Political parties on Friday backed the government in its efforts to deal with the situation arising out of the killing of 20 Indian soldiers by Chinese forces in the Galwan Valley on June 15, but Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked if there was an intelligence failure on the build-up along the line of actual control (LAC) and sought an assurance from the government that status quo ante will be restored at LAC and China will revert to its original position.
In his closing remarks at an all-party meeting called to discuss the border stand-off with China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that neither has anyone intruded into Indian territory nor anyone taken over any post. However, he said the country is hurt and angry by what Chinese forces have done.
Before Modi's remarks, Gandhi raised several questions about the situation along the LAC. “In fact, even at this late stage, we are still in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis,” she said.
The meeting was attended by leaders of 20 political parties. Apart from Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar; Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee; Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader K Chandrasekhar Rao; Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar; Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader MK Stalin;YSR Congress Party president YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray were among those who attended the meeting.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar were also present.
While the Congress has repeatedly urged the government to be transparent about the border situation, Modi had earlier asserted that the sacrifice of Indian soldiers will not go in vain.
“It’s now crystal clear that -- the Chinese attack in Galwan was pre-planned, the Government of India was fast asleep and denied the problem and the price was paid by our martyred Jawans (soldiers),” former Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted earlier in the day.
He also tagged a report quoting minister of state for defence Shripad Naik, saying the attack was pre-planned by China and Indian forces will give a befitting reply.
“We have some specific questions, for the government. On which date did the Chinese troops intrude into our territory in Ladakh? When did the government find out about the Chinese transgressions into our territory? Was it on May 5th, as reported, or earlier?” said Sonia Gandhi at the all-party meeting.
“Does the government not receive, on a regular basis, satellite pictures of the borders of our country? Did our external intelligence agencies not report any unusual activity along the LAC? Did the military intelligence not alert the government about the intrusion and build-up of 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,” she further asked.
It was for the first time since 1975 that India suffered combat fatalities in an incident involving Chinese troops during Monday night’s seven-hour clash in Galwan Valley. Also, 10 Indian soldiers detained by the Chinese were released after intense negotiations through diplomatic and military channels. China has so far not acknowledged any casualties among its troops.
“The question is, what next? What is the way forward? The country would like an assurance that status quo ante would be restored and China will revert back to the original position on LAC,” the Congress chief said.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) reacted strongly for not being invited to the meeting.
According to a government functionary, the criteria followed for sending invites to parties was -- all recognised national parties, those with over five MPs in the Lok Sabha, leading parties from the Northeast and parties with Union cabinet ministers.
The Congress president said the all-party meeting should have come sooner and immediately after the government was reportedly informed about the Chinese intrusion on May 5, 2020 into several places in Ladakh .