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The Congress has lodged a protest with Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan after she intervened to cancel a pre-scheduled meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs recently, in what the party called an "unprecedented move". The committee was to discuss the sensitive Dokalam issue on February 8 and examine some key witnesses amid reports of a Chinese military build-up in the area. The Congress members in the committee, headed by the party's Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, wrote a letter to the speaker, red-flagging her move and mentioning that other Parliamentary committee meetings were held as scheduled. Congress president Rahul Gandhi is also a member of the important committee. Sources told PTI that the speaker cancelled the meeting through a written order, after the BJP members in the panel petitioned her, citing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's scheduled reply on the discussion on the Union Budget in the Lok Sabha. The ruling party MPs reportedly told the speaker that they wanted to be present in the House during Jaitley's reply and thus, would not be able to participate in the crucial committee meeting, which was to be held around the same time. The sources said the speaker's move was "unprecedented" and that committee meetings usually took place as scheduled. Importantly, the meetings of the other Parliamentary standing committees were held as scheduled, they added. It is learnt that the date of the re-scheduled meeting will be announced later. The Standing Committee on External Affairs was to examine four important witnesses in the Dokalam issue -- a former army chief, a former foreign secretary, a former ambassador and a cyber expert. The sources said the committee was to examine former Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapur, satellite imagery expert Col Vinayak Bhat, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran and former ambassador G Parthasarathy. Col Bhat had written about the accumulation of Chinese build-up on the Dokalam plateau, including infrastructure and military build-up, besides helipads, the sources said. A Congress leader termed the cancellation of the meeting "unprecedented" and said every member of the panel was interested in preserving and protecting India's territorial integrity. "The government should not sweep the issues of national security under the carpet.
Instead, it should face them head- on. The people deserve to know the truth as it exists on the ground as also about the measures taken by the government to protect India's and Bhutan's territorial integrity," he said. "Hiding the issues from the parliamentary committee cannot replace the obvious truth. The government should make a full dissemination of the factual position on the Dokalam plateau and the Chinese occupation there," he added. At the height of the Dokalam stand-off between India and China last year, Rahul Gandhi had triggered a controversy by meeting the Chinese ambassador to India. The Chinese embassy had later deleted a reference to that meeting from its official website. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attacked Rahul Gandhi over this move.
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