Don’t try to fish in troubled waters, says Chacko

The political controversy over Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s statement on the killing of five Indian soldiers on the LoC that paralysed Parliament on Wednesday didn’t just send the Congress into damage control mode: the party also went on the offensive, questioning the BJP-led NDA government’s record in defence-related issues, even as it raised the pitch against Pakistan.

If Mr. Antony gave the Rajya Sabha an assurance that he would make another statement, if Army Chief General Bikram Singh, who visited Jammu on Wednesday came back with fresh facts, while asserting that there would be no compromise on defence and the protection of integrity of the country, the Congress hit back sharply at the BJP.

Mr. Antony, the Congress stressed, had not given the Pakistani Army a “clean chit” on the killing of the Indian soldiers and had only given Parliament the information he had received from the Army. The BJP, Congress spokesman P.C. Chacko said, was trying “to twist, misinterpret and politicise the issue which is very unfortunate. No one is denying the role of the Pakistani army [in the incident].” On the other hand, it was the BJP-led NDA government “who gave a clean chit to Pakistan” — a reference to the talks with Pakistan shortly before the Kargil intrusions.

Simultaneously, he said, while the government would ensure that the sovereignty and integrity of India was protected, the Congress did not believe “war” is a solution: “dialogue and discussion” are the only way to resolve disputes with a neighbour.

The BJP had “politicised” the issue for electoral gains but, Mr. Chacko warned, anybody trying to fish in troubled waters would not succeed. He reminded the BJP of the outcome of the peace initiatives with Pakistan during the NDA rule. Mr. Chacko also pointed out that on the many occasions the BJP — while in power — faltered or blundered while dealing with Pakistan, the Congress did not try to politicise the issue — or demonstrate in front of the Defence Minister’s house. He listed the Kargil incursions, the attack on Parliament shortly after the Agra summit and Jaswant Singh as External Affairs Minister escorting hardcore terrorists to Kandahar.

Earlier in the day, Congress general secretary Ajay Maken, too, tweeted that “BJP policies led to failed Agra summit, Lahore Declaration, Kargil infiltration.” He cited figures for terror incidents: “NDA 1998-2004 In J&K One of the highest No. of terror incidents 23,603. Ave 3372. In UPA, lowest in last two decades 220 last year.”