Following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tough message against Pakistan that “business couldn’t be as usual” until those guilty of the beheading of the Indian soldiers were punished, the government got into some swift action to make it official. It articulated its engagement policy vis-a-vis Pakistan.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid hurriedly called a media briefing at Shastri Bhawan in the evening to announce that what the prime minister said hours ago had been translated into action by the government.
“It should not be felt that the brazen denial and the lack of a proper response from the Government of Pakistan to our repeated demarches on this incident will be ignored and that bilateral relations could be unaffected or that there will be business as usual. Such actions by the Pakistan Army, which are in contravention of all norms of international conduct, not only constitute a grave provocation but lead us to draw appropriate conclusions about Pakistan’s seriousness in pursuing normalisation of relations with India,” Khursheed said.
Though Khursheed did not spell out the details, he gave a clear message to his counterpart across the border that India was taking a tough position and a number of confidence building measures were going to be affected.
“After this barbaric act there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan. What happened at the LoC is unacceptable. Those who are responsible should be brought to book,” Manmohan Singh said. His statement was significant given the fact that he had invested too much personally in the peace process with Pakistan.
The PM’s tough talk was followed by a trong official statement from the external affairs ministry. This came hours after National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon briefed the two Leaders of Opposition – Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley – on the continuing violations on the Line of Control (LoC) and the impact of the beheading of Indian soldiers on the strategic situation.
The BJP has been demanding that India should review its engagement with Pakistan and deal strongly with the country. This also comes on a day when the external affairs ministry delayed operationalisation of visa on arrival for senior citizens. This was to come into effect from today. Nine Pakistan hockey players who were to take part in Indian Hockey League were asked to return home. The Shiv Sena had taken a tough political line that it would not allow Pakistani players to play in Mumbai after the beheading incident.
Since yesterday, the Army brass has started talking to the media about the situation on the ground and Indian position on the issue. If Army chief Vikram Singh talked tough yesterday, today it was turn of northern command chief Lt Gen KT Patnaik to send a message across. He said the “Indian Army does not believe in reacting in haste and anger. It has a plan and will act accordingly.”
Top functionaries in the government were unhappy with the Pakistani response at the Brigadier level Flag meeting on LoC yesterday and the fresh violation of ceasefire after the meeting. It was thus no coincidence that a series of measures were seen today.
Sources said after the prime minister’s tough message the peace process is bound to take a hit. In any case, the internal situation in Pakistan has become worse with what is called a “judicial coup” – Supreme Court asking for the arrest of Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf at a time when Islamic cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri leading the so called “million man march” to Islamabad.