In a controversial remark, BJP’s Uttar Pradesh chief Swatantra Dev Singh said prime minister Narendra Modi has “decided” when the country would be at war with Pakistan and China.
His remarks on Friday came amid tension at the Line of Actual Control between India and China, where the two countries have massed troops over recent months. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor reacted Sunday by taking a dig at the prime minister for “planning a war” against an enemy which he said Modi has refused even to name.
The UP Bharatiya Janata Party leader linked his “war with China” claim to the beginning of the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya following a Supreme Court judgment, and the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
A video had surfaced purportedly featuring BJP Uttar Pradesh president Swatantra Dev Singh telling a gathering in Ballia two days back that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set the time for war with Pakistan and China.
Singh is seen telling party workers in the video, “It has been decided by Modi that the date is set for everything. When will Article 370 be abrogated, when will Ram temple be built, when will there be a war with Pakistan, when will there be a war with China.”
As a controversy erupted on Sunday, Singh told the Indian media, as reported at dawn: “I just addressed the workers and I did not say anything on the lines as is reportedly being circulated. I would have to look into the context first.” Singh was in Ballia for the bhoomi pujan ceremony of a Krishna temple under the Sikandarpur Assembly constituency represented by BJP MLA Sanjay Yadav.
Campaigning is currently on for by-elections to seven Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, and Singh has been travelling to different constituencies in the state as part of that.
In the video, Singh goes on to say that the BSP, SP and Congress have failed to meet the expectations of the people. He asks people to weigh Prime Minister Narendra Modi against others and decide who is going to give a better future to their children.
He said the BJP was working on the path shown by Lord Krishna and Ram, adding that Lord Krishna had not spared even his family and his caste, and that in case a wrong is committed, one has to rise above family and caste for the sake of the country. He also said that the BJP would not allow any insult of the country or the poor.
China-India border: Why tensions are rising between the neighbors
The armies of the world’s two most populous nations are locked in a tense face-off high in the Himalayas, which has the potential to escalate as they seek to further their strategic goals.
Officials quoted by the Indian media say thousands of Chinese troops have forced their way into the Galwan valley in Ladakh, in the disputed Kashmir region. Indian leaders and military strategists have clearly been left stunned.
The reports say that in early May, Chinese forces put up tents, dug trenches and moved heavy equipment several kilometres inside what had been regarded by India as its territory. The move came after India built a road several hundred kilometres long connecting to a high-altitude forward air base which it reactivated in 2008.
The message from China appears clear to observers in Delhi – this is not a routine incursion. “The situation is serious. The Chinese have come into territory which they themselves accepted as part of India. It has completely changed the status quo,” says Ajai Shukla, an Indian military expert who served as a colonel in the army.
China takes a different view, saying it is India which has changed facts on the ground. Reports in the Indian media said soldiers from the two sides clashed on at least two occasions in Ladakh. Stand-offs are reported in at least three locations: the Galwan valley; Hot Springs; and Pangong lake to the south.
India and China share a border more than 3,440km (2,100 miles) long and have overlapping territorial claims. Their border patrols often bump into each other, resulting in occasional scuffles but both sides insist no bullet has been fired in four decades.
Their armies – two of the world’s largest – come face to face at many points. The poorly demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC) separates the two sides. Rivers, lakes and snowcaps mean the line separating soldiers can shift and they often come close to confrontation.
The current military tension is not limited to Ladakh. Soldiers from the two sides are also eyeball-to-eyeball in Nathu La, on the border between China and the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim. Earlier this month they reportedly came to blows.
In addition, there is a row over a new map put out by Nepal, too, which accuses India of encroaching on its territory by building a road connecting with China.
Why the tensions continue to escalate – CPEC
When India controversially decided to end Jammu and Kashmir’s limited autonomy in August last year, it also redrew the region’s map. The new federally-administered Ladakh included Aksai Chin, an area India claims but China controls.
Senior leaders of India’s Hindu-nationalist BJP government have also been talking about recapturing Pakistan-administered Kashmir. A strategic road, the Karakoram highway, passes through this area that connects China with its long-term ally Pakistan. Beijing has invested about $60bn (£48bn) in Pakistan’s infrastructure – the so-called China Pakistan Economic corridor (CPEC) – as part of its Belt and Road Initiative and the highway is key to transporting goods to and from the southern Pakistani port of Gwadar. The port gives China a foothold in the Arabian Sea.
In addition, China was unhappy when India initially banned all exports of medical and protective equipment to shore up its stocks soon after the coronavirus pandemic started earlier this year.