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SOURCE: LIVEMINT

The divide between the ruling alliance and opposition in the prominent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over the ongoing standoff between India and China has delayed the visit of parliamentarians to Ladakh as most of the members were not willing to visit Leh.

During a meeting of the PAC earlier last week, PAC chairperson Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury asked the 20 members of the parliamentary committee if they wanted to go to Ladakh to personally assess the preparedness of Indian army and other armed forces on the border standoff with China and winter wear availability to the personnel stationed there in severe conditions.

Out of the 20 members of PAC, only 8 members expressed their willingness to visit Leh and also visit the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) unitthere during the visit. The senior members of the Indian Army were also supposed to brief the parliamentarians during the visit.

“Out of the 22 members of the PAC, the ruling alliance along with like-minded parties is in a majority while two seats are vacant. The PAC chairperson has the right to decide these visits and his consultations with each member individually was a positive step of giving equal importance to members,” said a person in the know of development.

The members of the PAC had earlier planned to visit Ladakh in the last week of October but it got delayed due to recently concluded assembly polls in Bihar where some of the parliamentarians were involved in campaigning. The visit was rescheduled for 7-8 November as the committee thought that more members would be willing to visit Ladakh after the polls were finished.

“The senior officers of Army have already briefed PAC members at least two-three times and have answered all the queries over the India China border dispute which has been going on since April. These briefing were supposed to continue in Leh during the visit of the PAC members. There was no visit planned to the forward areas or where the actual standoff is taking place,” said a person in the know of development.

PAC members argue that the recent scrutiny over union government’s preparedness against the standoff with China started after the PAC took up a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the preparedness of defence forces, especially availability of ration and winter clothing at heights.

“The CAG report had suggested lack of winter clothing and that is the trigger for the visit. Although members of the defence establishment have already made it clear that the army and all the other forces of defence are well equipped and prepared against China but the PAC chairperson expressed his desire to personally visit Ladakh and see these preparations first hand. The visit was cleared by the Army,” said the person quoted above.

In the series of meetings that have taken place over the issue of India-China border standoff of the PAC, representatives of the defence ministry and senior officials of the Army have categorically stated that the forces are well prepared for the standoff and there was no question of lack of preparedness against any eventuality.

“This was not a pleasure trip that we wanted to visit Ladakh. PAC is one of the most important parliamentary committees and more discussions with Army was supposed to take place. The meeting was important but what can some members do if most of them are not willing to go,” said a person in the know of development.