After Pak priacy, an Indian conspiracy
There is no reason why defence minister A.K. Antony should apologise.
A jury is often asked to distinguish between a mistake and a crime. The first is unconscious, the second deliberate. A lapse may be condoned by apology. Crime demands punishment. Antony did not make a mistake when, on the floor of Parliament, he crafted a loophole through which the Pakistan army could escape responsibility after having killed, with the help of around twenty terrorists, five Indian soldiers. Antony consciously subverted the Indian army’s official account, based on battlefield evidence, to help the killers. This is a political crime, all the more heinous for having been committed by a defence minister.
Antony must resign.
The Opposition has made the wrong demand in Parliament, and not for the first time either.
Antony was not alone; his statement was fashioned in the alibi room of the UPA government, drafted in collusion with the external affairs ministry and in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office. That is how policy towards Pakistan is knitted.
Antony was the voice of an Indian government conspiracy to exonerate the piracy of the Pakistan army. The cost will take time to count. First: five dead Indian soldiers, banished into the oblivion of hypocritical phrases which are this government’s version of a martyr’s farewell. Second: the morale of Indian troops on this vicious border, who must be wondering what the value of their lives is. Third: the humiliation of officers who reported what happened in a war zone. Fourth: the implications of a government policy that capitulates in the face of fire. The list can continue.
Questions will not go away merely because the UPA government is struggling to hide behind a veil. Who are the bureaucrats and ministers involved in sabotage and deflection of pinpoint accusation? The Indian army spokesman was unequivocal. He blamed the Border Action Team of the Pak frontier forces, working in conjunction with around 20 terrorists.
Antony’s significant variation, in which Pak soldiers recognised as such by Indian troops at the time of ambush were turned into the more ambiguous “persons dressed in Pak army uniform”, was too clever by half. The simplest cross-examination destroys such artifice. If none of them were Pak soldiers, as Antony implies, why should only some of them be “dressed in Pak army uniform”? Why not all, or none?
In the absence of explanation one can only surmise that Antony, on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was trying to find wriggle room for his still-fresh Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif so that nothing vitiates their proposed dialogue in New York this September. Despite nearly a decade of earnest desire and one-way concessions, Dr Singh has not been able to achieve a summit meeting in Islamabad but that has not prevented him from engaging personally with Pakistan leaders wherever else in the world he can find them. If, in the process, the truth about blood must be watered, so be it.
The Pak army is not famous for asking Nawaz Sharif’s permission whenever it feels the moment is right to murder a few Indians: even if Delhi is undone by amnesia, surely Sharif remembers Kargil. But note the difference. Privately, Nawaz Sharif is probably certain that the Pak army denial is a load of rubbish. But he has supported this denial in order to protect his army. Antony has subverted Indian forces to protect Pakistan.
Dr Singh, who continues to overflow with good intentions, should ask himself why precisely his search for peace with Pakistan has run aground repeatedly. The two civilian governments he has dealt with have been led by Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, men who genuinely wanted better relations with India. Sharif even put peace in his election manifesto, so he has the strength of popular endorsement.
The problem is not the Pakistani state. The blockade comes from a shadow superstate that has ideological claims over Pakistan, and seeks permanent war with India as its destiny. The state tried formal war till 1965, before it was totally trumped in 1971. Since then, parts of the state have worked in collusion with terrorists who spearhead the warrior philosophy. Some Pak leaders, elected or not, have played a double game. Others, and one includes Zardari and Sharif in this category, have been more sincere. But their good will has not been good enough to sustain even one legitimate step towards any form of settlement. The more relevant fact is that when a Sharif does make a gesture, he is publicly warned by a proclaimed engineer of terrorism like Hafiz Saeed to stop, or face consequences.
Powerful elements of the Pak armed forces take their salary from the state, but give their loyalty to the superstate. This alliance talks in gun-bursts, and laughs at appeasement. Since Antony cannot understand either their language or laughter, he should find another job.