|Army chief Bikram Singh pays last tribute to jawans killed by Pakistani soldiers|
The outpouring of rage across the country after Pakistani soldiers sneaked across the Line of Control in the Poonch sector and ambushed an Indian Army post, killing five jawans, earlier this week, could have only been missed by a criminally callous Government like the one which currently presides over India’s steady but steep decline and decay. Hence it’s not surprising that Defence Minister AK Antony stumbled so badly in articulating the UPA’s response to the dastardly deed by Pakistan in our Parliament.
Instead of pinning the responsibility for the murder of our soldiers on Pakistan, Antony first sought to absolve those guilty of the crime by describing them as “persons in Pakistani Army uniform”. It is now believed the Defence Minister’s statement, which marked a sharp departure from the Defence Department’s statement blaming the Pakistani Army, was vetted and cleared by the National Security Adviser and senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs. That followed their meeting with diplomats of the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi who had been ostensibly summoned to South Block to register India’s protest.
We will never know what prompted the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of External Affairs to rush to Pakistan’s aid and put a gloss over its crime. Friends in the Ministry of External Affairs who are appalled by the Government offering an escape route to Pakistan say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is desperate to broker ‘peace’ at any cost, even if it means cutting corners with India’s national interest.
The reasons for this desperation are no secret. Manmohan Singh believes that if he tries hard enough, he can secure the Nobel Prize for Peace. For that he needs the US’s endorsement. The US, in turn, wants him to turn a Nelson’s eye to Pakistan’s offences and accept Islamabad’s terms for a rapprochement, no matter how tenuous that may be. Pakistan, meanwhile, has let it be known that it shall persist with its policy of inflicting a thousand cuts and India could either take it or leave it. Manmohan Singh, clearly, is more than willing to take it if it means a pat on the back by US President Barack Obama and an invitation to the glittering Nobel ceremony to collect this year’s Peace Prize.
For a man whose inaction, chicanery and incompetence has dragged India’s economy back to the pre-1990s (Morgan Stanley says this year’s growth could be as low as 3.5 per cent) and whose crafty pandering to crass minorityism to keep his political boss (Congress president and NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi) happy has caused buried communal fault lines to resurface, this is the only road to securing a place in history. Little does he realise that once he demits office, which he will have to, he shall be reduced to no more than a footnote of history, a reminder that India was misgoverned by a gang of thieves for nine years with Manmohan Singh playing Ali Baba.
Yet he persists in search of the proverbial ‘sim-sim’, the magic code that will allow him entry to the world of immortality. If that means the truth should be subverted and national security compromised, if it requires playing fast and loose with India’s pride and dignity, he is game. We have seen this in the past too —when he travelled to Havana and declared, along with General Pervez Musharraf, that Pakistan is not the tormentor and perpetrator of terror as Indians believe it is, but a victim of terror; when he agreed to the shameful joint statement dictated by Yousuf Raza Gilani, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, and issued from Sharm el-Sheikh; when he slyly bypassed the national consensus that there should be no talks with Pakistan till it brings the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai carnage to book; when he allowed Pakistani Ministers and officials to pour scorn and ridicule on India while standing on Indian soil. The tailoring of the Defence Minister’s statement is, therefore, understandable, as is the rush to whitewash Pakistan’s sin.
Thankfully, an alert Opposition spotted the difference and the BJP pilloried the Government till it ate crow and the Defence Minister made a second statement, this time accusing “specialist troops” of the Pakistani Army for the killings: “We all know nothing happens along the Line of Control without the support... direct involvement of the Pakistani Army,” he added for good measure. The revised statement followed reports, planted (or leaked, as some would prefer) by ‘sources’, that Sonia Gandhi was mighty displeased with the Government for playing ducks and drakes.
A revised statement implicating Pakistan directly for the killing of our jawans, however, does not mean corrective action on the policy front. It was expected that Manmohan Singh would, in the least, call off his scheduled meeting with Nawaz Sharif in New York in late September when he is there for the United Nations General Assembly’s annual jamboree. It was also expected that the Foreign Secretary-level talks, which had been put on hold after the brutal slaying of two Indian jawans (one of them was beheaded; the other disfigured) by Pakistani soldiers at Mendhar, will remain off the radar for the foreseeable future.
But no, that’s not happening. We are told Manmohan Singh will meet Nawaz Sharif in New York and the Foreign Secretary-level talks will resume next month. After he meets Nawaz Sharif, Manmohan Singh will travel to Washington, DC to meet Barack Obama. Is one predicated on the other? The answer to that question is obvious: The Americans want us to carry the can for Pakistan, never mind the cost to India, as they prepare to exit from Afghanistan. Predictably, Manmohan Singh is more than happy to play ball with the Americans.
The alternative to the craven approach adopted by Manmohan Singh (he can’t stand up and be counted either at home or abroad) is not to go to war with Pakistan, as is mockingly and jeeringly suggested by his flag-wavers, especially in media. Nor is it to halt all interaction with Pakistan. It is to adopt a calibrated approach, making it abundantly clear to both Islamabad and Rawalpindi that every cut inflicted on India comes attached with a price to be paid by Pakistan. We could start getting there by insisting that if Pakistan wishes to talk, it should agree to joint secretary-level dialogue which would be restricted to comparing notes and no more.
That, however, would require guts. And a Prime Minister who is not as feckless as Manmohan Singh. Unfortunately, for the moment we are stuck with him. All that we can do is raise our voice and say ‘No’ to him. He is unlikely to listen, but at least our conscience would be clear.