China constructing roads hampering India’s interests: Govt to opp

New Delhi, Jul 14 (PTI) The government today told opposition leaders that China is constructing roads near the international border hampering the country’s strategic interests and NSA Ajit Doval will put forward New Delhi’s position before his Chinese counterparts later this month, officials said.

The opposition leaders were briefed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and top officials, including National Security Advisor Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar ahead of the parliament session beginning Monday.

Officials said Doval and Jaishankar made a detailed presentation before the opposition leaders, including those from the Congress, the Left, the NCP and the TMC, saying Indian Army is in a stand-off with the People’s Liberation Army of China in the India-Bhutan-China tri- junction.

The top ministers told the opposition leaders that Doval will be visiting China on July 26-27 and will put forward before Chinese interlocutors India’s position, they said.

The importance of India and China to remain engaged through diplomacy was underlined at a briefing by senior Union ministers to political parties on the situation in Dokalam, the External Affairs Ministry said.

Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma told reporters after the meeting that their party has raised some doubts before the government’s policy but made it clear that “nation is first — be it China or Kashmir”.

“There is too much of tension (with China) and that should be lowered through diplomacy. We will also raise the issue in Parliament,” both the leaders said.

Sharma said that Congress made its view clear that national security was the priority and advised the government to rise above politics and tackle the situation diplomatically.

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said his party raised “some serious questions” and claimed that government had no answer to his question on preparedeness for such incidents.

Opposition leaders were also briefed about the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the government action in the wake of killing of seven Amarnath pilgrims by terrorists last Monday.

The briefing on Kashmir was made by union home secretary-designate Rajiv Gauba.

Government chief spokesperson Frank Noronha said the basic purpose of the meeting was to apprise MPs from different parties about situation along Sino-Indian border and on terrorist attack on Amarnath Yatris.

The MPs were briefed that 2.2 lakh pilgrims visited Amarnath last year while so far 1.86 lakh have already visited the cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir.

NDA ally Shiv Sena leader Anandrao Adsul said the government need to be more aggressive in dealing with China.

“I thought the government will speak on these lines, but it did not,” he said.

CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said the government conveyed about the efforts being carried out to resolve the dispute with China.

Union minister Ramvilas Paswan, who is an alliance in the NDA government, said the external affairs minister and foreign secretary gave a detailed information on border issue especially in Dokalam.

“Everybody promised support to the government,” he said.

Others who attended the meeting — considered an effort to build consensus on dealings with India’s biggest neighbour and Kashmir — included Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress), Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP), Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar (NCP) and Sharad Yadav and K C Tyagi (JD-U).

New Delhi has expressed concern over China trying to change the status quo at the India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction in Dokalam area of Sikkim.

China and India have been engaged in the standoff in the Dokalam area for the past three weeks after a Chinese Army’s construction party attempted to build a road. Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Dokalam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region.

Seven pilgrims were killed by militants in Anantnag district while returning from the Amarnath cave shrine on Monday.

Four districts of the state — Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag — are on the boil since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8, 2016.

The unrest has resumed since the April 9 bypoll to the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.

Opposition leaders have been criticising the government for the way it has handled China and Kashmir.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “silence” on China. On Wednesday, he accused Modi of pursuing policies that created space for terrorists in Kashmir.

He also alleged that the prime minister’s pursuit of short-term political gains through the BJP-PDP alliance in the state has cost the country dear and resulted in innocent lives being lost.

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