The Congress on Friday attacked the government over its agreement with China on disengagement of troops in eastern Ladakh with party leader Rahul Gandhi alleging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has "ceded" Indian territory to the Chinese.
His attack on the government came a day after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh assured Parliament that India has not conceded anything in the sustained talks with China and it will not allow even an inch of its territory to be taken away by anyone.
The Congress also termed the defence ministry's statement as "Operation cover-up to uncover the conspiratorial mask of a weak-kneed leadership of India", as it pointed out gaping holes in the version.
"Defence Minister's statement made yesterday and Defence Ministry's statement of today completely omit the fact that Modi Government has agreed to withdraw Indian armed forces from dominant positions in Kailash ranges (southern bank, Pangong Tso Lake area), where the Chinese are at a disadvantage, without any quid pro quo by China," Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said in a statement.
"We urge the prime minister to not hide behind smokescreens and answer to the people," he said, alleging that the prime minister, the defence minister and the defence ministry are disrespecting and dishonouring the sacrifice of our soldiers in the Galwan Valley.
Addressing a press conference earlier, Gandhi questioned why the prime minister did not make a statement on the LAC situation, and said Singh "sheepishly" made a statement on the issue in both Houses of Parliament.
"Why has he asked the Defence Minister to make the statement, the Prime Minister should say - I have given Indian land to China, this is the truth," he alleged.
He said it has emerged that Indian troops are now going to be stationed at Finger 3 at Pangong Tso lake.
"Finger-4 is our territory, that is where our post used to be. So, now we have moved from finger-4 to finger-3. Why has the Prime Minister Modi given up Indian Territory to the Chinese? This is the question that needs to be answered by him and by the Defence Minister," Gandhi said.
Why have Indian troops, after the hard work that they had done in capturing Kailash ranges, been asked to move back, the Congress leader asked.
What has India got in return for this? Most importantly, the more important strategic area, Depsang plains, why have the Chinese not moved back? These are the real questions. Why have they not moved from Gogra-Hot Springs, the former Congress chief asked.
"It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to protect the territory of the country. The Prime Minister has ceded Indian Territory to the Chinese. It is his responsibility to solve the problem," he alleged.
"GOI must explain - Why our forces are withdrawing from dominant positions in Kailash Ranges? Why we are ceding our territory & withdrawing from forward base at Finger 4 to Finger 3? Why has China not withdrawn from our territory in Depsang Plains & Gogra Hot Springs," he asked in a tweet.
Asked if India will lose its strategic advantage once status quo ante is restored, Gandhi said there was no strategic advantage as the Chinese were on our land in Depsang and Pangong.
"Our soldiers risked everything, they had, to go to Kailash ranges. That's where the strategic advantage, if any, arose. Now, the Prime Minister has given back the land. Status quo ante is irrelevant. Kailash has been given back and nothing has happened on the key area of which China wants, Depsang plains.
"This is absolute 100 per cent cowardice. This is nothing else. The Prime Minister is a coward who cannot stand up to the Chinese...He is betraying the sacrifice of our army," he charged, and added, that nobody in India should be allowed to do it, nobody in the rest of the world should be allowed to do it.
The Indian government's position at the beginning of this was status quo ante as in April 2020 that is what they were negotiating for, he asserted.
Union minister Pralhad Joshi, however, hit back at Rahul Gandhi for his remarks against the prime minister.
"Perhaps Rahul is depressed that he could not become PM. He knows that even his shadow won't support him.
"The selective amnesia which Rahul often displays, seems a regular order," Joshi tweeted, asking why he was denigrating the efforts and sacrifices of security forces.
After Gandhi's attack, alleging that the government has "ceded" Indian territory to the Chinese and raised questions over the agreement, the Ministry of Defence issued a strongly-worded statement saying it has not conceded any territory as a result of the agreement finalised with China for disengagement of troops in Pangong lake areas in eastern Ladakh.
It said effective safeguarding of country's national interest and territory in the Eastern Ladakh sector has taken place because the government reposed full faith in the capabilities of the armed forces.
"Those who doubt the achievements made possible by the sacrifices of our military personnel are actually disrespecting them", the statement said.
The ministry also made certain clarifications in the statement, and said, "the assertion that Indian territory is up to Finger 4 is categorically false. The territory of India is as depicted by the map of India and includes more than 43,000 sq km currently under illegal occupation of China since 1962."
"Even the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as per the Indian perception, is at Finger 8, not at Finger 4. That is why India has persistently maintained the right to patrol upto Finger 8, including in the current understanding with China," the MoD said.
Surjewala said the Modi government's unpardonable, blatant and brazen compromise of national security and India's territorial integrity stands exposed.
"Prime Minister and Defence Minister have undermined the astounding valor and insurmountable grit of our armed forces, who faced Chinese incursions and aggressions with indomitable courage and sacrifice," he alleged.
The Congress leader asked why Modi government has committed the "unpardonable compromise" with our national security vis-a-vis our dominant positions in Kailash ranges.
Surjewala said on the northern bank of Pangong Tso Lake, India has always maintained control of Finger 4 with its 'forward base' at Finger 4 and India patrolled upto Finger 8 i.e. the LAC.
"Defence Minister's statement made yesterday and para 6 of Defence Ministry's statement of today seek to blatantly compromise India's Territorial Integrity by Modi Government agreeing to withdraw from Finger 4 to Finger 3," he alleged.
"Why is Modi Government undermining India's Territorial Integrity by withdrawing from Finger 4 to Finger 3 on the Northern Bank of Pangong Tso Lake Area," he said.
Surjewala said one of the most strategic and provocative incursions into the Indian territory by Chinese is in Depsang plains.
Defence Minister Singh had announced in Parliament on Thursday that India and China have reached an agreement on disengagement in the North and South banks of Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh that mandates both sides to "cease" forward deployment of troops in a "phased, coordinated and verifiable" manner.
Singh had shared the details of the pact to defuse the tense military face-off in eastern Ladakh that severely strained ties between the two Asian giants.
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