Parties united on national interest: Opposition on India-China stand-off, Amarnath terror attack
Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh address a meeting of opposition leaders briefing them on the Indo-China standoff. Photograph: (ANI)
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and home minister Rajnath Singh today (July 14) held a joint briefing of the opposition parties on the issue of India-China standoff and the situation in Kashmir in the aftermath of the killing of seven Amarnath pilgrims.
The opposition was informed about the situation on the ground in Doklam and what the government intended to do to de-escalate the tension in the disputed area, where the armies of China and India are involved in a stand-off since a month.
India's external affairs ministry said after the meeting that all parties supported India's approach and were briefed about the importance of India and China remaining engaged through diplomacy.
"All participants expressed strong support for India's approach and also for the need for national unity. Importance of India and China to remain engaged through diplomacy was underlined," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay said.
"There was widespread appreciation of the Astana understanding between India and China that differences between them should not become disputes," Gopal Baglay said.
The Opposition parties led by the Congress said all parties were with the government as far as national unity was concerned.
The Congress urged the government to engage diplomatically with China to de-escalate the situation in Doklam and resolve the border crisis without compromising on India's national interests.
"We stand united when it comes to India's national interests," Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
"We had concerns. We told the government to deescalate the situation and resolve the crisis by diplomatically engaging with China without compromising on India's security interests," he said.
Alleging that security lapses in Jammu and Kashmir led to the attack on Amarnath pilgrims, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Mallikarjun Kharge asked the government to engage with the local population and help improve the situation in Kashmir.
Ghulam Nabi Azad said all opposition parties have assured the government that when it comes to the country's territorial integrity, they all stand united.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said he also raised the issue of the overall internal security situation in the country in the wake of rising incidents of lynchings and vigilantism.
He also urged the government on the need to initiate engagement in Kashmir to improve the situation in the valley after all-round condemnation of attacks on Amarnath pilgrims.
The meeting comes just before the beginning of the Monsoon session of the Parliament, and is being viewed as an attempt to apparently build a consensus to deal with India's biggest neighbour as well as on the Kashmir issue.
The Congress has been critical of the government for not keeping it informed over the developments on the border stand-off with China and on the internal security situation.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and foreign secretary S Jaishankar were also present in the meeting which was held at Rajnath Singh's residence.
Leaders from the opposition parties were invited for the briefing by the government.
CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury, Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lok Janshakti Party's Ram Vilas Paswan, NCP's Tariq Anwar and Sharad Yadav and JD-U's KC Tyagi also attended the meeting.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Opposition will "fully support" the Centre in its efforts to resolve the India-China standoff in Doklam through diplomatic channels.
He, however, asked the government to introspect why India's ties with its neighbours have "suddenly deteriorated".
The Left leader also questioned the government on whether the Amarnath terror attack could have been prevented, asking why intelligence inputs available before the attack on Amarnath pilgrims "was not used" and how the bus carrying pilgrims was allowed to go off on its own.
In a Facebook post after the meeting, Yechury reiterated the opposition's position that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has "worsened" in the past three years and asked the government to correct its "faulty" approach.
The CPI (M) leader also accused the government of going back on the promises made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India that "it shall implement confidence-building measures and start the political process with all stakeholders".