BJP Slams Opposition Party Leader for Calling China, and not Pakistan, India's 'Real Enemy'
© AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar SinghSamajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav speaks during a press conference in Lucknow, India, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021
© AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar Singh
The political row between Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Samajwadi Party comes ahead of the election in India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh. Although the BJP won the state in a landslide last time in 2017, opinion polls have predicted a neck-and-neck fight between the two sides this time.
India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday hit out at prominent opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav, a day after he said in a newspaper interview that New Delhi must treat China, rather than Pakistan, as its “real enemy”.
“Our real enemy is China. Pakistan is our political enemy. But BJP only targets Pakistan because of their vote bank politics,” Akhilesh Yadav, the former chief of Uttar Pradesh state and the leader of the Samajwadi Party, said in an interview to English daily, the Economic Times.
“[China] is encroaching on our land, encroaching on our businesses. The Indian government should think about this and consult opposition parties on how to deal with the situation,” Yadav added, as he cited the ongoing Ladakh border dispute.
Sambit Patra, a BJP spokesman said on Monday that he was “pained” by Yadav’s remarks.
“I am really pained by the statement that Pakistan isn’t India’s enemy,” stated Patra.
“I think it is shameful on Akhilesh’s part to say that the BJP treats Pakistan as an enemy just for political benefit. He must retract his remark and issue an unconditional apology for it,” Patra said at a press briefing.
The BJP spokesman also reiterated New Delhi’s official line accusing Islamabad-backed terrorist groups of perpetrating cross-border terrorist attacks against Indian targets. Islamabad denies these charges.
"I will clearly say that the one who admires [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah (Pakistan's founding father) can't hide their love for Pakistan," he remarked.
The BJP has often been accused by political opponents such as Samajwadi Party for polarising voters on religious lines for political purposes, an allegation its leaders deny.
With a population similar to that of Brazil, Uttar Pradesh also has the largest Muslim population (according to the 2011 census) of all Indian states.
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Yogi Adityanath, BJP leader and Uttar Pradesh’s present state chief, on the other hand has regularly targeted the Samajwadi Party for preferring Muslims to Hindus in its policies while it was in power in the state the last time (2012-2017).
'Tricky Situation' For India To Maintain Trade Ties With China, says Yadav
Yadav also said during his interview that New Delhi is faced with a “tricky situation” in carrying on trade with China despite the ongoing border differences.
“On the investment front, we are forced to do business with China. It's a tricky situation where we are having to do business with our biggest enemy. We need to strengthen our own industries. Business and defence must go hand-in-hand,” Yadav also said in his interview.
Though nationalist allies of Prime Minister Modi have also called for boycotting Chinese goods and services in view of the ongoing military standoff, latest figures released by Beijing this month showed that imports from China into India reached a record $100 billion in 2021.
2 December 2021, 17:52 GMT
Yadav’s politically charged remarks come at a time when thousands of troops from India and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have been involved in a military standoff in the Ladakh region for nearly two years now.
The military standoff turned deadly in June 2020 when soldiers from both sides clashed at Galwan Valley, one of the friction points in the Ladakh region.
Prime Minister Modi’s government has consistently denied accusations that Beijing has encroached upon Indian territory in the ongoing standoff.