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At all-party meeting PM cops criticism from Congress

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government came in for sharp criticism by the Congress at an all-party meeting convened by the Prime Minister on Friday to discuss the border skirmish with China four days ago in which 20 Indian soldiers died. While most of the opposition leaders expressed solidarity with the government, the Congress said the central government was keeping everybody in the dark.

The prime minister for his part clarified that there were no Chinese in Indian territory nor were any Indian posts captured. He said 20 brave soldiers sacrificed their lives which “the nation will forever remember their valour.”

Modi said the entire country was hurt and angry at the steps taken by China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). He assured the leaders that the Indian armed forces are leaving no stone unturned to protect the country.

“Be it deployment, action or counter action, through land, sea or air, our forces are taking the necessary steps to protect the country,” Modi said.

He emphasised that the country today has capabilities to repulse any encroachment on Indian land. Indian forces are capable of moving together across sectors, he added.

The army has been given freedom to take necessary steps, but India has also conveyed its position clearly to China through diplomatic means, he said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the first opposition leader to speak during the video conference, delivered a sharp critique of the government’s handling of the crisis. Most other leaders, including Mamata Banerjee and Uddhav Thackeray, expressed solidarity with the Centre.

“This meeting, in my view, should have come sooner and immediately after the government had been reportedly informed about the Chinese intrusion on May 5 into several places in Ladakh and elsewhere,” Gandhi said.

“As always, the entire nation would have stood together like a rock and fully supported the government of the day in the steps required to defend the territorial integrity of the country. Alas, that was not to be. In fact, even at this late stage, we are still in the dark about many crucial aspects of the crisis,” she remarked, raising a series of questions.

The Congress president closed her statement with the assertion that her party and the entire opposition “unitedly stand by our defence forces” and added that the entire country would like an assurance that China will revert back to the original position on the LAC.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee chose to make a strong statement of support. The all-party meeting, she said, was a good message for the nation and showed that “we are united behind our jawans”.

NCP leader Sharad Pawar stressed that issues like whether Indian soldiers should have carried arms or not are decided by international agreements. “We need to respect such sensitive matters,” Pawar said, appearing to make a point about Rahul Gandhi attacking the government in daily tweets.

BSP chief Mayawati said this was not the time for politics and stressed that she firmly stood by Modi’s decisions. Several opposition parties like the RJD, AAP and AIMIM reacted angrily over not being invited to the all-party meeting called by the Prime Minister, and raised questions over the criteria for the invitation.

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