Govt, oppn reach consensus on Doklam report

NEW DELHI: After an unusual stand-off between government and opposition, the parliamentary standing committee of external affairs has reached an understanding between the BJP and opposition on the contents of a parliamentary report on India-China relations, after foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Shashi Tharoor held a meeting on Thursday evening and agreed to redact some of the more confidential despositions.

The report, in the making for almost a year, featured depositions by foreign secretaries Vijay Gokhale and S Jaishankar — which were believed to be confidential and only intended for the ears of the committee members.

But in the narrative section of the report, a number of these paragraphs were taken verbatim from the top officials’ statements. This was largely believed to be the work of the secretariat, but it went unchecked. However, the section that commented, analyzed and made recommendations on the different aspects of the relationship including on the Doklam crisis last year, was careful to steer away from revealing these confidences.

A final reading and clearance of the report were held up when BJP MPs in the committee failed to turn up at the meeting, leading to a lack of quorum. There was a measure of urgency since Parliament was winding up on Friday. The BJP MPs alleged that the Congress head of the committee, Shashi Tharoor, was revealing confidential information that had national security implications. Officials who had deposed did so with the confidence that their statements would not be put on the record.

The opposition MPs, on the other hand, believe the government was being unnecessarily jittery, particularly about Doklam. They said this was due to the fact that Rahul Gandhi, Congress president, who is a member of the committee has been much more regular in his attendance in the past year than before.

Finally, in a meeting between Tharoor and Sushma Swaraj on Thursday, before a meeting of the consultative committee, both sides resolved this peacefully — a joint secretary of the MEA is going over the report to redact secret information that may have made its way into the report. The committee’s recommendations would remain untouched.

A final approval is scheduled for next week, and the report is due to be published and tabled in the coming weeks.

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