The inevitable has happened – and sooner than expected.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has invested a lot of political capital in improving relations with Pakistan over the past nine and a half years, who stressed the need for making Siachen into a “Mountain of Peace”, and who met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York on 29 September despite strident opposition at home, on Thursday (24 October) finally acknowledged that he is “disappointed” by Sharif.
At a press conference on board Air India One while returning home from Beijing, Singh was asked whether he felt disappointed with Sharif because the firing on the Line of Control has not only not stopped but instead increased.
The Prime Minister gave an elaborate answer which needs to be reproduced in full: “Let me say that I am disappointed, because in the New York meeting there was a general agreement on both the sides that peace and tranquility should be maintained on the border, on the Line of Control as well as on the international border and this has not happened. It has come to me as a big disappointment. We had agreed at that meeting that the ceasefire which was made effective in 2003, if it has held ground for 10 years, it could be made to hold ground later on also. The fact that this is not happening, is something which is really a matter of disappointment. I sincerely hope that at this late hour Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will recognise that this is a development which is not good for either of the two countries.” (Italics mine)
This is the first time when Manmohan Singh has openly criticised Sharif since meeting him 25 days ago. It connotes several things.
One, it conveys Singh’s exasperation with his Pakistani interlocutors, though it is not an admission of failure of his Pakistan policy. That admission may never come!
Two, the italicised four words “at this late hour” convey a veiled warning. This writer has been told by key Indian diplomats that the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of External Affairs have left it to the army to decide howsoever it deems fit to respond to Pakistani intransigence at the borders. This implies that one is going to see the Indian Army upping its ante vis a vis Pakistan at the borders.
Three, Manmohan Singh is actually sending a message to the all-powerful Pakistan Army by using Nawaz Sharif as a political Shikhandi with his “at this late hour” averment.
Four, it proves once again that Pakistan’s India policy and, in fact, the whole country, is choreographed by the Pakistan Army, not puppets euphemistically known as Prime Minister or President in Pakistan’s context.
The last point needs a little more explanation. Manmohan Singh’s disappointment and anguish can be seen by the fact that just 25 days back Nawaz Sharif had talked big about improving the situation along the LoC when the two had met in New York. Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon had briefed the reporters thus about the outcome of Singh-Sharif summit: “Both agreed that the precondition for forward movement in the relationship, which they both desire, is really an improvement of the situation on the LoC…(Both) decided to task military officers to find effective means to restore the ceasefire … Manmohan Singh spoke of terrorism and the need for effective action on bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to book. Nawaz Sharif said that that was indeed Pakistan’s intention.”
Well, as of today all tall promises made by Sharif have gone to dogs; perhaps inevitably so because the Pakistan Army has demonstrated who is the real boss of Pakistan.
Here are the quotable quotes of the Prime Minister on specific issues at his on-board press conference with explanations given in parentheses wherever necessary:
On Russia Visit (20-22 October)
Russia is, for us, a key strategic partner in many areas, including defence, energy and trade. We also have important convergences in a number of areas of regional and international interest. My visit has renewed my confidence in the strength of this relationship.
On China visit (22-24, October)
My visit was to follow up on the process of getting to know the new Chinese leadership better. China is our largest neighbour, a significant economic partner and a country with increasing global presence. While we have our differences, there are many areas, bilateral, regional and multilateral, where cooperation among us is to our mutual benefit. It is only through a process of intense engagement that we will be able to move forward in all areas. I am satisfied that my just concluded visit has served its purpose.
On Russian and Chinese stand on terrorism
Both in Russia and China I found growing recognition that terrorism is a threat to all the countries of the region and that terrorism and extremism both are enemies of progress, that we must work together, pool our intelligence and information system to deal with this menace.
On Rahul Gandhi’s security
I and all sane persons should be worried about the politics of hate which is now sweeping our country. As regards, the threat to the life of Rahul Gandhi, Government will take all possible precautions that this threat does not materialise. (This was in response to a question about Rahul Gandhi’s safety after his statement yesterday that he may also be killed the way his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi were killed.)
On scams casting a shadow on his image
That is for history to judge. I am doing my duty. I will continue to do my duty. What impact my 10 years of Prime Ministership will have is something which is for historians to judge.
Questions: Sir, in last 9 years, there has been 2G scam, CWG scam, coal scam and then there was a big issue of price rise and also resignation of two senior ministers. Do you think these kind of things have hit your credibility, particularly UPA-II and because your credibility is low, the people like Narendra Modi , his popularity is rising. Can you help us analyse this?
Answer: First of all, I would say the ‘scams’ that you are referring to, took place not in UPA-II, they took in UPA-I. After that we had a general election. The Congress party won in that election hands down and I am sure when the result of 2014 gets out, country will once again be surprised.
Is CBI crossing the lakshman rekha in coal scam?
Well, let me say that this matter is now in the courts and I wouldn’t like to comment on that. (Singh was asked whether the CBI has the right to interrogate the Prime Minister, whether he has given too much of autonomy to the CBI and whether the agency was crossing the Lakshman Rekha?)
Is he open to questioning by CBI in Hindalco case?
I am not above the law of the land. If there is anything that the CBI, or for that matter, anybody wants to ask, I have nothing to hide.
The writer is a Firstpost columnist who tweets @Kishkindha.
Updated Date: Oct 25, 2013 10:27:09 IST