Cong questions PM's silence on border issue, slams govt over 'normal' trade ties with China

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Jairam Ramesh | File Photo: PTI

Dausa (Rajasthan): Upping the ante on the government over the Sino-India border issue, the Congress on Friday cited the "ballooning" trade deficit and said while trade is "normal" with that country, the border is "abnormal".

Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "exonerating" the Chinese with his 2020 statement on the border standoff and asked whether what had happened back then was an "incursion" or an "excursion" by the Chinese.

Hitting out at the prime minister over his "silence" on the issue, Ramesh also alleged that the prime minister "forced" Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to read a "most wishy-washy" statement in Parliament earlier this week following the recent face-off between Indian and Chinese forces in Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh, and asserted that it was the Opposition parties' democratic right to seek a debate on the important issue.

"The prime minister has met the president of China 18 times. (Former External Affairs Minister) Sushma Swaraj said trade and terrorism cannot go together. But after China disturbed the LAC arrangement in April 2020, our imports from China have zoomed, our trade deficit has ballooned," he told PTI while walking in the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra here.

"So, trade is normal but the border is abnormal. How can we reconcile this with what Sushma Swaraj had said in respect to Pakistan," Ramesh said.

Citing the example of what happened in 1962, the Congress leader said when a full-fledged Chinese invasion was on, a debate was taking place in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.

"Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues in the cabinet heard the bitter, stinging criticism of the government and responded," he said.

L M Singhvi, who represented Pali in the Lok Sabha as a Swatantra Party member, had written to Nehru asking for a secret session of Parliament to discuss the Chinese invasion and the then PM responded, saying it is nonsensical to think of a secret session and it must be an open session, Ramesh recounted.

This letter is on public record, he added.

Ramesh said it is extraordinary that an Opposition member of Parliament was writing to the prime minister calling for a secret session of Parliament to discuss the Chinese invasion, but the PM said it must be discussed openly in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

"And here, we have a prime minister who has not spoken a word for two-and-a-half years and the only word he has spoken, he has exonerated the Chinese by saying there has been no incursion. So my question to the prime minister is that if there has been no Chinese incursion as he said on June 20, 2020, what was it, was it a Chinese excursion if it was not an incursion," Ramesh said.

What were the Chinese doing in Ladakh and what are they doing in Arunachal Pradesh, he asked.

"Let us have a debate in Parliament. A debate is not meant to score political points, it is meant to reflect a collective resolve, a collective will of Parliament," the Congress leader asserted.

There are political differences and the Bharat Jodo Yatra was born out of political differences with the Modi regime, but in spite of that, on matters of external security, we will speak in one voice, he said.

"But the prime minister rarely comes to Parliament and he forced Mr. Rajnath Singh to read a most wishy-washy statement, the Opposition parties walked out and I think the demand for a debate, the rules of which can be set by the government, is a democratic right that is being denied to all opposition parties ," Ramesh said.

Questioning the "silence" of the prime minister on the issue, he said Chinese companies continue to prosper in India and the prime minister continues to keep silent.

"What are the relations between Vivekananda International Foundation and the India Foundation and the Chinese Communist Party, I would like to ask," he said.

Congress general secretary in-charge organisation K C Venugopal also slammed the government over the Sino-India border issue, saying people who have been talking about nationalism when in Opposition, are not even allowing a discussion on the border issue in Parliament.

"They (the BJP) talked a lot about this type of Chinese aggression but now they are not even allowing a discussion in Parliament. We are very much concerned about territorial integrity. China day by day is entering into our territory, the government is keeping mum," he said.

Where will it be debated other than Parliament, he asked.

"The prime minister should make a statement, there should be a discussion on these things," Venugopal told PTI while walking in the yatra.

The remarks of the two Congress leaders come days after Singh, in a statement to Parliament, said Chinese troops tried to "unilaterally" change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Yangtse area of Arunachal Pradesh's Tawang sector on December 9, but the Indian Army compelled them to retreat with its "firm and resolute" response.

The face-off took place amid the over 30-month border standoff between the two sides in eastern Ladakh.

The Congress has been demanding a discussion on the border issue and accusing the government of hiding the truth. PTI

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