Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was categorical in stating in Parliament on Tuesday, the second day of the truncated monsoon session, that China was the aggressor. It had amassed troops and arsenal of war at the Line of Actual Control, in an aggressive attempt to alter the status quo in contravention of all treaties and agreements between the two countries.
In the first official statement since the Chinese breached the LAC in eastern Ladakh in early April, Singh was unambiguous in committing that the India's defence forces were prepared to face any eventuality to defend her sovereignty and territorial integrity. He commended the forces for showing remarkable restraint and courage in the face of the Chinese provocation. Though there have been several prolonged stand-offs at the LAC in the previous decades, the situation had never been so serious as it is at present. The mobilisation of troops was never on this scale since the 1962 war.
The Opposition, barring the Congress benches, heard Singh with patience but the Congress members sought to interrupt the Minister several times, with the Chair disallowing them to speak. At the end of Singh’s statement, the demand by the Congress MPs for a discussion was turned down by the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. Displaying banners and shouting, the Congress MPs walked out of the House. It was a clear attempt to politicise the sensitive border tension for partisan political gains. However, it is unlikely to succeed.
The defence minister said that 'China continues to be in illegal occupation of 38,000 sq km in the Union Territory of Ladakh’. In addition, in 1963 Pakistan had illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in Pak-occupied Kashmir to China. Besides, China claims approximately 90,000 sq km of Indian territory in the eastern sector in Arunachal Pradesh.
Tweeting from New York, where he has gone with his mother Sonia Gandhi for her medical check-up, Rahul Gandhi reacted to the defence minister’s statement. ‘‘Modiji, when will you stand against China? When will you take our land back from China? Don’t be scared of taking China’s name,” Gandhi said. However, his tweet could leave people confused. In the interest of clarity, he must make clear in his next tweet whether he wants Modi to ‘take back’ all 38,000 sq km land plus 5,180 sq km of India-owned PoK which Pakistan illegally gifted to China, or only a couple of hundred square kilometers China occupied in April this year. Such a clarification would help the Modi Government set a clear goal for our Armed forces, wouldn’t it?
Levity over a juvenile tweet aside, the defence minister recounted the events leading up to the Galwan clash, in which 20 of our soldiers were killed while China lost an unspecified number of troops. The clash was caused by the Chinese duplicity in not respecting the agreement to vacate positions agreed upon earlier at the meeting of the rival commanders. Our soldiers had gone to ensure that the site was vacated when the Chinese troops attacked them. Singh did not mince words, admitting that India was facing a challenge but which it was committed to face with courage and determination.
Meanwhile, instead of an open discussion on the sensitive security matter, the Government might hold an all-party meeting, at which it could take the Opposition leaders into confidence. Hopefully, the meeting wouldn’t be followed by a tweet from the presumptive Congress president, revealing his immaturity in respect to challenging security situations.
Now, tit-for tat security
The fallout of the Sushant Singh Rajput death seems to have taken a new dimension: A tit-for-tat provision of security for rival protagonists in the largely unproductive public controversy that has followed the tragedy. The decision by the Maharashtra government to provide extra security detail to Jaya Bachchan followed her intervention in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, wherein she berated a BJP actor-member of the Lok Sabha for publicly speaking about rampant drug abuse in Bollywood. The unkindest cut in the speech became the talking point, 'jis thali mein khaatey ho, usee mey ched mat karo'. Of course, her reasoning was flawed, but the partisans applauded her nonetheless.
How her husband and Bollywood icon, Amitabh Bachchan, would take her bravado is unclear but going by his record he cannot be pleased with his wife identifying herself on one side of the raging SSR controversy. As a policy, Amitabh has preferred silence in such emotive debates, probably a key to his popularity with all sections of a highly polarised society. But Jaya may have embarrassed him, particularly when he had drawn closer to the Prime Minister in recent years. But, then, marital unions without the occasional discord do make for a very, very boring life, don’t they?