Prime Minister Narendra Modi government's Pakistan policy is as ineffective as that of the Manmohan government but it appears worse because of the BJP's false bravado in and out of power.
A day after the Indian Army revealed that Pakistan forces fired rockets and mortar bombs at two Indian posts along the Line of Control in the Krishna Ghati sector in the Kashmir border and killed two of our soldiers and mutilated their bodies, the Congress has come up with some statistical information to lay claim that its regime was far better in handling the Pakistan affairs compared to the current BJP-led regime.
A K Antony, the senior Congress leader and former defence minister, said on 2 May that during his eight-year stint as defence minister, only one incident of mutilation of a soldier's body by the Pakistani forces was reported, but in less than 36 months of the Modi government in power, three such incidents had already happened, the ghastly act of 1 May being the latest.
To buttress the argument, the Congress has adduced some more data for comparison on the performance of the NDA ad the UPA government vis a vis Pakistan — that in 35 months of the Modi government 1,343 ceasefire violations took place and 172 terror incidents were recorded, whereas during the previous 35 months of the Manmohan government only 470 ceasefire violations were reported and 85 terror incidents had occurred.
The Congress slapped itself on the back claiming superior performance of its government, compared to that of the BJP government, in handling Pakistan.
But the BJP has pooh-poohed the Congress claim as a bunch of lies and has argued that Modi has brought a degree of decisiveness in sternly handling the Pakistan affairs which was missing earlier. The party has presented its own set of data to argue that its government's performance on the Pakistani front has been far better than that of the predecessor government.
This game of one-upmanship will continue as our major political parties will seek to eke out as much political mileage as possible out of the tragedy involving our soldiers. The BJP did it while it was in the Opposition. The Congress, now in opposition, is paying back in the same coin.
But the BJP appears to be in a more vulnerable position as it had invariably displayed a macho image while it was in the Opposition and was running down the Congress government as insipid and impotent. When Lance Naik Hemraj of Indian Army was beheaded by Pakistani forces in 2013 — to which Antony referred — Sushma Swaraj, the then leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, had challenged the government to take revenge by killing 10 Pakistani soldiers for every Indian soldier getting killed.
Kapil Sibal, the Congress leader, rhetorically asked Sushma Swaraj, who is now the external affairs minister, on Monday as to why her government was not living up to her words — get 10 Pakistani heads for every Indian head? The Congress also highlighted the much-publicised utterance of Smriti Irani, then a BJP activist but now a union minister, who had offered to send bangles to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his failure to stop Pakistani incursions into the Indian territory. Will she now send bangles to her own prime minister, the Congress asked.
The hyperbole that the BJP leaders indulged in while they were in opposition has come back to haunt them when they have come to power. They now realise that chest-thumping does not square with astute diplomacy.
In the aftermath of the Uri attack, the Indian army carried out a surgical strike at the terror camps in Pakistan in September last year. It was a successful operation. But the way the BJP government tom-tomed it and the BJP leaders went about the hype that the backbone of the terrorist outfit had been broken once and for all appeared amateurish.
The surgical strike had the intended effect of temporarily demobilising the terrorist activity masterminded by the Pakistani forces, but to expect that it would act as a deterrent for Pakistan from continuing with the proxy war against India was like a daydream. Not even a fortnight passed before Pakistani agents resumed their anti-India operations. That clearly was a slap on the face of those BJP enthusiasts who had claimed that the Modi government's 'unprecedented' decision to launch the surgical strike was a permanent lesson for our neighbour.
The fact is that surgical strike on 29 September, 2016 was not an 'unprecedented' decision. As the Congress claimed — and which has been corroborated by the army records - the Indian armed forces had resorted to surgical strikes thrice in the last three years of the UPA regime, on 1 September, 2011, 28 July, 2013 and 14 January, 2014.
But the Congress had decided to exercise strategic restraint on such occasions. As it said on record: "In its maturity, wisdom and in the interest of national security, the UPA government avoided making a loud claim for the effective response and action of Indian army, which had the full support of the political leadership."
As a matter of fact, the Manmohan government carried forward the policy of strategic restraint vis-à-vis Pakistan enunciated by Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in the first years of this century. Vajpayee's celebrated visit to the iconic Minar-e-Pakistan and his invocation that a strong and prosperous Pakistan was in the larger interest of India helped him break new ground in India-Pakistan relations. Vajpayee remained firm in the policy of strategic restraint and did not allow any Pakistani incursions to deviate from this policy.
To his credit, Narendra Modi began following the footsteps of Vajpayee; he invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his inaugural ceremony, he even made an unscheduled visit to Pakistan to wish Sharif personally on his birthday.
But, unlike Vajpayee, Modi has refused to stick to the policy of strategic restraint. His government's aggressiveness, however, has not yielded commensurate results. The BJP claims that Pakistan has been isolated internationally because of the pro-active approach of the Modi government, but these claims are far from true.
Facts speak for themselves. For the first time, Pakistan has been offered the command of the 41-nation Muslim Military Alliance propped up by Saudi Arabia and Raheel Sharif, Pakistani General, has taken charge last month. Again, for the first time in the history, Russia undertook a joint military exercise with Pakistan in September last year, Just after the Uri incident. And, more important, Pakistan today has wormed its way to be the biggest economic and military recipient of China's largesse.
Clearly, our Pakistan policy, under the Modi government, has been a disaster. It was not much different during the Manmohan regime but the BJP's bravado in and out of power exposes the hollowness of its words as well as its actions.
Updated Date: May 03, 2017 15:23 PM