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Think, then speak: Does Parrikar forget he's defence minister?

Ashok K Singh
Ashok K SinghJan 12, 2016 | 20:56

Think, then speak: Does Parrikar forget he's defence minister?

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar often has his Donald Trump moment. He knows he has a mouth that must blabber. He punches in the air with no enemies in sight. He also knows he has a constituency that he must pander to. He forgets, though, that he is the defence minister of India who has to weigh his words before throwing them in vacuous torrents.

Any "individual or organisation" harming the country "should also receive the pain of such activities" and "how, when and where should be your choice", Parrikar said at a seminar ahead of Army Day where the chief of army staff General Dalbir Singh was present. That's well said. Who will disagree with him on the idea to deliver a knockout blow to the country's enemy or enemies - individual or organisation?

But how Mr Parrikar? You are sitting in a position to know that "how" and let the people know when you have inflicted pain on any individual or organisation harming the country. The tooth for a tooth idea sounds great on paper. In reality, shorn of action, it is an empty threat, a sign of cowardice.

But having talked about tit-for-tit, Parrikar backtracked to save his skin. "I am of the opinion, it should not be taken as government thinking. I always believe that if anyone harms you, he understands the same language." How is what the defence minister says at an official function not the government's point of view is difficult to understand. And why shoot off the mouth if it's not the official position?

Parrikar has every right to keep his own and the BJP's core constituencies happy. He also has a right to keep up the morale of the defence forces and the people. At the same time, raising the undue expectations of the people to a level that the government can't meet flies in the face of realism and pragmatism.

Parrikar as defence minister is adding fuel to the popular - and often jingoistic - narrative which cries for taking tit-for-tit measures against Pakistan and its sponsored jihadi groups that test the patience of the people of India every time they carry out Pathankot-like attacks. But the government and its ministers have to be on top of this narrative and not get swayed by it.

Of late, talks about covert operations to give Pakistan the taste of its own medicine too have increased. But which government or a minister in a responsible position in the world will brag about carrying out covert operations without actually doing it?

Only Parrikar can. He has scored self goals in the past too theorising that "terrorists must be neutralised by terrorists only." Whoa! Pakistan got back screaming foul. We told you, India has been sending terrorists to Balochistan, was Pakistan predictable riposte! Does Pakistan admit sending terrorists across the border? Denial and doublespeak is their chosen diplomatic weapon in bleeding India from a thousand cuts.

As part of the grand narrative calling for hitting terror camps inside Pakistan, some newspapers interpreted a recent statement by US state department spokesman John Kirby to imply that the US was suggesting India carry out surgical operations across the border against terrorists. "We obviously want to see all the perpetrators (of 26/11) to be brought to justice... We know that that can take a long time. It took an awful long time to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, but we did. So it can be hard," Kirby said.

If the US was so concerned by terrorist attacks against India, it would have brought about real pressure on Pakistan to stop playing footsies with Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The US has its own strategic interests to guard in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They wouldn't suggest India carry out a risky Abbottabad-like operation because that would complicate US problems in the region, besides fuelling risks of a nuclear confrontation.

Parrikar knows that the warning of "no talks without action against terrorists", that is diplomatic coercion, issued by the government to Pakistan is the official position. If it doesn't work, the Modi government, in the past, has let the guns do the talking on the border. Blabbermouths will not deter the terrorists coming from across the border in stealth operations.

Deliver a knockout punch to Pakistan if you can, Mr Parrikar or stop gassing.

Last updated: January 12, 2016 | 20:56
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