Congress MP Rahul Gandhi attacked PM Modi over Ladakh comments (File)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today sharpened his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the violent face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh's Galwan Valley last week, pointing to satellite images of the disputed region to claim that China had "captured Indian territory near Pangong Lake".
Mr Gandhi said the photos "clearly" contradicted the Prime Minister who, during Friday's all-party meeting on the India-China tension, was quoted as saying that "neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of our post captured".
"The Prime Minister said - neither has anyone entered the country nor has anyone captured our territory. But satellite images clearly show that China has captured Indian territory near Pangong Lake," the Congress MP said in a tweet posted Sunday evening.
Pangong Lake, also in eastern Ladakh, was the site of skirmishes between Indian and Chinese troops on May 5 and 6, following which tension between the two sides escalated swiftly. Top-level military talks had appeared to defuse the situation before violence late on the night of June 15 led to 20 Indian soldiers dying for their country.
On Friday, three days after the clash, Prime Minister Modi told a virtual meeting of several opposition parties that "neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of our post captured".
The comment met with a swift retort from several Congress leaders, with Rahul Gandhi tweeting Saturday that the PM had "surrendered Indian territory to Chinese aggression".
PM has surrendered Indian territory to Chinese aggression.
If the land was Chinese:
1. Why were our soldiers killed?
2. Where were they killed? pic.twitter.com/vZFVqtu3fD
The government hit back the following day, saying "attempts are being made to give a mischievous interpretation" to the PM's comments and that the violence "arose because China was seeking to erect structures just across the LAC (Line of Actual Control) and (had) refused to desist".
The government also said that 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".
Actor-politician Kamal Haasan joined the debate today, cautioning the government against "emotionally manipulating people" and asking for "accountability" and "transparency".
Satellite images accessed by NDTV show that China's PLA (People's Liberation Army) moved over 200 trucks, four-wheel drive vehicles, bulldozers and earth-moving equipment into the Galwan region in the week leading up to Monday's violence.
Satellite images from June 9 show no Chinese vehicles near LAC in the Galwan region. A week later, there are at least 79 vehicles here, mostly trucks. This is 1.3 km from the LAC.
In addition to vehicular movement and the shifting of accommodation, the images show two key areas of concern - debris at the likely site of the clash, which took place a day before the most recent satellite images were taken and a new angle to reinforce the point made by NDTV earlier that China was looking to disturb, and perhaps even obstruct, the flow of the Galwan River.
The clash itself took place at a point called PP-14 or Patrolling Point 14 a few km from the LAC, the de-facto border between India and China.
Troops from this area likely surged to India's areas in the Galwan Valley, where hundreds of soldiers clashed at a height of 15,000 feet up in the Himalayas.