Udayavni Special

Deve Gowda for toning down ‘nationalist rhetoric’ over Indo- China border face-off


PTI, Jun 19, 2020, 4:17 PM IST

Bengaluru: Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda on Friday pitched for toning down ‘nationalist rhetoric’ and cautioned government against encouraging calls for economic boycott of Chinese products in the backdrop of the death of 20 Indian soldiers in the Gwalwan Valley face-off.

He also said a detailed presentation should be made by a senior serving military officer and diplomat on the ground situation for opposition leaders at the all-party meeting on the border situation for a ‘meaningful’ exchange of views.

Welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative in convening the virtual meet Friday evening, the JD(S) patriarch also urged his colleagues in the opposition not to use ‘intemperate’ language.

He said the government should not encourage ‘reactionary’ language of economic boycott. ‘Its implications are deep. We should be guided by pragmatism,’ Gowda said in a statement, making a series of suggestions.

He said ‘nationalist rhetoric’ should be toned down in order to ensure that ‘we do not escalate matters’ and this was not the time for a ‘language of provocation and revenge’.

Media outlets ‘spreading fake information’ and ‘cheap rhetoric’ endanger the lives of Indian soldiers and diplomatic staff, said Gowda, during whose tenure as PM in 1996 a pact was signed with China that made it binding on soldiers to exercise self-restraint and go for immediate consultation in case of a face-off.

Also the social media retribution was of particular concern, he said, adding the government should take steps to check this.

‘By this I do not mean that critical mainstream opinions, analysis and reporting should be stopped,’ he added.

His remarks came amid rising voices for boycott of China- made products after a violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh left 20 Indian Army personnel dead early this week.

On Thursday, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan appealed to people to boycott products from China and also directed officials of his ministry not to procure any Chinese products for day-to-day office use while his ministerial colleague Ramdas Athawale said all restaurants and hotels that sell Chinese food in India should be closed down.

Gowda said he fully appreciated the Prime Minister’s decision to call the all-party meet. ‘In national interest, and to ensure a bipartisan environment for discussions, I would like to make the following suggestions.’ Gowda suggested that a senior serving military officer and diplomat should make a detailed presentation to opposition leaders on the ground situation, and the progress of talks.

‘Only with this information could there be a meaningful exchange of ideas between the government and the opposition leaders… The demand here is not for classified details, but truthful information,’ he said.

The meeting comes in the backdrop of demands by the opposition seeking details of the fierce clash in Ladakh, the biggest military confrontation between India and China in over five decades.

However, Gowda would not attend the meeting as he had not been invited, his office said.

Also urging opposition leaders not to use intemperate language, Gowda said, this was an hour for cooperation and domestic politics and national security interests cannot be equated.

‘Having said this, I do not mean we should not question the government. It should be done keeping in mind that there are larger issues at stake,’ he said.

Gowda said there was a feeling that India was engulfed by hostile nations and it was the duty of the political leadership to ensure that such anxiety is quelled with proper information.

It was important to keep the nation informed at all times. Underplaying certain developments and overstating certain information may be a bad strategy in the long run, he said.

Pointing out that in recent times, there was an effort to politicise the armed forces and terming it ‘dangerous’, the former prime minister said, they should be allowed to remain a professional force.

When they remain a professional force, they will advise the government of the day fearlessly and correctly.

‘As we are on the topic of the armed forces, it is important to institute an inquiry into the deaths of soldiers in the Galwan Valley, and know exactly what led to the tragic events,’ he said.

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