“Then why have we never called the Chinese Ambassador and issued a démarche as we do with the Pakistan High Commissioner? Why is our trade dependence on China at a record high with imports at $95 billion in 2021-22 and the trade deficit at $74 billion? Why did our troops conduct military exercises with Chinese troops at Russia’s Vostok-22 exercise in September 2022?” Jairam Ramesh asked.
A day after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar pulled up Rahul Gandhi for using the word “pitai” to describe the clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers at the border, the Congress has retaliated with a slew of questions on the central government’s handling of skirmishes at the LAC.
Hitting out at Jaishankar, Jairam Ramesh, Congress General Secretary (Communications) in a statement said, “We agree with the External Affairs Minister (EAM) said that our jawans should be “respected, honoured and appreciated” as they stand strong against our adversaries. Was it this respect that led PM Modi to say ‘Neither has anyone entered our border nor has anyone penetrated’ after 20 of our soldiers gave up their lives defending our borders on 19 June 2020? ”
Ramesh was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments after the deadly clashes at the LAC.
Jaishankar on Monday in Lok Sabha took strong exception to the word “pitai” (thrashing) used for Indian soldiers by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi last week while addressing a press conference in Rahasthan’s Jaipur.
Jairam today said that the External Affairs Minister conceded to the fact that relations with China were “not normal”. “Then why have we never called the Chinese Ambassador and issued a démarche as we do with the Pakistan High Commissioner? Why is our trade dependence on China at a record high with imports at $95 billion in 2021-22 and the trade deficit at $74 billion? Why did our troops conduct military exercises with Chinese troops at Russia’s Vostok-22 exercise in September 2022?” Ramesh asked.
Targeting the government further, Ramesh, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP said, “The EAM says that we will not let China change the status of the LAC unilaterally. Has the status quo not been altered by Chinese troops 18 km deep in Depsang for the last two years?,” he asked.
“Is it not altered by the fact that our troops are unable to access 1,000 sq km of territory in eastern Ladakh that they earlier patrolled? Is it not altered by the fact that we have agreed to buffer zones that prevent our patrols from going to areas they previously could go to? When will the EAM unequivocally declare that restoration of the pre-2020 status quo is our objective?” he said, firing salvos at the government.
Slamming the government, the Congress leader also said that the EAM said “we are pressuring China”. “Why then do we have a purely reactive stance? Why did we withdraw from our advantageous position in the Kailash range without ensuring a full restoration of the pre-2020 status quo? Why have we not been more aggressive and made counter-intrusions to compel the Chinese to withdraw as we did in 1986 and 2013? When will we stop legitimising Chinese aggression by referring to “differences in perception” rather than asserting our claim?” Ramesh asked.
The Opposition has been up in arms against the Centre for refusing to allow a detailed discussion on the matter. Both Houses of Parliament have seen frequent disruptions since December 12, the day the news of the clashes on December 9 first appeared.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh, in a statement in Lok Sabha, said that soldiers of both sides received minor injuries. “No Indian soldier died or was seriously injured. We were successful in chasing the Chinese soldiers back,” he had said.
Addressing the Lok Sabha after the Opposition staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha over Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar’s refusal to allow a discussion on the border issue, Jaishankar said that the word “pitai” should not be used for the country’s soldiers.