New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi received flak for his South Korea trip during massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 in the country. Amidst criticism for missing in action at a crucial time, Congress leaders have clarified that Gandhi's travel was planned over the last few months.
Protests have been erupting all over the country against the Citizenship Act that grants citizenship to members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who came to India before December 31, 2014, from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan on grounds of facing religious persecution. The Bill seeks to give Indian citizenship to non-muslims refugees who were “forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion”.
The bill was deemed "anti-national" and "unconstitutional" by opposing party members. Congress leaders also openly supported students protesting against the Act. Priyanka Gandhi protested at India Gate in solidarity with the students of Jamia Millia University. Therefore, Rahul Gandhi's absence at such a significant time earned him criticism.
A senior party leader with knowledge about the trip said that the delegation has been invited to Korea by the Korean Foundation, a not-for-profit public policy organisation. The Foundation, which works on strengthening South Korea’s diplomatic ties with other countries, is affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Apart from working on Indo-Korean ties, the leader said, “The delegation was also studying infrastructural and technological projects in Korea to come up with ideas for Congress-ruled states.”
As per party leaders, the delegation left India just hours ahead of Jamia protests that later turned violent. Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress Sam Pitroda and Gandhi’s communications strategist Nikhil Alva were part of the delegation to South Korea.
Rahul Gandhi tweeted a picture of his meeting with prime minister Lee Nak-yon on Tuesday.
As a part of an official delegation, I today met with the PM of the Republic of Korea, His Excellency, Lee Nak-yon and other officials, in Seoul. We discussed a wide range of issues, including the current political & economic situation in our respective countries. pic.twitter.com/0ILEg5j20Z— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 17, 2019
In Korea, the delegation from India met with senior government officials to discuss wide-ranging topics of importance. Meetings with members of the National Assembly, key government industry bodies, foreign policy experts, corporates like Hyundai and Samsung and university students are also scheduled.
The objective of this meet was to strengthen ties between India and South Korea. The duration of Rahul Gandhi's trip remained unclear.
A Congress leader said:
“And, to get a first-hand view of how Korea is successfully tackling the challenges of low-cost housing, environmental degradation, developing massive infrastructure projects and staying at the forefront of technological and scientific innovation. There is much to be learnt from this visit and strong networks developed, that can at the very least, benefit states that have Congress Governments in place.”