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Sikkim standoff: Congress takes a U-turn, says Rahul Gandhi did meet Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui

After reports had emerged early on Monday about Congress denying that its vice-president Rahul Gandhi had met with Chinese Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui on 8 July in New Delhi, the Grand Old Party has taken a complete U-turn.

Amid the standoff between India and China at the border tri-junction with Bhutan, Congress said that Gandhi had, in fact, met the ambassadors of the neighbouring countries. The party downplayed the meeting and did not specify its venue or time.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala termed it a "courtesy call" and said envoys of G5, as well as neighbouring countries, keep meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the vice-president from time to time.

"Be it the Chinese ambassador (Luo Zhaohui) or Bhutanese ambassador (Vetsop Namgyel) or former national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, Gandhi met all three of them. Nobody should try to sensationalise such normal courtesy calls to term them an event like the sources of the Ministry of External Affairs are attempting to do," he said.

Surjewala said Rahul and other Opposition leaders are "fully aware of our national interests" and are concerned about the "grave situation" on the Indo-Chinese border as well as "the situation arising in Bhutan as also in Sikkim".

Earlier, a News18 report had pointed to a post on the Chinese Embassy's website that had said that the two "exchanged views" on the "current bilateral relations" between the two nations.

 Sikkim standoff: Congress takes a U-turn, says Rahul Gandhi did meet Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui

File image of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

The Congress, however, had denied such media reports as "fake news". Surjewala had earlier said that the news channels were running "fake news" on Gandhi's alleged meeting with Zhaohui.

The channels "will not question three Union Ministers visiting China or prime minister's (Narendra Modi) bonhomie and praise at G20. Yet run fake news", Surjewala said. He alleged that the report was planted by the External Affairs Ministry and Intelligence Bureau sources.

"They should reverify that we still have diplomatic relations with all our neighbours," Surjewala said. Congress social media head Ramya said the issue was not if Gandhi met the Chinese envoy and questioned why the prime minister did not flag the border issue with Chinese president Xi Jinping, when the two leaders met last week at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.

"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 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.

These remarks came in the wake of a face-off with Chinese troops in Doka La, a disputed territory between China and Bhutan. Tensions from the long-drawn standoff have been rising as Beijing stated that Chinese president Xi Jinping will not be meeting Narendra Modi at the G20 Summit.

India has currently pushed in more troops in a "non-combative mode" to strengthen its position in an area near Sikkim, where its soldiers have been locked in a standoff with Chinese troops for almost a month now in what has been the longest such impasse between the two armies since 1962.

The Congress party also expressed its concerns over rising infiltrations along the border with China.

Meanwhile, according to a Firstpost Hindi report, the Embassy website has since deleted the post.

Screenshot of the post on Chinese Embassy's website. Courtesy: Firstpost Hindi

Screenshot of the post on Chinese Embassy's website. Courtesy: Firstpost Hindi

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jul 10, 2017 16:40:02 IST