Opposition backs Centre’s stand on Doklam border dispute
NEW DELHI: The government and major opposition parties agreed on Friday on the need for India and China to pursue diplomatic options to resolve the Doklam standoff even as they backed the action of Indian troops in stalling a Chinese attempt to build a road through Bhutanese territory.
Opposition leaders were supportive of the Indian position that China has violated the commitments arrived at through the special representatives’ dialogue with Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, a former defence minister, saying China betrayed Nehru and would behave similarly with the NDA government if it let its guard down. NCP leader Sharad Pawar, also a former defence minister, said India could borrow a leaf from China and be patient in resolving the face-off without resorting to hasty actions.
While the opposition leaders supported India’s stand, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury asked the government to “introspect“ whether its policies on the Dalai Lama and military exercises with the US and Japan had contributed to the tensions.
The meeting also saw a discussion on the attack on Amarnath yatris and the situation in the Kashmir Valley with some opposition leaders like Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad and Yechury suggesting the government open dialogue with stake-holders.Azad also said actions of gau rakshaks need to be checked by the Centre and states.Home minister Rajnath Singh, who hosted the meeting, said he had not ruled out talks with any party in J&K.
Opposition leaders appreciated home minister Rajnath Singh’s Kashmiriyat comment on the Amarnath incident and felt that all-around condemnation of the attack can provide the setting for talks in the state.
The interaction saw foreign secretary S Jaishankar explaining that the Chinese claim to the territory near the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan tri-junction and its invocation of the 1890 Britain-China agreement is misleading. He quoted from a letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959 to counter the claim that he had accepted the Chinese position.
“All political parties expressed strong support for India’s approach and also for the need for national unity ,“ the official spokesperson said after the meeting.
The statement underlined the need for diplomacy while also iterating support for Bhutan. “The importance of India and China to remain engaged through diplomacy was underlined…The unique nature of the very close and longstanding India-Bhutan relationship was recognised,“ the spokesperson said.
The government, represented by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and finance minister Arun Jaitley besides Singh, pointed out that India had been forced to respond to unilateral actions and was acting with restraint.It was explained that it was necessary to halt the Chinese advance as it would have seri ously threatened India’s strategic interests at the tri-junction and the road link between West Bengal and Assam.
Azad also brought up incidents of violence relating to gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes), saying that while there was a fallout of the security situation in J&K, vigilantism was also having a bad effect on the social fabric and was not in national interest.
Making a plea for a dialogue in J&K, Azad said, “You have shut the door, but keep a window open … at least a roshandaan (skylight).“ Yechury said the opposition had been part of an all-party delegation led by the home minister last year and expected that there will be action to engage with the parties there.
After the meeting, Yechury said the opposition appreciated the government’s assurance that it is committed to settling issues with China diplomatically . At the same time, the government was urged to “introspect“ over the triggers for the recent display of Chinese aggression.
“On behalf of the CPM, I told the government that there is a need for them to get to the depth of the reasons for the provocation, the changes in the government’s policy with China, India’s growing strategic ties with US, and the joint military naval exercise along with the US and Japan in the South China sea,“ Yechury said. He also said India’s “new permissions“ to the Dalai Lama and hoisting of the Tibetan flag in India were other issues that irked the Chinese.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien said the party raised “some serious questions“ on Amarnath terror attack and claimed that the government did not have answers on preparedness. “The government was aware about the security problem, why didn’t they take it seriously? Why the lapse? The failure,“ he said.
In the meeting, Jaishankar read out from Nehru’s letter to belie the Chinese claim that India’s first PM had accepted the 1890 treaty over Sikkim approving Beijing’s claim on the Doklam area.
With regard to the recent attack on Amarnath pilgrims, home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi explained to opposition leaders that a delay in the return of the bus carrying the tourists cost seven lives.