Jairam Ramesh. Photo: PTI/File
Dausa (Rajasthan): The Congress on Sunday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "running away" from a debate in Parliament on the situation along the border with China and said he and not the defence minister must answer on this issue.
The opposition party also alleged that the prime minister does not utter the word "China" and asked whether the government was "silent" due to its "close ties" with that country.
The attack on the government came days after Indian Army personnel clashed with Chinese soldiers in the Tawang sector in Arunachal Pradesh.
At a press conference here after the morning leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi went to China in 1988 "when we were strong at the borders and after that visit bilateral ties became stronger".
But in April 2020 all this came to an end and a new chapter was opened, he alleged.
"The prime minister has given a clean chit to them (China) by saying 'no one has come and no one is inside our territory'. Due to this clean chit, our bargaining position has gone down," Ramesh claimed.
He said there should be a debate in Parliament and the prime minister should answer on the issue and discuss it with the opposition.
"Debate should take place in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and answers have to be given by the prime minister and not the defence minister or external affairs minister. Several former prime ministers have answered in Parliament. He is the first prime minister who runs away from debate and he does not utter the word China," Ramesh said.
He also raised the slogan "Cheen Par Chuppi Todo, Bharat Jodo (Break the silence on China, unite India)."
At the press conference, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said the government must answer why the mountain strike corps was put in "cold storage" after the UPA established its first division in West Bengal.
"Prime Minister Modi refuses to answer on China and doesn't want a debate on China. The prime minister has close ties with China since he was the Gujarat chief minister and the Chinese president was in a top post in that country. They share close ties," he alleged.
The second division of the mountain strike corps that was to come up in Pathankot, did not come up because a "China-loving" prime minister came to power, Khera alleged.
Asked about the BJP's attack on Rahul Gandhi over his remarks on the China issue at a presser in Jaipur, Khera said the former Congress chief had "only highlighted that the government had tied the hands of the armed forces who are full of valour".
"Veer Sena, kayar raja (brave army, coward king)," that is the story of the country, he alleged.
Khera also claimed that BJP leaders have travelled to China in the past for training with the Communist Party of China. He asked what relations organizations such as the Vivekananda International Foundation, with whom National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had been associated with, have with China.
He also alleged that the think tank whose one unit is headed by External Affairs minister S Jaishankar's son got donations from the Chinese Embassy thrice.
The BJP has been accusing the Congress of having close ties with China. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said last week that the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) was cancelled as it allegedly got Rs 1.35 crore from the Chinese Embassy.
In his remarks at the presser, Khera asked whether the government was silent on the matter due to these issues and said all this was a "secret" which must be revealed.
He also listed the achievements of past Congress governments in strengthening India's security vis-a-vis China. Border Area Development Programme (BADP) was part of the seventh five-year plan in 1986-87 under Rajiv Gandhi's premiership, he said, adding under the UPA government the 2,000 km trans- Arunachal highway was started.
The Congress attack also comes after Rahul Gandhi said "the government was sleeping while China was preparing for war".
Gandhi's remarks evoked sharp reactions from the BJP, which said he was lowering the morale of the armed forces.
In a statement in Parliament, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had 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.