Modi’s LAC comments; PMO alleges ‘mischievous interpretation’
However, dissatisfied Opposition raises many more questions
New Delhi: The government on Saturday said attempts are being made to give a “mischievous interpretation” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at an all-party meeting that no one has entered Indian territory or captured any military post while referring to the eastern Ladakh standoff.
A day after Modi’s comments triggered massive criticism, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a statement clarifying that his observations that there was no Chinese presence on our side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) pertained to the situation “as a consequence of the bravery of our armed forces, who foiled an attempt by Chinese troops to transgress into the Galwan Valley”. At the all-party meeting on Friday to discuss the situation along the India-China border, Modi said: “Na wahan koi hamari seema mein ghusa hua hai, na hi hamari koi post kisi dusre ke kabze mein hain (Neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of our post captured).”
India lost 20 of its army personnel, including a colonel, in the violent face-off on the night of June 15-16 in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, the biggest confrontation between the militaries of India and China after their 1967 clashes in Nathu La when India lost around 80 soldiers while the death toll on the Chinese side was reportedly over 300.
Following Modi’s comments, Congress accused him of surrendering Indian territory to Chinese aggression, and asked where the 20 Indian soldiers were killed if the Chinese military did not come to the Indian side of the LAC, the de-facto boundary between the two countries.
Clarifying Modi’s remarks, the PMO said “the Prime Minister paid glowing tributes to the valour and patriotism of our armed forces who repulsed the designs of the Chinese there. The prime minister’s observations that there was no Chinese presence on our side of the LAC pertained to the situation as a consequence of the bravery of our armed forces.”
“Attempts are being made in some quarters to give a mischievous interpretation to remarks by the prime minister at the all-party meeting on Friday,” it said.
It further said: “As regards the transgression of LAC, it was clearly stated that the violence in Galwan on June 15 arose because Chinese side was seeking to erect structures just across the LAC and refused to desist from such actions.”
“The sacrifices of the soldiers of the 16 Bihar Regiment foiled the attempt of the Chinese side to erect structures and also cleared the attempted transgression at this point of the LAC on that day,” the PMO said.
The PMO said what is Indian territory is clear from the map of India and the current government is strongly and resolutely committed to that.
“Insofar as there is some illegal occupation, the all-party meeting was briefed in great detail how over the last 60 years, more than 43,000 sq km has been yielded under circumstances with which this country is well aware,” it said.
“It was also made clear that this government will not allow any unilateral change of the LAC. At a time when our brave soldiers are defending our borders, it is unfortunate that an unnecessary controversy is being created to lower their morale,” the PMO said.
“The words of the prime minister ‘those who tried to transgress our land were taught a befitting lesson by our brave sons of soil’, succinctly summed up the ethos and the values of our armed forces,” it said, adding Modi assured that India’s armed forces will leave no stone unturned to protect the country’s borders.
Not satisfied with PMO’s clarification, the Congress on Saturday asked the government to immediately clarify its position on China’s claim to the entire Galwan Valley in Ladakh, saying any delay in rejecting Beijing’s stand would have “terrible consequences”.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark that no outsider was inside Indian territory in Ladakh, had practically left everyone “baffled and bewildered”.
He said even after the prime minister’s statement on Friday, China had blamed India for the clashes that left 20 Indian Army personnel dead and had reasserted its claim on the entire Galwan Valley.
“What is the government’s answer to this claim? Now that China is claiming the entire Galwan Valley, will the Government of India reject this claim,” he asked.
Demanding answers from the government, he said the BJP forgets that it is the ruling party for the last six years and is accountable for what is happening now.
“People can see through these silly defences of BJP and their attempts to evade questions and not give proper answers,” he said.
The Congress leader said if the government does not reject the Chinese claim today on Galwan Valley, “I think it would have terrible consequences”.
“Let the Government of India answer China’s claims (on Galwan) today, not wait until tomorrow so that our position is made clear,” he said.
He said the Chinese claim has been consistent with what they have been saying since the last two weeks, “it is the Indian position as articulated by the Prime Minister that has come as a total shock”.
He asked the Prime Minister to define what the “Indian territory is”.
Chidambaram said it is quite obvious that the PM’s statement contradicts the earlier statements made by the Chief of Army Staff, the Defence Minister and the Foreign Minister.
The Congress leader said if no Chinese troops had crossed the LAC and are in Indian territory, what was the “face-off” for.
“Between May 05 and June 06, what was the issue on which local Indian commanders were talking to their Chinese counterparts? What was the subject matter of the negotiations between the Corps Commanders of the two countries on June 06?” he asked, posing a series of questions to the government.
“We would also like to ask, if no Chinese troops were inside Indian territory, where did the clashes take place on June 15-16? Where were 20 Indian soldiers killed and 85 injured?” he also asked.
Chidambaram said if no Chinese troops are in Indian territory, why did Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s statement and other statements of the Ministry of External Affairs demand the “restoration of status quo ante”.
“What was the meaning of ‘status quo ante’? What was the meaning of the ‘disengagement’ that the government said was ‘underway’?
“If no Chinese troops are inside Indian territory in Ladakh, why did 20 soldiers have to make the supreme sacrifice?” he asked.
The former union minister asked what the prime minister meant when he said a few days ago that the “sacrifice of our soldiers will not go in vain”.
“What did he have in mind? Why and where did the soldiers sacrifice their lives, and how will the government ensure that the sacrifice will not be in vain?” he asked.
Chidambaram said the Congress is asking these questions while reiterating its total support to the government and India’s defence forces.
Meanwhile, reacting to the PMO’s clarification, the Congress party accused the government of making a “lame attempt to obfuscate truth” and belittling the gravity of the situation along the LAC after it issued a clarification.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala urged Modi to follow “Raj Dharma” and rise to protect India’s national security and territorial integrity.
“Is Galwan Valley not part of Indian territory? Why is government not coming forward and strongly rebutting the Chinese claim over Galwan Valley? If Chinese troops are present there, does it not amount to intrusion into and occupation of Indian territory? Also, why is the government silent on intrusions in the Pangong Tso area?” Surjewala asked in a statement.
Before the PMO clarification, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Modi of having “surrendered” Indian territory to Chinese aggression.
“PM has surrendered Indian territory to Chinese aggression. If the land was Chinese: Why were our soldiers killed? Where were they killed?” Gandhi asked on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Left parties on Saturday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the clarification issued by the PMO on his comments that no one entered Indian territory, demanding that he “make up his mind” before speaking and stop being “ambivalent” on serious issues.
“Mr Modi should first make up his mind and then speak unless his attempt was to mislead all the political parties and weaken our position in diplomatic talks. What else did the PM say in the all-party meeting last evening which he did not mean? Can we trust anything that was said on an issue of such strategic importance if he changes his statements so quickly?
“Sacrifices of our soldiers should not be reduced to vote-bank politics, Mr Modi,” tweeted CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Both the CPI(M) and the CPI said the clarification raised more questions than it answered and sought to know how such serious issues can be spoken of in such vague terms by the leader of the nation.
CPI general secretary D Raja said, “I just want to ask the PM how can he be so ambivalent on such a sensitive issue that clarification needs to be issued by his office? Yesterday, he said one thing at the all-party meeting and now issues a clarification which they claim is the correct version. It was a high-level meeting. How could he have been not clear at such a meeting? Which one should we believe? This only leads to further questioning.”