On Pak front, ministers, PM talk at different wavelength

Foreign minister, information and broadcasting minister and the prime minister issue comments that are at varying length from each other. Has the UPA govt graduated from policy paralysis with talk therapy?

shantanu

Shantanu Datta | January 15, 2013



While the Congress has asked all its senior leaders to provide details of ‘social media life’ in an effort to embrace the latest form of media, as reported by the Hindustan Times today, the grand old party seems to be losing touch of how to deal with the traditional media, it seems.

How else do you explain the series of media statements issued by the ministers that seem to be at cross-purpose in the days since Pakistan returned bodies of two Indian jawans, one of them beheaded, on January 8?

On January 9, hours after TV channels began playing the news, defence minister AK Antony said, "The Pakistan army's action is highly provocative. The way they treated the dead bodies of Indian soldiers is inhuman...We are closely following the situation.”

Mark the word ‘provocative’, which amounts to saying, “take care mate, we could strike back”. Strong words, right?

External affairs minister Salman Khurshid also said things to that effect, only to tone down his remarks as days went by. On Monday, he said India has “invested” a lot in the peace process with Pakistan and, thus, cannot afford harsh words.

“The Army would know exactly what has happened. So ultimately we have to go by their assessments. But the decision about how we proceed and what pace in what manner is obviously a decision that is taken by the government,” Khurshid said, when quizzed about Army chief Gen Bikram Singh’s tough-talking on the ceasefire violations.

Mark his words: Khurshid says the ultimate decision rests with the government.

On Tuesday, reacting to BJP leader Sushma Swaraj’s statement a day earlier — inanity bordering on hilarity on the edge of bad taste; something to the effect that if Pakistan does not return the head of jawan Hemraj, India should get at least 10 heads from the Pakistani side, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari cautioned against “jingoism”.

“Professional armies respect rules of engagement,” he tweeted. “Transgressions are surmounted through tactical responses and not driven by jingoism.”

And then, some cryptic to the effect that “mapping of those tactical responses are best left to professionals”. Does Tewari mean the army with the word “professionals”?

If he does, he is talking in a language far different from Khurshid’s, who said the ultimate power of response lies not with the army but the government.

Tewari, the Congress spokesperson not too long ago, spoke further: “The government has responded to it (Pakistan’s aggression and ceasefire violation) by not only expressing its outrage but by defining it as some sort of a turning point.”

But prime minister Manmohan Singh upset the theoretical equations somewhat on Tuesday afternoon. "Those responsible for this crime (of mutilating soldiers' bodies) will have to be brought to book. After this barbaric act, there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan," Singh was quoted by TV channels.

"What happened at LoC is unacceptable. (We) hope Pakistan realises its mistake.”

That is not exactly a “turning point” that Tewari was talking about. And even less of the peace-process-will-go-on talks that Khurshid mouthed a day earlier, if we take the PM’s business-not-usual at face value: “The cost of not having peace is much greater than the cost of investing in peace. Therefore today we are still committed.”

Are we, today, Mr Khurshid, just as committed? Even after the PM’s comments?

Looks like there is much for the ruling party’s honchos to brainstorm over at the “chintan baithak” beginning in Jaipur from January 18.

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