Chidambaram poses 5 questions to govt on ongoing LAC dispute
The former finance minister’s questions came during a discussion on an appropriation bill in the Rajya Sabha linked to the government seeking ₹500 crore for defence capital expenditure for strategic roads in the country’s Northeast
NEW DELHI With the government so far not yielding to the Opposition’s demand for a discussion on the India-China border issue on the back of the December 9 Yangtse clash in Arunachal Pradesh, Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday posed five questions on the ongoing border tensions that have hit the bilateral relationship.
The former finance minister’s questions came during a discussion on an appropriation bill in the Rajya Sabha linked to the government seeking ₹500 crore for defence capital expenditure for strategic roads in the country’s Northeast. Roads form a key part of the government’s infrastructure push in forward areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Congress MP’s first question was if the India-China border issue was raised during the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Bali in November.
“I just want to know if the border situation was discussed (between Modi and Xi). I am entitled to ask this question as you are asking ₹500 crore for the border,” Chidambaram said. Referring to a short video clip of the meeting, he said he only wanted to know if the border issue was discussed, and not the details of the meeting.
Border tensions with China returned to focus after Chinese troops attempted to transgress LAC at Yangtse in Tawang sector, and change the status quo along the contested border, but they were pushed back by Indian soldiers.
The Congress targeted the government earlier too after the Modi and Xi shook hands and spoke briefly at a formal dinner for G20 leaders in Bali, their first meeting after the Ladakh border standoff erupted in May 2020. Sharing the video clip on Twitter on November 15, the Congress mentioned the names of 20 Indian Army soldiers who were killed in the violent clash with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June 2020.
Indian troops demonstrated exceptional courage and determination during the June 2020 Galwan clash in eastern Ladakh too. The 20 soldiers were killed in the seven-hour deadly conflict near Patrol Point 14 in Galwan Valley, where outnumbered Indian troops fought off numerically superior rivals and inflicted heavy casualties on PLA.
Chidambaram’s second question was on Hot Springs in eastern Ladakh.
He asked the government if China had conceded anything on Hot Springs, which was one of the friction areas along LAC in the Ladakh sector. Indian and Chinese soldiers had in September disengaged from Patrol Point-15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area, with the breakthrough coming after the 16th round of military talks between the two armies in July.
Despite four rounds of disengagement from Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Gogra (PP-17A) and Hot Springs (PP-15), the Indian and Chinese armies still have more than 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the sector. Problems at Depsang in Daulet Beg Oldi sector and Charding Nullah Junction (CNJ) in Demchok sector are still on the negotiating table.
Chidambaram’s third question was if China had agreed to discuss other friction points including Depsang plains. Outstanding issues in Depsang came into focus after the disengagement at Hot Springs. PLA’s deployments in Depsang have hindered access of Indian soldiers to PP-10, 11, 11-A, 12 and 13, even though the developments there predate the current standoff in the Ladakh sector.
India and China are scheduling further talks to discuss disengagement from the remaining friction areas in eastern Ladakh, as reported by HT on Sunday.
Chidambaram’s next question was if the Indian Army had stopped patrolling areas it was patrolling before because of the creation of buffer zones in areas where disengagement has taken place. For instance, under the Pangong Tso disengagement agreement, both sides agreed not to patrol the contested areas between Fingers 4 and 8 until a final agreement was reached through future talks.
“These are strategic and border roads in the Northeast. We know who is the threat in the northern and eastern borders,” Chidambaram said while raising the questions. The Congress MP’s fifth and final question was on details of the Chinese infrastructure build up across LAC.
“We know they have built roads, bridges, settlements, helipads and communications...What is the massive infrastructure China is building... I don’t want you to tell us what is the matching infrastructure you are building,” he said. Both sides have gone into an infrastructure overdrive on their respective sides of LAC.
BJP member GVL Narasimha Rao raised a point of order under Rule 110 saying that the issues raised by Chidambaram were beyond the scope of the debate, and his remarks should be expunged.
Earlier, chairperson Jagdeep Dhankhar said that defence and security issues were of critical consequence, and the House needs to rise to a different level while discussing such issues.