In one of the sharpest attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the India-China border standoff, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has said the Chinese are attacking the premier’s image as “they understand that for him to survive as a politician, he has to protect the idea of ‘Chhapan Inch’ (56-inch)”.
He contended that if Modi “allowed the Chinese to understand that they can manipulate him because of his image, the Prime Minister will no longer be worth anything for India”.
Gandhi on Monday released the second of his series of short videos on the India-China face-off. Through the videos, he wants to share his thoughts on national issues.
In his first video on Friday, Gandhi had said the “troubled economy, foreign policy and neighbourhood” prompted China to take an aggressive stand against India.
Titled “China’s Strategic Game Plan”, the second video of two-and-half-minutes focuses on how the Chinese have used the border issue to put pressure on Modi.
“And they (Chinese) are thinking of putting pressure in a very particular way. And what they are doing is that they are attacking his image. They understand that it in order for Mr Narendra Modi to be an effective politician, in order for Mr Narendra Modi to survive as a politician, he has to protect the idea of ‘Chhapan Inch’. And this the real idea the Chinese are attacking. They are basically telling Mr Narendra Modi that if you do not do what we say, we will destroy the idea of Mr Narendra Modi as a strong leader,” Gandhi said.
The former Congress president asked how Modi will react to the situation: “Will he take them on? Will he take on the challenge and say absolutely not, I’m the prime minister of India. I do not care about my image, I’m going to take you on. Or will he succumb to them?”
He further said: “It is simply not a border issue. The worry I have is that Chinese are sitting in our territory today. Chinese don’t do anything without thinking about it strategically. In their mind they have mapped out the world and they are trying to shape the world. That’s the scale of what they are doing.”
He added, “That’s what Gwadar is, that is what Belt and Road is. It is a restructuring of the planet. So when you’re thinking about the Chinese you have to understand that that is the level at which they are thinking.”
At the tactical level, Gandhi said, the Chinese are trying to improve their position. “Whether it is Galwan, whether it’s Demchok or whether it is Pangong Lake, the idea is to position themselves,” he said.
Gandhi said the Chinese are disturbed by a key Indian highway in the area and want to make it redundant. “And if they are thinking larger scale, they want to do something with Pakistan in Kashmir. So it is not simply a border issue. It is a border issue designed to put pressure on the prime minister of India.”
The Congress leader has repeatedly targeted Modi and his government over Chinese transgressions and said the prime minister isn’t being transparent on the issue. The Congress has been demanding that status quo ante should be restored at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Chinese troops be pushed to their side.
He alleged that Modi has succumbed to China’s pressure and refuted claims that Chinese troops are occupying Indian territory in Ladakh.
“The worry I have so far is that the prime minister has succumbed. The worry I have is, the Chinese are sitting in our territory today and the prime minister has said publicly they are not, which to me tells me that he is worried about his image and defending his image,” Gandhi said.
“And if he allows the Chinese to understand that they can manipulate him because of his image, the Indian prime minister will no longer be worth anything for India,” he said in his concluding remarks.