The Congress on Friday raised questions about reported Chinese constructions on the Uttarakhand border, a day after external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said the issue with China was “not about territory”.
“Our territorial integrity is being impinged upon by audacious Chinese military construction at the LAC, now in Uttrakhand!” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge tweeted.
According to reports, satellite pictures suggest that the Chinese army is setting up military villages near the Uttarakhand border, repeating a tactic adopted in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. Concrete structures around 40km from Uttarkashi were first noticed in May 2022, the reports said.
“The nation is paying a heavy price for Modi ji’s clean chit to China. China should be confronted strategically together, and not by making hollow boasts!” Kharge added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in June 2020 — four days after a clash in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh killed 20 Indian soldiers — said that no one had entered or was occupying Indian territory. This allowed China to deny any transgression and claim ownership of the entire territory it controlled in Ladakh.
On Thursday, Jaishankar avoided a yes-or-no answer to the question whether China had occupied Indian territory, saying: “Issue is not about territory; issue is of forward deployment. Both armies are standing very close to each other. And this could lead to violence the way it did in Galwan.”
While Rahul Gandhi and the Congress have persistently questioned the Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, the government has allowed no debate on the subject in Parliament. Ministers who tend to attack Rahul at the drop of a hat have avoided engaging with him on China.
The Congress has criticised Modi for his “nobody has entered” remark, accusing him of significantly weakening India’s bargaining position with China, but the Prime Minister has chosen not to respond.
On Thursday, Jaishankar chose to invoke the past to underline how China had occupied Indian territory during Jawaharlal Nehru’s time.
He also sought to attack Rahul for his comments in America about the state of Indian democracy.
“Rahul Gandhi is habitual of criticising the country and making comments on our politics whenever he goes out of the country. The world is looking at us and what are they seeing? Elections are held, sometimes one party wins and some other times the other party wins,” Jaishankar said on Thursday.
“If there is no democracy in the country, such a change should not come…. I have no objection to whatever he does inside the country but I don’t think taking national politics out of the country is in the national interest.”
Jab at Jaishankar
The Congress on Friday confronted Jaishankar not just by re-emphasising the disparaging comments Modi had made on foreign soil about India’s condition under previous governments, but by highlighting some of the atrocities and controversies that were increasingly shaping India’s global image.
“I hope Mr Jaishankar was able to block the transmission of Hathras, Lakhimpur (Kheri), farmers’ protests, wrestlers’ protests, news on Kathua, Unnao, Ankita Bhandari, Manipur, etc, across the world,” party spokesperson Pawan Khera said.
“And he is supposed to be educated. Precondition to joining the Sangh brigade - travel light, leave your brains behind.”
The Congress argues that the world doesn’t rely on Rahul to know what is happening in India in this age of global connectivity, and that international agencies have been expressing concern about the state of democracy in the country.
The party accuses the Modi government of being more interested in headline management and the suppression of unpalatable facts than in addressing real concerns.