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After flip-flop, Congress finally confirms Rahul Gandhi's meeting with Chinese envoy

Edited by: Parimal Peeyush New Delhi 10 Jul 2017, 16:03:26 IST
Parimal Peeyush

After a series of flip-flops and dubbing reports of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's meeting with a Chinese envoy as "fake news", the Congress party has now confirmed that Rahul did meet Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui in the national capital on Saturday. The admission by the Congress came from party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, who had in a series of tweets dubbed reports of the meeting as "fake news".

"Envoys met Rahul Gandhi ji, not only Chinese envoy but also Bhutanese envoy and ex NSA Shiv Shankar Menon," Surjewala said later today. "Various ambassadors and envoys keep meeting Congress President and Vice President time to time on courtesy basis," he added.

The meeting between Rahul Gandhi with the Chinese envoy in the midst of a standoff between the armies of the two nations created a row, with the Congress initially denying that the meeting ever took place. The Chinese embassy, on the other hand, first issued a short press release stating that the meeting did in fact take place on July 8, but then removed it.

While Rahul meeting the Chinese envoy, or of any other country, would not have been the subject of a debate, it was the timing of the meeting that stirred the controversy. The flip-flops by the Congress and, surprisingly, by the Chinese Embassy did not help matters either. 

The meeting comes as China and India have been engaged in a standoff in the Doklam area near the Bhutan tri-junction for the past three weeks after a Chinese Army's construction party attempted to build a road. Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Doklam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region.

The matter wouldn't have attracted the kind of attention it did had it not been for the flip-flops – both by the Congress and the Chinese embassy in New Delhi.

Congress denies Rahul Gandhi meeting Chinese envoy

A look at what the Chinese embassy said earlier today puts the matter into context. On Monday, the website of the Chinese embassy carried a brief statement that read: “On July 8, Ambassador Luo Zhaohui met with Rahul Gandhi, vice chairman of the Congress party and exchanged views on the current Sino-Indian relations.”

Hours later, as a Congress spokesperson went ahead and denied the meeting, the Embassy removed the press release from its website.

This development, as per reports, came just minutes after Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala dubbed as ‘fake news’ media reports that its vice president met Luo in the capital amid the China-India border stand-off at Doklam in Sikkim. The spokesperson alleged that the report was planted by External Affairs Ministry and Intelligence Bureau sources. "They should reverify that we still have diplomatic relations with all our neighbours," Surjewala said.

Rahul Gandhi questions PM Modi’s ‘silence’ on China

However, the Congress party’s social media head Ramya, while questioning PM Narendra Modi for his silence over China, said Rahul meeting the Chinese envoy was not an issue, suggesting that the meeting could have taken place. 

"While Chinese incursions were happening, this meeting took place and the Weak PM didn't deem it necessary to speak about the issue," she wrote on Twitter today and posted a picture of Modi with Xi Jinping at the summit.

"Even if Congress Vice President had met the Chinese Ambassador, I don't see it as an issue, but the PM not flagging it in private or public is an issue," Ramya added.

The alleged meeting comes in the backdrop of Rahul launching an attack on PM Modi for his silence over China.