At PM's Meet On Ladakh, Sonia Gandhi's Criticism, Then All-Party Support

India-China border tension: The video meeting began with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the foreign minister briefing the parties on the deadly brawl at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, the worst confrontation with China since 1967 in Nathu La.

PM Modi called an all-party meeting on Friday on India-China tension.

New Delhi:

No one is inside Indian territory nor have any Indian posts been taken over, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted in an all-party meeting on Friday evening to discuss the Ladakh clash in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed. "20 jawans did die, but they taught a lesson to those who dared to look towards our motherland," PM Modi said.

"Neither is anyone inside our territory nor is any of our post captured," PM Modi said, adding the entire country is hurt and angry at the steps taken by China at the Line of Actual Control or LAC.

"While on the one hand, the army has been given freedom to take necessary steps, India has also conveyed its position clearly to China through diplomatic means," he said. 

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the first opposition Speaker, delivered a sharp critique on being kept "in the dark even at this late stage". 

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee questioned whether there was an intelligence failure. 

But most leaders, including Mamata Banerjee and Uddhav Thackeray, expressed solidarity with the government in its response to Chinese aggression.

To Ms Banerjee's question, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said there was no intelligence failure.

"This meeting, in my view, should have come sooner and immediately after the government had been reportedly informed about the Chinese intrusion on May 5 into several places in Ladakh and elsewhere," Sonia Gandhi said, speaking first. 

"As always, the entire nation would have stood together like a rock and fully supported the government of the day in the steps required to defend the territorial integrity of the country. Alas, that was not to be. In fact, even at this late stage, we are still in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis," she remarked, raising a series of questions.

But the Congress president closed her statement with the assertion that her party and the entire opposition "unitedly stand by our defence forces" and added that the entire country would like an assurance that China will revert back to the original position on the Line of Actual Control.

Mamata Banerjee, whose recent interactions with the centre on the coronavirus battle have been most acrimonious, chose to make a strong statement of support.

The all-party meeting, she said, was a good message for the nation and showed that "we are united behind our jawans". Ms Banerjee said her Trinamool Congress party stood strongly in solidarity with the government. "Don't let China enter telecom. Railway and aviation. We will face some problem but we won't allow the Chinese to enter," she said. 

Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray, the Maharashtra Chief Minister, also set aside his bitterness with former ally BJP and said: "We are all one. We are with you, Prime Minister. I want to praise you for talking to us. India is Majboot (strong), not Majboor (helpless). Our government has the ability to gouge out and hand them their eyes".

NCP leader Sharad Pawar stressed that issues like whether the soldiers carried arms or not are decided by international agreements. "We need to respect such sensitive matters," Mr Pawar said, appearing to make a point about ally Congress's Rahul Gandhi attacking the government in daily tweets.

Mr Gandhi had yesterday tweeted that soldiers were sent "unarmed to martyrdom". Foreign Minister S Jaishankar had rebutted him, saying soldiers always carry their arms but the use of firearms is against the established rules of engagement.

The video meeting began with Rajnath Singh and the foreign minister briefing the parties on the deadly brawl at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, the worst confrontation with China since 1967 in Nathu La.

Some 76 soldiers were injured as the Chinese assaulted them with hand-made weapons like spiked clubs, rods wrapped in barbed wire and rocks.