Chidambaram: Rajnath’s statement on Tawang face-off was empty, House discussion was good

P Chidambaram, who is a senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member, spoke to Manoj C G on a day when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made a statement in Parliament about a fresh face-off between Indian and Chinese forces in Tawang. Chidambaram called Singh’s statement bland and meaningless. Narendra Modi should have allowed a discussion in Parliament, he said, not afraid of even mentioning China. A few excerpts:

Is Rajnath Singh’s statement on the Chinese transgression satisfactory?

Obviously not. He didn’t say anything more than what was in the papers this morning. The information was obtained from the newspapers at 6 a.m. Could you please provide us with the additional information he provided at 12.30 pm. If he were to read the newspapers, he might as well do so. Essentially, it was an empty and bland statement. Thus, no additional information was provided to members of Parliament.

You requested clarification from the Minister of Defence. What did you want to ask?

If I were a questioner, I would have asked… how is it that China chooses the date, the time, and the location of the intrusion. It has happened before, and it is not the first time. Galwan was the site of this incident in 2020. As a result, every intrusion has occurred at the time, place and date chosen by China. How are you deterring China from making periodic intrusions into your territory?

Is the government not taking the threat posed by China seriously?

Government officials are taking it so seriously that they are afraid to discuss it openly. It is difficult for them to mention the word China. In his remarks, the Prime Minister does not mention the word China. When he met Mr. Xi Jinping, the president of China, he does not describe what transpired. Mr. Xi has been encountered several times by him. At the G20 summit, the last meeting was held. In the same room as Xi, he was present. The Prime Minister does not refer to China and does not explain or take the House into confidence about what he told Xi about the intrusions. Has he discussed the intrusions with Xi?

There was no response to the opposition’s request for a discussion on the issue or for clarifications from the Defence Minister.

This is a completely incorrect statement. In the past, there have been discussions following ministerial statements in the Rajya Sabha. For example, the ‘cash for vote’ transaction was discussed during the tenure of (P V) Narasimha Rao. Furthermore, during the Anna Hazare movement, there was a discussion in the Rajya Sabha for seven hours after a statement was made. 27 members participated in that discussion. In Rajya Sabha, a full discussion on Lokpal was held following the minister’s statement. We have at least two or three examples of a full discussion following a minister’s statement. I do not understand how you can claim that there can be no discussion after a minister makes a statement.

The Chair argued that the issue was sensitive due to its proximity to the border.

When it comes to a sensitive border issue, it would be appropriate to hold a closed-door meeting. A closed session of Parliament should be held. In the event that you do not wish to do so, invite the opposition leaders – at least the parliamentary party leaders of major parties – and allow the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister to meet with them in private.

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