Was there intel failure? Sonia Gandhi asks PM on border stand-off with China
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday sought an assurance from the government that status quo will be restored on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Galwan Valley in Ladakh area and that China will revert to its original position.
In her address at the all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the border stand-off with China, Gandhi asked pointed questions on whether there was an intelligence failure on the massive build-up of Chinese forces along the LAC.
“In fact, even at this late stage, we are still in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis,” Gandhi said.
The meeting was attended by leaders of 20 political parties. Defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar too were present.
The Congress has been asking the government to be transparent about the situation along the LAC, especially after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent face-off with Chinese troops on Monday night.
Modi has said the sacrifice of Indian soldiers will not go in vain and the country will give a befitting reply to any provocation.
At the meeting Gandhi said: “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 5, as reported, or earlier?
“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 the build-up of massive 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 contended that valuable time was lost between May 5 and June 6, the date on which senior Indian and Chinese commanders met and agreed on some de-escalation and disengagement measures. She added that even after the June 6 meeting, efforts should have been made to talk directly, at the political and diplomatic levels, to China’s leadership.
“We failed to use all avenues, and the result is the loss of 20 lives as well as dozens injured. I would urge the prime minister to kindly share with us all the facts and the sequence of events beginning April this year till date,” the Congress chief said.
“The question is, what next? What is the way forward? The entire country would like an assurance that status quo ante would be restored and China will revert back to the original position on LAC,” she said.
Gandhi also sought to know the status of the Mountain Strike Corps, with two mountain infantry divisions, that was sanctioned for the army in 2013, when the Congress was in power at the Centre.
“Should the government not treat it with utmost priority? We would also like to be briefed on the preparedness of our defence forces to meet any threat,” she said.
Gandhi said the all-party meeting should have been held sooner and immediately after the government had been reportedly informed about the Chinese intrusion on May 5 at several places in Ladakh and elsewhere.
“As always, the entire nation would have stood together like a rock and fully supported the government of the day in the steps required to defend the territorial integrity of the country. Alas, that was not to be,” she added.
Gandhi said the Congress and the entire opposition unitedly stood by the defence forces and are prepared to make any sacrifice to ensure they are battle-ready.
“The entire nation expects that government will take all opposition parties and the country into confidence and brief us regularly so that we may present to the world a picture of unity and solidarity,” she said.
Gandhi began her speech by paying homage to the 20 soldiers killed in a violent clash with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Galwan Valley on Monday night.
“We meet today in the aftermath of a tragic conflict and our hearts are filled with great sorrow and anguish. Let me begin by paying homage to the brave soldiers of our army, who laid down their lives as also convey my deepest condolences to the bereaved families. To the injured jawans, we wish them a speedy recovery and good health,” she said.
Apart from Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader K Chandrasekhar Rao, Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader MK Stalin, YSR Congress Party’s YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray were among those who attended the meeting.