Responding to the charge — seconded by some veterans — that Modi’s statement at the all-party meeting on Friday was tantamount to acquiescence to China’s claims that its territory has been “violated”, PMO termed such a reading of the comments as “mischievous”. The focus of the PM’s remarks at the discussions were the events of June 15 that led to the loss of lives of 20 Indian military personnel.
Speaking at the all-party meeting on Friday, the PM had said: “No intruder is present inside India’s borders nor is any post under anyone’s custody. Our 20 soldiers did attain martyrdom but they taught a lesson to those who had sought to intimidate the mother land.”
“The PM paid glowing tributes to the valour and patriotism of our armed forces who repulsed the designs of the Chinese there. The PM’s observations that there was no Chinese presence on our side of the LAC pertained to the situation as a consequence of the bravery of our armed forces. The sacrifices of soldiers of the 16 Bihar Regiment foiled the attempt of the Chinese side to erect structures and also cleared the attempted transgression at this point of the LAC on that day,” the statement said.
Opposition parties attacked the PM’s statement as signifying surrender to China’s claims in the Ladakh sector, and pointed out that it is the Chinese army which transgressed across the LAC in the Pangong lake area, built semi-permanent structures and has been stopping the Indian soldiers from going up to the spots they had so far routinely patrolled. Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said the PM has surrendered land to China and demanded to know why Indian soldiers were killed.
PMO sources pointed out that the main objectives of the all-party meeting — to brief all leaders, evolve a consensus against the Chinese action and project national resolve — were met fully. The statement said the government made a presentation on Indian territories China has grabbed over the years. “What is Indian territory is clear from the map of India. This government is strongly and resolutely committed to that. Insofar as there is some illegal occupation, the APM was briefed in great detail how over the last 60 years, more than 43,000 sq km have been yielded… It was also made clear that this government will not allow any unilateral change of the LAC,” it said.
On the charge that the PM contradicted the government’s own contention that the clash at Galwan Valley on June 15 happened because of Chinese intrusion, the PMO said leaders were told that PLA’s transgression triggered the fight. “The meeting was also informed that this time, the Chinese forces have come in much larger strength to the LAC and that the Indian response is commensurate. As regards transgression of LAC, it was clearly stated that the violence in Galwan on June 15 arose because the Chinese side was seeking to erect structures just across the LAC and refused to desist from such actions,” it said.
The criticism by Congress and Left parties and by other commentators began immediately after the PM’s remarks were telecast and escalated on Saturday morning with Congress saying that the statement will have “horrifying consequences”. Significantly, the CPM and CPI, not known for taking strong position against China, attacked the government for giving in. Some army veterans were also indignant even as the Chinese foreign ministry late on Saturday evening reiterated its claim that the entire Galwan Valley is their territory, which served to fan the controversy.
The PMO said that the PM had, contrary to the charge that he had legitimised China’s territorial claims, said that tensions on the border have been rising because the Army, unlike in the past, has lately been been resisting PLA’s incursions. “He (PM) specifically emphasised that in contrast to the past neglect of such challenges, Indian forces now decisively counter any violations of LAC (“unhe rokte hain, unhe tokte hain”),” said the PMO.
“The words of the Prime Minister, “those who tried to transgress our land were taught a befitting lesson by our brave sons of soil”, succinctly summed up the ethos and values of our armed forces. The PM further emphasised— ‘I want to assure you, that our armed forces will leave no stone unturned to protect our borders”, the statement said.