If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 19 statement before an assembly of senior Opposition leaders on the subject of intensive Chinese military activity in our border areas was a deep disappointment to the country, its clarification the following day by the Prime Minister’s Office was worse.
It was deeply dismaying. It appeared to be saying the same thing as the Chinese.
In effect, it mocked the death of India’s 20 soldiers who fell on June 15 trying to push the Chinese military out from the Galwan River valley in eastern Ladakh, although this could not have been Mr Modi’s intention.
The PM spoke after his colleagues from the Opposition parties had spoken and was gracious enough to acknowledge their sentiment in standing four square behind the country and its armed forces, but he delivered a shock when he said categorically and explicitly that the Chinese had not entered the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control or occupied any Indian posts.
If this was the case, then what’s been all the hullabaloo about in India’s military and political circles of late? What was the need for the tension-filled hours long talk between the commander of India’s Ladakh-based 14 Corps and his Chinese counterpart on June 6?
Why did the Indian readout of the conversation between our external affairs minister and his Chinese counterpart speak of Chinese intrusion without any hedging? Indeed, why the need of the MEA to urge the Chinese to return to “status quo ante” in Ladakh?
It is a no-brainer that Mr Modi’s remarks to Opposition leaders are severely at odds with the MEA statement and the external affairs minister’s observations. In that case, should heads roll in the MEA?
More dramatically, should heads roll in the country’s higher military command since the top brass too has been committed to facts on the ground and the pith of its observations to the media have shown concern about China’s military incursion into the Galwan river valley as well as in the Fingers area of Pangong Lake?
If heads should roll in these precincts, what is the offence that should be attributed to them? Being at odds with the understanding of the PM? Did the national security advisor, who now carries a cabinet rank, and the newly-appointed Chief of Defence Staff, shape the PM’s appreciation, or did they not?
These are subjects of critical importance for our national life and are best thrashed out in Parliament at the earliest, and not spun around and rung dry for crass propaganda on friendly television channels, in supine sections of the media, and by the vicious battalions of the ruling party’s social media warriors.
It was indeed sad to see the PMO clarification of the PM’s original statement speak of “mischievous” elements in characterising those in the Opposition who were surprised by the PM’s original narrative.
The clarification strained itself to persuade the country that Mr Modi’s words had been in the context of the death of our jawans and an officer in the Galwan riverbed alone.
However, they succeeded in leaving the frightening impression that our soldiers had intruded into China’s area (since the PM had said the Chinese had not come into our side). Evidently, the running of the PMO leaves much to be desired.