In an embarrassment to the Bharatiya Janata Party, its Rajya Sabha member Ram Jethmalani on Tuesday came out in support of the team of interlocutors to Jammu and Kashmir and termed as “childish and churlish” the party's accusations that the interlocutors were internationalising the issue.
The BJP, however, quickly distanced itself from his views. “Jethmalani is Jethmalani. He has his own opinion. The party does not subscribe to it…We have already expressed our official line,” party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
Mr. Jethmalani contradicted the party line and supported the three interlocutors appointed by the Centre to elicit the views of all segments to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.
Stating that interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar and the team's task of finding a “peaceful and lasting solution” to the Kashmir problem was “almost superhuman,” Mr. Jethmalani said he “fervently” prayed for their success, despite having “serious misgivings.”
“Even if they achieve a partial result, the nation would owe them a debt of gratitude. Neither by acts nor by words should we add to their difficulties,” he said.
The BJP had accused Mr. Padgaonkar of internationalising the Kashmir problem after he said that a solution to the issue was not possible without involving Pakistan. It also questioned whether he was given the brief by the Centre to make such statements and sought a clarification from the Prime Minister's Office on the matter.
Mr. Jethmalani, however, said: “It is childish and churlish to attack them as internationalising the issue. [Former] Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by his confabulations with [former] President Pervez Musharraf, and recently, Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna confabulating with his counterpart Mr. [Shah Mehmood] Qureshi were exactly doing that,” he said.
“Dialogue with Pakistan is a compulsory legacy of the Simla Agreement of 1972. We cannot wish it out of existence,” he added.
Mr. Jethmalani maintained that Pakistan was the “root of the problem” as it was sending infiltrators and terrorists to India who were working on its directions. “Even then if you say you won't talk to Pakistan, it is not realistic,” he said.
‘Leave aside BJP'
When told that the BJP did not agree with his views, Mr. Jethmalani said one should “leave aside the BJP.”
“The BJP has not done much thinking on this issue…We should not pay much attention to it…You join a political party because you have less disagreements with that party than any other. If you agree 100 per cent, you cease to be a human being,” he said.
Mr. Jethmalani insisted that though party discipline was important, it did not mean that a person should become a “robot, mortgage his humanism and have no right to speak.”
The eminent lawyer and Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan, known for his polemical stand on several issues, said that India cannot do away with the Simla Agreement — “in which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto fooled Indira Gandhi…who unsolved the problem that had been solved by Lal Bahadur Shastri in the Tashkent Agreement” — and so would have to talk to Pakistan.
Mr. Jethmalani suggested that secular democracies be asked to mediate on the Kashmir issue as they would “unhesitatingly” accept India's case. “Talks with Pakistan alone so far have not yielded satisfactory results,” he said. “I appeal to everyone to strengthen our three interlocutors.”
Meanwhile, the BJP took fresh digs at Mr. Padgaonkar after the interlocutors met some militants lodged in a Kashmir jail on Monday.
“Talking to the youth is understandable, but talking to foreign militants who are lodged in jail is completely wrong as they have no stake in the country,” Mr. Javadekar said.
He added that Mr. Padgaonkar should have been more discreet. “Padgaonkar is a senior journalist and knows the importance of being discreet. He should not make running commentaries everyday. He should exercise discretion. Indiscretion is irresponsibility,” Mr. Javadekar said.