Questioning the silence of India's ruling establishment on the incursion by Chinese forces in Indian territory, interim Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Modi to brief the nation on the situation at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
Paying her homage to the 20 Indian soldiers killed in a violent confrontation with Chinese troops in Galwan valley, Gandhi in a video message said the government needed to share with the people of this country its policy and action plan in dealing with the current crisis.
"The martyrdom of 20 of our soldiers...has shook the conscience of the entire nation...Everyone knows that for the past one-and-a-half months China has infiltrated our territory in Ladakh. Today when in India there is great anguish, the Prime Minister should come forward and explain to the nation how China was able to capture India's soil and why 20 Indian soldiers were martyred," Gandhi said.
She said that the Prime Minister should brief the country on the status as it is right now. "Are our soldiers and officers still untraceable? How many soldiers and officers are critically injured? China has captured which all areas and where? To deal with this situation, what is the government's thought, policy and action?"
Assuring the government that the Congress was with the government and the forces in this time of crisis, Gandhi expressed hope that in the present challenging time "entire country will unitedly stand against the enemy."
A few minutes after Sonia Gandhi's statement, Prime Minister Modi in a video statement said that India wants peace but, when provoked, had the capability to respond appropriately. "The sacrifices of our soldiers will not go in vain," Modi said before observing a two-minute silence along with Chief Ministers of several states with whom he is now discussing India's preparations and policy of fighting Covid-19 pandemic.
The Prime Minister said that integrity and sovereignty were at the top of India's interests. This is the first time that Modi has spoken since the Indian army released a statement, late last night, confirming the deaths of 20 soldiers in the clash with Chinese forces at Ladakh's Galwan valley. In this 3 minute speech Modi talked about India's "integrity and sovereignty" thrice.
The opposition has been repeatedly questioning the government over its silence on reports of China capturing part of Galwan valley. According to some reports, China was in possession of around 60 square kilometre of Indian territory. The government has so far not denied any of these claims.
“Words cannot describe the pain I feel for the officers and men who sacrificed their lives for our country. My condolences to all their loved ones. We stand with you in this difficult time,” former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted after deaths of 20 soldiers were reported.
“The nation is waiting for an official statement from the Ministry of Defence or Army HQ. Will it come tonight? The PM has maintained a worrying silence since May 5. Can you imagine any other Head of Government not saying a word for 7 weeks since the intrusion of foreign troops into a country?” asked former Union minister P. Chidambaram in a series of tweets on Tuesday.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh also urged India to take some action. "Each sign of weakness on our part makes the Chinese reaction more belligerent," he said on Twitter.
Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and National Conference leader, tweeted "If the Chinese shoot dead an Indian army colonel & two jawans during a “de-escalation process” imagine how escalated the situation must be in the first place."
The CPI (M) had on Tuesday also issued a statement urging the union government to come out with an authoritative statement. Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Twitter said that his father and former defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had on many occasions warned the government of the “dangers and challenges from the Chinese side but it was met with indifference”. “When will the government respond to this [Ladakh incident]?” he wondered.
“Shocked and anguished over the killing of our brave officer and 2 soldiers in Galwan Valley. There are more disturbing reports emerging about the clash at LAC even as Govt talks of de-escalation. Govt. should come clean on the LAC situation and act swiftly to defend borders,” BSP leader Kunwar Danish Ali tweeted.