Congress Government bending over backwards as part of its vote-bank politics
THE entire nation, barring peaceniks like former Congress Minister Mani Shankar Ayer, are outraged by Pak audacity in belittling the gory incident of killing two Indian soldiers and mutilating their bodies by Pak commandos who crossed over the LoC on January 8 to commit the war crime. Condemning this “gruesome and unpardonable” act, the Army Chief, General Bikram Singh said India reserved its right to retaliate at a time and place of its choosing.
In a tough message to Pakistan, the General said the current tensions wouldn’t immediately escalate into a conflagration but warned that first stage of the spiral has been reached. Talking to media on the eve of Army Day, General Singh said he expected his commanders on the LoC to be “aggressive and offensive” and their response to any provocation would be “measured and for effect”. This is in sync with the recent public statements of our navy chief who said our naval forces were in a position to rush to South China if required to protect our national interests and that of the air force chief who talked about “other options” if the cease fire violations on LoC didn’t stop. While the armed forces are in tune with the public mood, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi remained unaffected by the grave affront caused to our sovereignty and dignity by Pakistani misadventure till the public pressure compelled the Government to come out with a response.
At long last, the Prime Minister woke up to the gravity of the situation and made a reasonably strong statement to the effect that there couldn’t be “business as usual” if those responsible for the dastardly act were not brought to book. Strong words and some follow up action are signs that Government had to bow before the public anger, restive troops and the stringent BJP that took the Prime Minister and his government to task for its weak response. Dr Singh is notorious for bending over backwards to placate Islamabad. The change in his stance and the brave words doesn’t appear to be born out of conviction that time has come to tell Pakistan to behave. He has been virtually compelled to issue a warning to Pakistan. A day earlier he sent National Security Adviser Shivshanker Menon to brief leaders of Opposition in both Houses of Parliament about the recent developments. BJP leaders are believed to have apprised the NSA about the public mood and asked him to tell the Prime Minister that the principal Opposition party would support the Government if it were to take a firm stand on the Pakistani misadventure. This appeared to have worked. The people and the BJP can take credit for the appropriate response. That is if this weak and tottering government doesn’t give in halfway as is its wont. The Congress-led Government has no consistent policy towards Pakistan. In the aftermath of 26/11 in which the state actors played a major role, the Government broke off all talks with Pakistan but barely nine months later the Prime Minister held talks with his Pak counterpart at Sharm-el-Sheikh and had the audacity to sign a joint statement that conceded that Pakistan too was a “victim of terrorism” even as the international community was holding Islamabad responsible for exporting terrorism. Horrors of horrors, he didn’t consult the then NSA M K Menon. It is in public knowledge that Menon was rudely taken aback when he was shown the text after it had been signed. That one folly on the part of the Prime Minister convinced Pakistan that if it can get away with 26/11, they can get away with anything with India.
True to form, Pakistani establishment is in the denial mode. Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani’s response is disgusting. She is appalled by New Delhi’s “outlandish” claim and asserted that no one from Pakistan crossed the LoC and killed Indian soldiers. Her suggestion for a joint investigation is meaningless as she has already announced the result of her government’s investigation into the matter. Investigation by UNMOGIP that India de-recognised in 1971 is meant only to sideline the real issue. Islamabad agreed to flag meeting hesitatingly and as expected it didn’t help reduce tensions. Islamabad and its apologists’ claim that Pakistan’s professional army’ track record negates any notion about unethical conducts like beheading enemy soldiers. It is utter non-sense. Besides two other cases of beheading Indian soldiers in recent years, the inhuman torture of Captain Saurabh Kalia during the Kargil conflict are among the war crimes committed by Pakistan army. Is it a professional army or a rogue army that has “jihad” as one of its mottos?
It is not hard to fathom what Pakistan gains by provoking India whenever India initiated peace process is gaining momentum. Hardliners in the establishment, the army, and the society are always suspicious of normalcy in Indo-Pak relations. First and foremost, Pakistan’s very existence is based on hostility towards “Hindu India”. Wasn’t Pakistan formed by dividing India on the vicious two-nation theory that proclaimed that Muslims and Hindus can’t live in peace?
One of the gains in launching aggression against India is that it enables hardliners to mobilise anti-Indian elements in that country behind the army. Psychologically, it boosts the morale of the Pak army by demonstrating that Pakistan though a smaller country with a weak economy and unstable establishment can take on India. Congress-led Government’s failure to evolve a sustained and tough policy towards Pakistan has further convinced the hardliners across the border that military action is not an option for India.
Peace with a neighboring country is desirable but it needs two to talk. Indian gestures for peace and friendship have all along been responded to by Pak by grave provocations. Repeated assertions by Indian Government that it has no option but to engage with Pakistan has strengthened Pakistan’s perception that India is a soft state. Let us firmly tell Islamabad not by words but action that we are not prepared to absorb any further provocation and would respond militarily. Political leadership must change the discourse that both countries are victims of terrorism as we are not responsible for terrorism in Pakistan where as exporting terror is Islamabad’s state policy. We must stop encouraging people to people contacts between J&K and PoK as Islamabad can exploit these contacts to provoke insurgency in the Valley. We shouldn’t allow Pak leaders visiting Delhi to meet Huriyat leaders nor should we allow the latter to visit Pakistan. As a response to the latest Pakistani provocation, we must postpone the next round of composite dialogue.
Former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal has in a recent article argued for a review of India’s Pak policy. Suggesting that New Delhi should be less squeamish about Baluchistan and cautioned the Government thus: “As a smaller, more vulnerable country, wracked by extremism and violence, in economic distress, over-stretched by its ambitions, militaristic in thinking, adept at cynically exploiting its geopolitical position, capable of extreme obduracy, animated by fear and defiance of India and attitudes distorted by its Islamic vocation that makes it resort to terrorism as an instrument of state policy, Pakistan is not like us. Unless we are willing to understand that, we will continue to make mistakes in our Pakistan policy. It is not our responsibility to save Pakistan from itself.” Pakistan is on the verge of implosion what with judiciary at war with the executive and Islamists holding massive demonstrations demanding ouster of the Government. Will UPA Government listen to this sane advice from a seasoned diplomat or will it continue to placate Pakistan in the hope that it would enable it to harvest Muslim votes?