After 20 Indian soldiers were killed in Galwan Valley a fortnight ago in clashes with China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), political parties have been pressing for the issue to be discussed in detail. After the all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, MPs from the Department Related Standing Committee for External Affairs have now demanded for a meeting on the India-China issue and have asked the committee to summon the Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary and others.
Senior parliamentarian and RSP leader NK Premachandran has written a letter to the Chairman of the External Affairs Committee PP Chaudhary and requested for a meeting.
CNN-News18 has accessed the letter written to the former law minister and BJP MP in which Premachandran says, "There are several issues including India-China border issue that needs to be addressed. It has a key role by the Ministry of External Affairs and thus the Standing Committee must convene a meeting to discuss the said matter. Since MPs may not like to travel to Delhi for a meeting, an option to hold a virtual meeting may be considered."
This sentiment is expressed by a host of leaders from the opposition camp.
"It is a matter of urgent importance and thus we should have a committee meeting where the officers of External Affairs and Defence Ministry can answer our questions," former Home Minister and Rajya Sabha MP P Chidambaram told CNN-News18.
TRS Lok Sabha MP Venkatesh Borlakunta, a member of the committee, said, "This is a critical matter and I am of the opinion that a meeting like this will only bring some clarity."
BSP MP Ritesh Pandey said the matter concerns the country and the MPs are concerned as well. "Committees are not run by a single party. They have representatives of all parties, so they also need to be taken into confidence and clarity must be provided on an urgent matter like this," he said. "I think it would be advisable to call for a committee meeting and allow for concerned officials to be summoned."
TDP's Jaidev Galla said China is a critical issue.
"India is a democracy and parliamentary democracy is vital, so is the importance of parliamentary committees. We cannot get away by saying no meetings because of pandemic and because people can't travel, virtual meetings must be held," he said. "The government business is being done through the same protocol. The Prime Minister held a virtual all-party meeting that was confidential too. So the government must not cite protocol but think along the lines of taking everybody along."
PC Mohan, BJP MP from Bengaluru Central, said calling a meeting at this time is a political issue by the opposition.
Mohan, who is in the DRSC for External Affairs, said," This is an ongoing situation. The opposition should wait and keep politics aside on matters like this. Our government is efficiently handling the matter. Unfortunately, the Congress and others have never understood what national security means."
Chaudhry, who has been in receipt of the request from a few other MPs as well, said, "National security is paramount. When there is a developing situation at play and the highest government offices are handling it, every mature individual/party must keep politics aside. This is not the time. I do not see this as a time to call for a meeting on such a sensitive matter. We have faith in our Prime Minister; our Defence Minister and the Minister of External Affairs will do what is best in the interest of the nation."
Many committee members have demanded that since there is still hesitation in the minds of MPs to travel with the growing number of coronavirus cases, India should also go digital.
As far as the decision of holding virtual parliamentary committee meetings is concerned, it lies with the Rajya Sabha Chairman and the Lok Sabha Speaker. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Om Birla have asked the Rajya Sabha secretary generals of both houses to explore the possibilities as no meetings of the parliament committees have taken place in three months due to the lockdown and subsequent restrictions on travel.
On June 19, the central government had called for an all-party meet attended by party chiefs of close to 17 political parties.
Various parties, from TMC to TRS to Shiv Sena and NCP and DMK, had expressed solidarity with the soldiers and their families and had also extended support to the Centre to tackle China militarily and diplomatically or even economically.
The Congress had asked certain questions directly on what had transpired in Galwan Valley, demanding a clear response from the government. In the meeting, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had told leaders that there was no military or intelligence failure that led to the killing of 20 soldiers and injuries to several others.
The Congress has continued to attack the government failure, with former party president and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi fronting the attack.