After initially denying and calling it "fake news", the Congress on Monday admitted that party Vice President Rahul Gandhi did meet the Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui last week, seeking to put to rest a controversy over the meeting.
"Various ambassadors and envoys keep meeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi from time to time on courtesy basis, particularly those of G5 nations as also of the neighbouring countries...be it Chinese ambassador or Bhutanese ambassador or former NSA Shiv Shankar Menon," party spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
Interestingly, hours earlier Surjewala had tweeted denying such a meeting between Gandhi and the Chinese envoy when some news channels went on air with the report.
He had alleged in the morning that the report was "planted" by the External Affairs Ministry and Intelligence Bureau sources. "They should re-verify that we still have diplomatic relations with all our neighbours," Surjewala had said.
However, later in the day Surjewala had no explanation on why the denial was issued in the morning.
He sought to clarify that his statement that it was fake news was in the context of news channels terming the meeting as "anti-national".
Significantly, the Chinese embassy which had posted on its website about the July 8 meeting between Gandhi and Luo, later withdrew it.
In the afternoon statement Surjewala said: "Nobody should try to sensationalise such normal courtesy calls to term them as events like the ‘sources' from the Home Ministry are trying to do."
"Rahul Gandhi as other opposition leaders are fully aware of our national interests and are concerned about the grave situation on the Indo-Chinese border as also the situation arising in Bhutan and Sikkim," he added.
Speaking more specifically, he said: "So, the envoys met Rahul Gandhi, not only the Chinese envoy, but also the Bhutanese envoy, as also former National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon," he said.
Last week, around the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hamburg, Rahul Gandhi had questioned the "silence" of the Prime Minister on the border stand-off.
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