In 2020, the Congress and BJP sparred incessantly over Chinese activity across the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. While the Congress accused the Narendra Modi government of concealing Chinese incursions, the BJP accused the grand old party of failures on border security during its time in government.
Now, with media reports alleging that China has expanded construction work in Arunachal Pradesh, the northeastern state has become the latest subject of political sparring.
On Tuesday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted a news article that claimed China had built a village in Arunachal Pradesh.
Rahul took a jibe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, noting, "Remember his promise—'मैं देश झुकने नहीं दूँगा' (Will not let the country bow)." Rahul was referring to a line that Modi often quoted during his election campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala also slammed Modi over the reports of Chinese activity in Arunachal Pradesh.
"Modiji where is that 56-inch chest," Surjewala asked on Twitter.
Former Home Minister P. Chidambaram had on Monday demanded answers from the government on the issue, alleging that BJP MP Tapir Gao had claimed that China built a 100-house village in the "disputed area" deep into Arunachal Pradesh. He said if the allegation made out by the BJP MP is true, will the government again give a clean chit to China or will blame the previous governments for it.
"Mr Tapir Gao MP, belonging to BJP, has alleged that deep into Arunachal Pradesh, in a 'disputed area' within Indian territory, the Chinese have built a 100-house village, a bazaar and a two-lane road in the last year. If this is true, it is clear that the Chinese have altered the status quo by converting a disputed area into a permanent settlement of Chinese nationals. What has the government to say about these startling facts," Chidambaram had said on Twitter.
However on Tuesday, Tapir Gao blamed previous Congress governments of inaction against Chinese activity in Arunachal Pradesh.
Gao told news agency ANI that "it was during Congress' regime China occupied Sumdorong Chu Valley in Tawang and added that the then Army chief planned an operation, but former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi denied him permission to push back People's Liberation Army troops."
At Sumdorong Chu, Indian and Chinese forces were engaged in a standoff in 1986-1987.
Gao alleged, "Operation Pelican was hatched to flush out the Chinese army. But Rajiv Gandhi quashed the plan and instead went to Beijing in 1986 and came back empty-handed. From the 80s till today, the Chinese have occupied this area and they have constructed a military base on land in the Indian Territory as per McMahon line. I don't know what happened to Indian intelligence reports... to the Government of India. I had raised the issue in Parliament in Zero Hour how China has occupied the upper Subansiri district.”
Gao told ANI, "Since the 80s till today, they (China) are occupying this area and construction of villages is not a new thing. They have already constructed military base between Bisa and Maza, which is inside McMahon Line, under Indian territory... There was a wrong policy of government during the Congress regime. They didn't construct roads up to the border, which left a buffer zone of 3-4 km which China occupied. Construction of new villages isn't a new thing, it's all inherited from Congress."
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Gao also targeted Rahul Gandhi, alleging the Congress leader had an "agreement” with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Criticising Congress MP Shashi Tharoor for a tweet on the Arunachal issue, Gao claimed, "I would like to request Tharoor whether he would be able to give an agreement signed by Rahul Gandhi and Xi Jinping and whether Arunachal and Aksai Chin were mentioned in the agreement. Before opposition questions the PM, they should try to answer this," said Gao.
In 2008, Rahul Gandhi and Xi Jinping, then a senior leader of the Chinese Communist Party, had signed an MoU in Beijing to promote ties between their two parties. The pact has been constantly highlighted by BJP leaders to cast aspersions on Rahul's stance on China.