Sushma Swaraj and Rahul Gandhi

Sushma Bangs Rahul For Meeting Chinese Ambassador

 External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj took a sharp dig at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday, saying it was unfortunate that he had chosen to meet the Chinese ambassador rather than the Indian government to be informed about the situation in Doklam.

Referring to Rahul’s meeting with Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui, she asked how “a leader of the largest opposition party deemed it necessary to get his facts (on the border row) from the Chinese (rather than from the government)”. This led to Congress protesting that it was quite normal for Chinese ambassador to meet political leaders.

Referring to Congress leader Anand Sharma recalling a letter written to then PM Jawaharlal Nehru by BJP veteran A B Vajpayee in 1962, requesting him to call a session of Parliament to discuss the India-China conflict, Swaraj said: “How I wish the opposition had done the same now!”

The minister defended PM Narendra Modi over relations with the US, saying that while the opposition had quoted what US president Donald Trump had to say with regard to India and climate change, they had omitted Modi’s response.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Swaraj said the government, however, did not wait for the opposition to seek details on the Doklam stand-off and itself reached out with an exhaustive briefing for leaders of various parties. “The opposition, at the end of the briefing, said it was fully satisfied with my replies to their queries on the Indo-China-Bhutan tri-junction stand-off,” she said.

The debate on Thursday saw the opposition faulting the Modi government’s foreign policy towards South Asia, big powers like the US and Russia and countries in West Asia, arguing that India stood isolated on many fronts. Sharma alleged that the government’s Pakistan policy was without a roadmap while almost all opposition MPs, including JD(U) MP Sharad Yadav and SP’s Ramgopal Yadav, expressed worry over China’s growing influence in the neighbourhood and the current Doklam standoff as well as Russia’s joint exercises with Pakistan Army. CPM’s Sitaram Yechury alleged India was a junior partner in its relationship with the US which had imposed curbs on H-1B and spouse visas.

Another common grievance of the opposition was that the Modi government, despite around 65 foreign trips by the PM, had not briefed it on what transpired during his engagements.

Swaraj, in a detailed reply that countered the charges, said she was relying on facts to make it clear that there was a roadmap for ties with Pakistan.+ “Terror and talks cannot go together” is the path. “The day it (Pakistan) stops terror, talks will be resumed,” she said, pointing out that matters deteriorated after Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif declared Hizbul leader Burhan Wani a martyr.

 Swaraj also took the opposition’s charge — levelled by Sharma, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP’s S C Mishra and Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien — that India has been isolated in its neighbourhood. India had helped Maldives during the water crisis; was first to reach aid to Sri Lanka during floods; assisted Nepal in quake relief and was the biggest aid donor and had good ties with Bangladesh.
 She also countered Congress’s charge that a flawed policy had allowed China to take over neighbouring ports in Hambantota, Colombo+ and Gwadar. She said work on all these ports was started and taken forward while UPA was still in office, with Hambantota completed between 2008 and 2011, Colombo between 2011 and 2014 and Gwadar contract dating back to 2013.

“Don’t blame NDA’s foreign policy. You are the source of your concern over these ports,” she told Sharma.

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