It is strange that the Chinese ambassador in India Luo Zhaohui has followed up his hush hush meeting with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi with meetings with a battery of opposition leaders who are especially inimical towards the Narendra Modi dispensation. Evidently, the Modi government was not kept informed about the content of these meetings. Also, there is no word about what transpired at these meetings and whether there was a set agenda. The Central government has been tight-lipped about its reaction over the meetings though there is an element of concern and disquiet that is understandable.
By all accounts, the opposition leaders who besides Rahul Gandhi included West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon have also not briefed government representatives of what precisely they discussed and what the stand of the Chinese envoy was. Significantly, Luo Zhaohui even had a meeting with the District Magistrate of Darjeeling which has been in the thick of a violent agitation for carving out a new state of Gorkhaland from within West Bengal. It is a measure of the Indian government’s passive acceptance of Chinese impropriety that the Chinese envoy has not been summoned to the External Affairs Minister to answer questions on the interactions.
That these meetings have taken place in times when Indian and Chinese troops are in a standoff situation at the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan with China claiming that the Bhutanese territory belongs to it under a more than a century-old treaty makes the Chinese move particularly unpalatable. The Modi government needed to tell the Chinese envoy in no uncertain terms that this amounted to an avoidable interference in India’s internal affairs. There is little point in swallowing our pride and giving China a long rope and then regretting why we were unduly soft and not forthright.
The opposition leaders who met the Chinese envoy must also be asked in writing to respond when they met him, what they discussed and what was it they told the envoy. As with other countries that uphold their pride as nations, India must put national interest above everything else all the time. Had the government protested strongly to Rahul Gandhi when he met the Chinese envoy, perhaps the message would have gone home to the others who later met him. That the Congress party had no intention of briefing the government about the meeting was clear from the fact that the party first denied that the meeting had taken place and when it found that the cat was out of the bag it acknowledged that the meeting had occurred while contending that it was no big deal. Even now, the Modi government must call the leaders who met the Chinese envoy for a de-briefing. If they stay away, the country needs to be told so.