territory. But Modi says nobody entered Indian territory. Then where did these soldiers die? Is Modi saying – like China is saying – that they crossed into China?

Lt Gen (retd) Prakash Menon: Modi has capitulated and said that kuch hua hi nahi (nothing has happened in terms of territorial loss)! OMG. Is there a case for his trial for treason because he just reiterated China’s stand? What is the legal/ constitutional position. Help!”

Major Gen (retd) Sandy Thapar: So there is no intrusion and no Indian posts lost! So our boys went into Chinese land to ‘evict’ them? Exactly what the PLA is saying! It has taken just 48 hrs for India to whitewash the sacrifice of the magnificent 20 braves of 16 BIHAR. Shame!

Major (retd) Birender Dhanoa: Are we allowed to ask maarte maarte kahan mare?

Major (retd) D.P. Singh: Heard @PMOIndia No one can reduce my or any soldier’s morale but I thought he will raise it more. I was wrong.

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