Manmohan Singh remarks on India-Sino border tensions stir up row
His statement was an apparent reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at an all-party meeting on Friday that neither anyone is present in the Indian territory nor is any Indian post captured by the Chinese.Updated: Jun 23, 2020 03:31 IST
A Prime Minister must be mindful of the implications of his words on a nation’s strategic interests, former PM Manmohan Singh said in his first public remarks on the Sino-Indian border tensions on Monday, stressing that “disinformation” was no substitute for diplomacy or decisive leadership.
His statement was an apparent reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at an all-party meeting on Friday that neither anyone is present in the Indian territory nor is any Indian post captured by the Chinese. The Congress party says the PM’s stand contradicts past remarks by the defence minister and the foreign minister on Chinese intrusion.
Singh said China should not be allowed to use the PM’s words as a “vindication” of its position that it did not enter the Indian side, and called upon the government to ensure justice for the 20 Indian Army soldiers killed in a deadly clash with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh on June 15.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to hit back. The party’s chief JP Nadda termed Singh’s statement “mere wordplay”, asked him not to “share his wisdom” on the Prime Minister’s responsibilities, and accused him of ceding ground to China when he was in power at the Centre.
“One only wishes that Dr Singh was as worried about Chinese designs when, as PM, he abjectly surrendered hundreds of square kilometres of India’s land to China. He presided over 600 incursions made by China between 2010 to 2013!” Nadda tweeted, referring to Singh’s tenure as PM.
In his statement, Singh said the government’s decisions and actions will have “serious bearings on how the future generations perceive us”. He added that India was at a historic crossroads and those who lead us “bear the weight of solemn duty”.
“And in our democracy that responsibility rests with the office of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must always be mindful of the implications of his words and declarations on our nation’s security as also strategic and territorial interests,” Singh said.
“The Prime Minister cannot allow them [China] to use his words as a vindication of their position and must ensure that all organs of the government work together to tackle this crisis and prevent it from escalating further,” he added.
In the wake of a controversy over the PM’s remarks at the all-party meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said on Saturday that there was a “mischievous interpretation” of Modi’s comments, and that the Prime Minister was clear that India will respond firmly to any attempts to transgress the LAC.
Singh said China was brazenly and illegally seeking to claim parts of Indian territory such as the Galwan Valley and the Pangong Tso Lake by committing multiple incursions since April. “We cannot and will not be cowed down by threats and intimidation nor permit a compromise with our territorial integrity,” he said.
The statement came a day ahead of a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, which is expected to discuss, among other issues, the India-China border standoff and the prevailing Covid-19 situation in the country.
Singh also said “we must stand together” at this moment and put up a united front in response to this “brazen threat”. “We remind the government that disinformation is no substitute for diplomacy or decisive leadership. The truth cannot be suppressed by having pliant allies spout comforting but false statements,” he added.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who has alleged that Modi surrendered Indian territory to the Chinese, said he hoped the Prime Minister will “politely” accept Singh’s advice for the betterment of India.
In his reply, Nadda said the Congress and its leaders should stop insulting the armed forces and Singh should look at his own record.
“Please stop insulting of forces repeatedly, questioning their valour. You did this post the air strikes (in Balakot in 2019) and surgical strikes (in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 2016). Please understand the true meaning of national unity, especially in such times. It’s never too late to improve,” he posted.
“Dr Manmohan Singh can certainly share his wisdom on many subjects but the responsibilities of the office of the Prime Minister aren’t one of them. UPA (Congress-led United Progressive Alliance) personified systematic institutional erosion of that office, combined with disrespect for our armed forces. NDA has reversed that!”