Attacking the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar "does not understand the China threat," adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement that "nobody has entered Indian territory" is an invitation to the Chinese that they can do it again.
In a conversation with members of the Indian Journalists' Association in London, the Wayanad MP also said that he supports Indian foreign policy and doesn't have a huge disagreement with it with regard to India's position on the Russia-Ukraine war.
"As far as Indian foreign policy is concerned, I support the Indian foreign policy and I am okay with it. I don't have a huge disagreement with it," he said when asked a hypothetical question that if China or Pakistan invaded India and since India hadn't taken a position on the Russia-Ukraine war, it could also be ignored by the World if an invasion into India happened.
Gandhi said, "With regards to an invasion, we have already been invaded. We have got 2000 square km of our territory that is in the hands of the People's Liberation Army and the Prime Minister himself has stated that nobody has entered India, not a single inch of land has been taken and this destroyed our negotiation position because our negotiators are being asked what's the fuss about."
"Your Prime Minister says that no land has been taken. So that's one aspect of it. The other aspect which I keep saying is India needs to be very, very careful with what the Chinese are doing at the border. The Chinese are acting in a hostile manner, in an aggressive manner and we need to be very very careful and I have been stating that again and again, I don't think the penny has dropped in the government. I think there is a risk as you say," added Gandhi.
Speaking about Congress's China policy, Rahul Gandhi said that Congress's policy was that they would not allow anyone to enter Indian territory.
"The Congress party's policy on China is very clear, we do not accept anybody entering our territory and pushing us around and bullying us. It doesn't matter who they are, that's not acceptable to us and what has happened is that the Chinese entered our territory, killed our soldiers and the prime minister has denied it," he said.
"That's the problem. The idea, we have a relationship with the United States and we have a partnership with them and we have a shred democratic free idea. I think there is a coercive idea on a planet and there is a democratic idea on a planet and I think a democratic planet needs to be strengthened. But you will not strengthen the democratic idea unless you start to fundamentally think about things like production. The huge amount of inequality that is erupting in the West and India is a threat to the democratic idea. We have to think about that. We have to have a strategy for that and that's not on the table," he added.
When asked about how India should deal with military threats, the Congress leader said, "You have to deal with military threats militarily. But you have to understand the nature of the threat and you have to respond to the nature of the threat. I had one conversation with the Foreign Minister in my view he doesn't understand the threat. The government is not understanding the actual threat from China. The Prime Minister stating that nobody has entered our territory demonstrates that he does not understand the threat because the message to China with that statement is you can do it again," added Rahul Gandhi.
Earlier, hitting out at Rahul Gandhi who has been targeting the government over China's aggression on the LAC in eastern Ladakh, Jaishankar said that it is not the Congress leader but Prime Minister Narendra Modi who sent the Army to the Line of Actual Control as a countermeasure to troop deployment by China and the opposition party should have honesty to look at what happened in 1962.
"When did that area actually come under Chinese control? They (Congress) must have some problem understanding words beginning with 'C'. I think they are deliberately misrepresenting the situation. The Chinese first came there in 1958 and the Chinese captured it in October 1962. Now you are going to blame the Modi government in 2023 for a bridge which the Chinese captured in 1962 and you don't have the honesty to say that it is where it happened," said Dr Jaishankar in an interview to ANI.
"Rajiv Gandhi went to Beijing in 1988...signed agreements in 1993 and 1996. I do not think signing those agreements was wrong. This is not a political point I am making. I think those agreements were signed at that time because we needed to stabilise the border. And they did, stabilise the border," said Jaishankar.
When asked that Rahul Gandhi thought S Jaishankar was insufficient. Jaishankar said that he was always open to listen.
"I think he said this somewhere in a public meeting. It is probably in the context of China. All I can say in my defence is I have been the longest-serving ambassador in China. I have been dealing with a lot of these border issues for a very long time. I am not suggesting that I am necessarily the most knowledgeable person, but I would have a fairly good self-opinion of my understanding of what is up there. If he has superior knowledge and wisdom on China, I am always willing to listen. As I said, for me life is a learning process. If that is a possibility, I have never closed my mind to anything however improbable that may be," said Jaishankar.
The external affairs minister stressed that when other countries' demands are not reasonable, the government will not be able to come to an agreement.
Asked about the Congress party's allegation that the Modi government is defensive and reactive on the China issue, Jaishankar dismissed the claims saying there is currently the largest peacetime deployment along the China border.
"If I would have to sum up this China thing, please do not buy this narrative that somewhere the government is on the defensive...somewhere we are being accommodative. I ask people if we were being accommodative who sent the Indian Army to the LAC (Line of Actual Control). Rahul Gandhi did not send them. Narendra Modi sent them. We have today the largest peacetime deployment in our history on the China border. We are keeping troops there at a huge cost with great effort. We have increased our infrastructure spending on the border five times in this government. Now tell me who is the defensive and accommodative person? Who is actually telling the truth? Who is depicting things accurately? Who is playing footsie with history?" added Jaishankar in an interview to ANI.
Asked about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's remarks that S Jaishankar did not know much about foreign policy and needed to learn a little bit more, the External Affairs Minister took a veiled dig and said he is willing to listen to the Wayanad MP if he has "superior knowledge and wisdom" on China.