Centre Not Consulted On Ladakh Road Project, Says Krishna

9 December 2009
The Economic Times

New Delhi: The Centre, accused of being soft on China, attempted to wash its hands off the Ladakh road project, which was stalled by the Chinese. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna told the Lok Sabha that the Centre was not consulted on either the start or end of the project and had come to know of it only through media reports. “The government of India had no role to play in starting the road project or halting (it). It was fully a decision, which the Jammu and Kashmir government took,” he said, replying to a short-duration discussion on the relations with China in the backdrop of recent occurrences. He added that India wanted good neighbourly relations with China. The Centre distancing itself from the matter comes close on the heels of a statement from Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that he had got an assurance from it that the matter would be taken up with China. Mr Abdullah had also confirmed that the 8-km stretch, being constructed under NREGS, had been stopped after the Chinese Army objected to the road construction in Demchok, which is on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control. China brought up the issue in a flag meeting and asked the Indian side to stop work in the area it classified as ‘disputed territory’. Locals had said the construction was stopped after the Chinese Army came to the Indian side and stopped the work. The government, which has continued to show inconsistency in its China policy, came in for some heavy criticism in the Lok Sabha with the Opposition accusing it of going soft on China. Responding to the attack, Mr Krishna said India wanted and had tried to ‘defuse’ issues related to incursions, as it did not want to “enlarge differences” into major differences. “We are not a soft state. We are a state which has earned the respect of the world.” He was responding to Shiv Sena MP Anant Geete, who had said the government was not prepared to tackle the Chinese threat. BJP also expressed concern with the government’s handling of China and asked it to take steps to counter the Chinese threat. BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who opened the debate in Lok Sabha, accused the government of misleading the country on Chinese incursions and pointed out that 20 incursions could not be termed routine. “The government is terming more than 20 incursions across the country’s boundaries as routine. The country is not ready to accept this anymore,” he said. “You (the government) should either say that they are not ready (to take on China). But like we were caught napping in 1962, this might happen this time also.” Mr Joshi advised the government to formulate a long-term China policy and forge ties with international players as a counter to China. “Is the government thinking about countries which will help us or will the policy continue to be America-centric,” he asked. He also asked the government if the US would come to India’s aid in case of trouble with China.