Friday, June 21, 2024

If Rahul Gandhi knows more on China…: Jaishankar

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar today fired back at Rahul Gandhi, who recently suggested that he did not know much about foreign policy and “needed to learn some more”. He also hit back at the Congress leader on his frequent criticism of what he describes as the government’s “defensive” China policy.

“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,” Dr Jaishankar told news agency ANI in a special podcast.

“We have today the largest peacetime deployment in our history on the China border. We are keeping troops there at a huge cost with great effort. We have increased our infrastructure spending on the border five times in this government. Now tell me who is the defensive and accommodative person? Who is actually telling the truth? Who is depicting things accurately? Who is playing footsie with history?”

The Foreign Minister, taking a swipe at Rahul Gandhi over his foreign policy comment, said he was ready to listen to the Congress MP if he has “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 on 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,” Dr Jaishankar remarked.

On the Congress and other opposition parties slamming the government over Chinese constructions at the Pangong Lake region in Ladakh, the Foreign Minister said the area had been under illegal occupation of China since the 1962 war.

The Congress and its leaders “must have some problem understanding words beginning with ‘C’,” the minister quipped.

“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.

“Rajiv Gandhi went to Beijing in 1988…signed agreements in 1993 and 1996. I do not think signing those agreements was wrong. This is not a political point I am making. I think those agreements were signed at that time because we needed to stabilise the border. And they did stabilise the border.

The opposition party should have honesty to look at what happened in 1962.

“What happens you do this smoke and mirror, oh there is something happening here it is almost like 1962 never happened,” he said, adding that it was important to call out the Congress on its blunders.

“Personally, I can get into a blame game, what happened in 1962, it happened, but now if you whitewash all that everything happened only in 2023… I have to call you (Congress) out,” Dr Jaishankar said.

The government, he said, had increased the budget by five times to ramp up border infrastructure.

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