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Top ministers & Oppn leaders' meet: consensus on China, differences on Kashmir

Catch Team | Updated on: 14 July 2017, 22:35 IST

Senior Union ministers on Friday briefed leaders of Opposition parties on India's ongoing border dispute with China, and the prevailing situation in Kashmir.

Ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, which is to begin on 17 July, the government intended to build consensus on how to deal with China, which is flexing its muscle in the Doklam area of Sikkim.

The three-hour long meeting ended with a broad consensus emerging – that there can be no compromise on national security, and differences with China should be resolved through dialogue.

Two former Union Defence Ministers – Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav – stressed that the stand off with China should be handled carefully, and every effort should be made to resolve the issue diplomatically.

Even the Congress stressed that the face-off with China should be resolved through diplomatic channels, and peace should be maintained at all costs. Trinamool Congress's Derek O'Brien claimed that all parties were united on the issue of national security.

Consensus on China

The stand-off between India and China is a consequence of the latter trying to disturb the status-quo at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction in Doklam. On 16 June, the Indian government claimed that a People's Liberation Army construction party was trying to build a road in Dhoka La, which Bhutan claims is part of its territory.

The meeting was held at Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh's residence. The government was represented by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and top government officials, including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.

The Opposition camp featured the likes of the Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leaders of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha respectively, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Tariq Anwar (NCP), Sharad Yadav and KC Tyagi (JD-U), and O'Brien, among others.

The Opposition parties appreciated the government's efforts to take them into confidence on these critical issues.

A senior MEA spokesperson claimed that all political parties greatly appreciated the detailed briefing, and expressed strong support for India's approach and also for the need for national unity. “Importance of India and China to remain engaged through diplomacy was underlined. There was widespread appreciation of the Astana understanding between India and China, that differences between them should not become disputes. The unique nature of very close and longstanding India-Bhutan relationship was recognised,” the spokesperson said.

Differences that'll disrupt Parliament

Differences did emerge between the government and the Opposition over internal security, particularly over the massacre of Amarnath yatris in Kashmir. These differences are likely to set the agenda for the upcoming Monsoon Session.

O'Brien, while speaking to the media, said the government didn't give the Opposition the answers it was looking for. He questioned why the government wasn't ready, if it had intelligence inputs about a terrorist attack.

Though a consensus has emerged on certain issues, it is not likely to result in smooth functioning of Parliament beginning on Monday. The 18 Opposition parties that are part of the informal rainbow coalition against the government will raise contentious issues like farmer suicides, Amarnath Yatra killings, lynchings, and the fallout of the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, among various other issues, in order to put the government on the back foot.

The Opposition is also likely to corner the government on raids by investigating agencies on leaders of Opposition parties, like Trinamool leaders and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family members. The Congress and other parties had hinted about this earlier.

The Opposition seems to be in no mood to let Parliament function with ease, and multiple disruptions, as witnessed in the previous sessions, are likely to dominate the proceedings this time around as well.

Therefore, though this meeting proceeded smoothly, it almost certainly won't be the case Monday onwards.

First published: 14 July 2017, 22:35 IST