Saturday, August 13th, 2022 23:21:23

Congress under the shadow of its MoU with China?

By Amba Charan Vashishth
Updated: August 29, 2020 2:23 pm

“You (petitioners) are saying that China has entered into an agreement with a political party and not the government”.

“How can a political party enter into an agreement with China?”

“We find that there is something which appears to be, what might be called, unheard of and absurd in law.”

These were the observations made by an SC bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde on August 7, 2020 while considering the PIL filed by petitioners Shashank Shekhar Jha and journalist Savio Rodrigues.

“Amid India-China face-off on Line of Actual Control (LAC)”, the petitioners had sought SC orders for a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the August 7, 2008 agreement signed between INC and CPC.

“Despite of having a hostile relation with China, Respondent No.1 (INC) had signed an agreement when it was running a coalition government and (had) hidden the facts and details of the agreement from the country. The petitioners firmly believe that the Nation’s security cannot and shouldn’t be compromised by any one,” they prayed before the SC.

The matter is likely to be raised in the High Court and end up in the SC again for a final verdict.

But it is interesting to take note of the little facts so far known about the case.

China is a three-headed dragon comprising Government of China, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Communist Party of China (CPC). All the three organs remain inseparable. These together call the shots in China.

Soon after her arrival in Beijing with her family for the Olympics Games inaugural ceremony, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between CPC and INC in the presence of its President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. On INC side MoU was signed by her son and INC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and on the Chinese side by vice-president and standing committee member of the CPC’s politburo, Xi Jinping” (who is now the CPC General Secretary and President of China). It provided “for exchanging high level information and cooperation between the two political parties”.

The MoU also afforded the two parties an “opportunity to consult each other on important bilateral, regional and international developments”.  It further put in place “a mechanism that would help regular high-level exchanges between them”.

The text and life tenure of the MOU has never been made public, not even to party members.

INC claims credit for giving the country the Right to Information Act. It wants transparency in every matter of the present NDA government’s functioning, even in defence. But when it comes to its own self, it wishes to shield itself behind iron curtains of secrecy like China.

The MoU is questionable on some other counts too.

The INC in India and CPC in China do not stand on an equal pedestal because of the diverse systems of government in the two countries. China is a communist country sans adult suffrage to the exclusion of multiparty system. CPC is the only party that continues to rule the country since the revolution in China in 1949.

On the other hand, India is a parliamentary democracy which passes through a process of free and fair elections after every five years. Because of multiparty system and a regular cycle of elections the face of the ruling party/alliance continues to change every now and then. Even in 2008 INC was not the ruling party on its own strength when the MoU was signed. It was only leading an alliance called United Progressive Alliance (UPA) which lost power in the 2014 elections.

Therefore, the MoU between the ruling CPC in China and the INC —  no longer the ruling party in India for the past over six years — stands reduced to an understanding between odd and unequal partners.

During the stand-off on Doklam in 2017 between India and China, Rahul Gandhi had met the Chinese ambassador to India in Delhi. In the morning Congress denied this meeting but later in the evening admitted it. But none of the two parties explained whether the meeting was in pursuance of the 2008 MOU which provided an “opportunity to consult each other on important bilateral, regional and international developments….(to)  help regular high-level exchanges between them”.

2007 about an year before signing of the MOU Mrs. Sonia Gandhi as INC President had led her party’s delegation to China. The newly re-elected President of China Hu Jintao told Mrs. Gandhi: “You are the first foreign political leader to visit China after the conclusion of 17th National Congress which is an indication of importance both of us have attached to our relations”.

Both Hu and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao were effusive in their praise for late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, describing him as an “outstanding statesman,” who had contributed to strengthening of Sino-Indian relations.

“I think the visit has considerable significance… Very warm sentiments were expressed on both sides,” the senior Congress leader Dr. Karan Singh said.”“President Hu met the delegation for over two hours…and touched upon the common problems facing both the countries and offered to work together in meeting the challenges,” Shri Chavan Minister in the PMO added: Bilateral issues were only broadly touched upon….., adding Sonia Gandhi’s visit has renewed the very warm relationship that India had with China ever since Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1988.

(https://www.rediff.com/news/2007/oct/29china.htm)

A controversy over Chinese encroachment erupted between Indian and Chinese forces on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Galwan Valley of Laddakh on June 15, 2020 leading to skirmishes in which India lost 20 Indian soldiers inflicting a heavy loss of 43 soldiers and officers to China. Since then a number of meetings have taken place between Army Commanders of both countries to settle the matter peacefully and amicably. One day China agrees to pull back and then the next day it takes another stand. Efforts are being made to make China see reason and find a peaceful solution. If peace efforts fail PM Modi has declared in no uncertain terms that the country is prepared for the worst to save every inch of the country’s sacred land.

In a meeting of all political parties to brief them about the Galwan valley (Ladakh) situation Mrs. Sonia Gandhi did not publicly and openly condemn China. On the other hand, she criticized NDA government for intelligence failure. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal demanded PM Modi to publicly condemn China for intrusion. But, surprisingly, Soniaji and Rahulji have so far been feeling shy of denunciating China. Why? They know better.

In his Independence Day address to the nation on August 15, PM Modi said: “From LoC (Line of Control with Pakistan) to LAC (Line of Actual Control with China), anyone who has raised eyes on the sovereignty of the country, the Army of the country has responded to it in the same language.” He did not name any country, yet his message was fast and clear to everybody who listened to him or read his speech was left with no doubt as to whom it was directed. Electronic and print media were quick to tell their readers as to whom it was addressed. Even China and Pakistan were quick to grasp it. Yet one fails to understand why Rahulji could not grasp it and criticized PM “for not naming China. It is the prerogative of the PM to choose the words and language to detonate his message clear in the ears he intends.

Drawing a wedge between the country’s forces and the government, Rahulji said ““We all are proud of our armed, paramilitary and police forces…… Whenever there has been an attack on us, they have given a befitting reply to the attackers.” Further, he asks Modi government “to tell the people how it proposes to push back Chinese forces occupying Indian territory”.

(https://theprint.in/diplomacy/in-i-day-speech-modi-stresses-on-new-neighbourhood-policy-mentions-galwan-in-message-to-china/482147/ )

During Congress-led UPA-2 with Dr. Manmohan Singh as PM a media report by IANS had on May 28, 2020 stated that China had occupied 640 Sq Km of Indian Territory in Eastern Ladakh. It kept quiet. In 2013, former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board under the National Security Council after his visit to the region informed the government that the People”s Liberation Army (PLA) patrol had set a new Line of Actual Control, thus occupying 640 sq km of Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh. Yet Manmohan government kept quiet and did not file even a protest with the Chinese government. But now they have become very bold and vocal.   It is naïve on the part of some Congress leaders to demand the government to share with the people its strategy to meet the situation on the border with China. Everybody knows that combat strategy is never shared with the people before. Doing so only helps the enemy.

It is only a case of the kettle calling the pot black. One has yet to come across a single line from the former ruling party condemning China for its aggressive and expansionist designs against India. Is the MoU coming in the way?

At the same time, there are reports of the Chinese Ambassador to India and the Government of China having together donated Rs. one crore to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation which is practically owned by Gandhi family with Mrs. Sonia Gandhi as head and Rahul Gandhi and Mrs. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as members besides a few Congress leaders.

Let us wait for the court verdict when the dark clouds of suspicion are likely to be cleared for a bright sun shine of truth.

 

By Amba Charan Vashishth

(The writer is a Delhi-based political analyst and commentator.)

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