Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Playing with words….is this the BJP’s commitment to national security?

Let’s step back and analyze the BJP’s charge (no….attack) against the government over the death of 5 Indian soldiers at the border two days back. The BJP’s charge is not that the Defence Minister failed in his duty in any manner – at least that’s not what I have heard so far. It is not that the Army has become soft (Lo and behold, the BJP will never attack the Army, and thank god for that!). It is also not that there is any “scam” in India’s defence (for a change!). The biggest attack of the main opposition party is that Antony’s words were slightly different from the Army’s initial press statement. One responsible opposition party this is!

Here is what the Army statement read (courtesy: TOI): Ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with
soldiers of Pakistan Army
. Here’s what Antony’s statement in Parliament said: Ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms. So a few words have been changed. Antony has been more circumspect than the Army was. Several questions come to my mind. Does the Army statement necessarily reflect more accuracy, simply because the Army is “right there”, present at the border and Antony is thousands of kms away in Parliament? Is it very difficult to understand that a government, engaged in a dialogue process with a difficult neighbor, will always prefer to be a little careful with the words it chooses, and will attempt to downplay a situation, rather than blow it up? Isn’t it obvious that people with high levels of responsibility are expected to behave with a little more “maturity”, a word perhaps unknown to the BJP’s rabble rousing politicians? For example, would the RBI Governor be as free with his words as say, the editor of a business newspaper, on the issue of the Rupee’s slide?

To be fair, the BJP’s accusation does have another edge. The usual “Stop talks with Pakistan” demand. If international relations were conducted in this puerile, sulking manner, it’s a matter of time before India would stop having any relations at all with its neighbors. The BJP may like to forget that even during its rule, Vajpayee was deeply engaged with Pakistan, inviting the General of the Pakistan Army (who was also its President) to talks. That was good right? Or is the BJP backing out of Vajpayee’s style? Is the BJP so wet behind its ears that it forgets that all through the Cold war between the Western world and the Soviet block, dialogues never stopped between the two sides. So why this childish demand to stop talks after every incident? The BJP mocks the government for a “soft” foreign policy. My question to the BJP is: Is being generous towards small neighbors (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan) and hopeful with hostile ones (Pakistan, China) the same as being soft? And are we to think that the BJP’s own foreign policy was “tough”, when it, in fact, sent its foreign minister to Afghanistan with dreaded terrorists in tow to secure the release of a hijacked plane full of Indians? Had a Congress government done the same thing, would the BJP have applauded it as being a tough foreign policy?

The Twitter universe was flowing thick and fast yesterday with pro and anti-BJP tweets. Anti-BJP groups were raising stink over the NDA’s own record with defence. “When Pakistan attacked Kargil, Vajpayee was busy writing poems” (or some such thing). And the Defence Minister George Fernandes was busy giving a clean chit to the ISI. Oh, and that’s when he was not busy counting his earnings from coffin sales. When the lowly Bangladesh Border Guards killed many Indian soldiers, Vajpayee was twiddling his thumbs. When Captain Saurabh Kalia was brutalized, the BJP had nothing to say. Honestly, the BJP has nothing to show for a hard foreign policy, apart from of course, its harsh verbal diatribe against the government. But we’ve seen that same gap between speech and action in so many spheres, haven’t we? They accused Rajiv Gandhi of Bofors; made it a staple charge in fact, yet did nothing during their period of rule. They complained about the Congress not enacting a Lokpal bill for so long, but they did nothing of their own during their tenure. Why, they did nothing even on their pet subject, constructing the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. So the BJP’s credentials in accusing the government of anything, leave alone defence and foreign policies, means nothing.

And what is this fuss about Pakistan getting an escape route because of Antony’s change of words? Does the BJP mean that had Antony used the exact same words as the Army did, Pakistan would have hung its head in shame and accepted its role? Pakistani press has quoted their government as outright denying their Army’s involvement in the incident. Why, Pakistan never took responsibility even for the clear-as-crystal Mumbai blasts? They didn’t take ownership even for the beheading of an Indian soldier a few months back. Does the BJP believe that this case was different?

Rather than attacking the govennment all the time, it would be better if the BJP learnt from Anotny and became a little circumspect with words. The people of this country are not fools. Just like the BJP says Muslims don’t get persuaded by fake friends of theirs like the Congress and the SP, the BJP must remember that Indians don’t also get fooled by fake display of emotions by the BJP. What the Army wants most is for united support from all law makers in Delhi. For our netas not to politicize border skirmishes. And for them to make sure that they dissolve their differences when it comes to matters of national security. What the Army doesn’t want is TV studio debates, where idiotic anchors pitch retired Pakistani generals against their retired Indian counterparts and make them hurl churlish accusations and threats at each other.

The real truth is that the BJP has to introspect. For its own good. It cannot base its entire political gameplan on a play of words. If it is not blocking Parliament, it is making political hay out of even the country’s security issues. Is this what is expected of the main opposition party? Can we expect a slightly more mature, more intelligent, engagement with the government please????

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