Rejecting Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's consistent attack on Narendra Modi government over its handling of China's aggression on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar has pointed out that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not Rahul Gandhi, who sent the Indian Army to the LAC as a countermeasure to China's troop deployment.
In an interview with news agency ANI, Dr Jaishankar reminded that the Modi government had increased the budget by five times to improve border infrastructure. Dr Jaishankar also said that the Congress leaders do not understand words beginning with "C," alluding to the party's misinterpretation of the situation surrounding the Chinese building a bridge on Pangong Lake. The area had been under China's illegal occupation since the 1962 war, and it was inaccurate to blame the Modi government in 2023 for a bridge that China had captured in 1962, he pointed out.
"When did that area actually come under Chinese control? They (Congress) must have some problem understanding words beginning with 'C'. I think they are deliberately misrepresenting the situation. The Chinese first came there in 1958 and the Chinese captured it in October 1962. Now you are going to blame the Modi government in 2023 for a bridge which the Chinese captured in 1962 and you don't have the honesty to say that it is where it happened," Dr Jaishankar said.
"If I would have to sum up this China thing, please do not buy this narrative that somewhere the government is on the defensive...somewhere we are being accommodative. I ask people if we were being accommodative who sent the Indian Army to the LAC (Line of Actual Control). Rahul Gandhi did not send them. Narendra Modi sent them," he added.
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Dr Jaishankar clarified that Rajiv Gandhi went to Beijing in 1988 and signed agreements in 1993 and 1996, which he believed stabilized the border. He stressed that the government could not come to an agreement if other countries' demands were unreasonable. Additionally, he dismissed Congress's allegations that the Modi government was defensive and reactive on the China issue, highlighting that there was currently the largest peacetime deployment along the China border.
Dr Jaishankar also responded to Rahul Gandhi's remarks about his lack of foreign policy knowledge by stating that he had been the longest-serving ambassador in China and had dealt with border issues for a long time. He emphasized that he was willing to listen to Rahul Gandhi if he had superior knowledge and wisdom on China.
"I think he said this somewhere in a public meeting. It is probably in the context of China. All I can say in my defence is I have been the longest-serving ambassador in China. I have been dealing with a lot of these border issues for a very long time. I am not suggesting that I am necessarily the most knowledgeable person but I would have a fairly good self-opinion of my understanding of what is up there. If he has superior knowledge and wisdom for China, I am always willing to listen. As I said, for me life is a learning process. If that is a possibility, I have never closed my mind to anything however improbable that may be," Jaishankar said.
Moreover, Dr Jaishankar criticized Congress for criticizing border villages coming up on the Chinese side of LAC, stating that the opposition party should recall what happened in 1962. He also pointed out that it was necessary to build border infrastructure, and the Modi government had increased the budget for this purpose by five times. Dr Jaishankar stated that the government was legitimately building border infrastructure to fortify the LAC and respond to China's robust border infrastructure.
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"We should be building border infrastructure. Why did you (Congress-led governments) not build up infrastructure? Look at the border infrastructure budget during the Modi period, the budget has gone up five times. Till 2014, it was roughly ₹ 3000-4000 crore, today it is ₹ 14,000 crore. If you look at the roads that are built, the bridges, they have doubled or tripled, look at the tunnels this government is serious about border infrastructure...where as we know the underlining thinking earlier was let us leave it like that as the Chinese cannot come inside which meant you have no intention of contesting them when they came in," he said.
The minister stated that India was responding to China's aggression on the LAC in Ladakh, which China had created by violating border agreements. He emphasized that China was a larger economy, and India was not going to pick a fight with a bigger economy. Dr Jaishankar stated that India should have fortified its border infrastructure at least 25 years ago.
"They are the bigger economy what I am going to do? I am a smaller economy. Am I going to sort of pick up a fight with a bigger economy? It is not a question of reacting. It is a question of common sense. We had in agreement that we are not supposed to bring to the borders in large numbers...because it is in our interest to stabilize our borders or a situation it is not out of love affection or sentiment. It is a core calculation," he said.