In a new twist to the controversy over the first statement made by Defence Minister A.K. Antony on the killing of 5 Indian soldiers along the Line of Control (LoC), which triggered a furore in Parliament, veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani has claimed that the Army’s version was altered at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which had made the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to persuade Mr. Antony to change it.
The Army had put out a statement that the killings were the handiwork of Pakistani troops and militants from across the border. However, Mr. Antony, in his statement, said those responsible for the killings were dressed in Pakistan army fatigues.
“On the issue of Pakistan’s massacre of our jawans, we were equally firm. It was at this meeting with the Prime Minister that I used a word as harsh as goof-up for the Defence Minister’s statement that day. I have always had great warmth and respect for A.K. Antony. So I was really surprised by his statement that day,” Mr. Advani wrote in his blog.
“At this Race Course Road meeting,” Mr. Advani added, “it was agreed that the Defence Minister would make a revised statement the next day after he had heard the full version of what had actually happened from Army Chief. The Chief had gone to Jammu to get a first hand report about the incident. We said we would await the revised statement.”
The BJP leader said that when he reached Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence, Mr. Antony informed him that he was “summoned” and he was not aware of the subject matter. He complimented Army Chief General Bikram Singh for having made the Defence Minister not just “confirm” what the Army press note had said, but specifically to add that “Specialist Troops of the Pakistan Army were involved in this attack.”
“We in Parliament felt happy that in his revised statement Antony had not confined himself to the L.O.C. incident, but had further asserted that there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan, unless -1) the terrorist infrastructure is dismantled; 2) there is tangible movement towards bringing those responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attack in November 2008 to justice; and 3) those in Pakistan responsible for the killing of five jawans this week, and the beheading of one of our jawans some time back are also punished,” Mr. Advani wrote.
Maintaining that he had high regards for Mr. Antony and would have complimented the Minister had he shown the courage to formally withdraw his statement and apologised to the Army for alterations he had made in the Army’s version.
“No Minister can say anything in the House which is false. If he does say something untrue because he had been misinformed, the least he must do is to express regrets. The country hopes that after this kind of firm assertion by the Minister and the Army the Prime Minister would abandon his keenness to have peace talks with his Pakistani counterpart,” Mr. Advani wrote.