The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP whips out Iraq gun

Indore, April 4: The BJP shed its reticence on the US war against Iraq and voiced its strongest condemnation of the attack so far, calling it “unjustified military action”.

A resolution adopted by the national executive in the opening session swerved from the Centre’s “middle path” and put on record the BJP’s “grave concern” over the “humanitarian concern, which is developing in Iraq on account of this action”.

“The national executive expresses its anguish and distress over the large number of casualties, both civilian and military, as well as the plight of the hapless and beleaguered people of Iraq whose condition is rapidly worsening,” it said.

The resolution was debated and adopted after the BJP was stuck for a response on Operation Iraqi Freedom for a number of reasons. One was whether the war should be projected as a perpetuation of the larger fight against “terrorism” or a battle to preserve Iraq’s territorial sovereignty.

There was also a view in the RSS and the BJP that the war had the contours of a “religious conflict” and, if presented in the “Hindutva perspective” as a “civilisational clash”, could “consolidate the Hindu votes”.

Last, the BJP’s added dilemma was whether a strong party line could embarrass the Centre which, a senior functionary said, had to “calibrate its foreign policy keeping in view the fluid situation and the likely possibility of the US emerging a mightier power if Saddam was crushed”.

The resolution — whose draft was reportedly cleared by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee — reflected that while some of the knots the BJP had tangled itself in were untied, others were partially undone.

Urging an immediate end to the war, it said the parties concerned must seek a “peaceful, political solution within the framework of the United Nations”. They should ensure that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq be preserved” and the right of the people to determine their political future and exercise control over their natural resources be fully respected, the resolution added.

Stressing that the resolution was passed unanimously, party general secretary Pramod Mahajan denied it would disconcert the government.

“There is always a difference between the party and government. The government has to be a little more diplomatic and the party can be more candid,” he said.

Sources conceded that the draft was “toned down a bit to exclude extreme language”. The calibration was evident.

“It (the national executive) expresses its satisfaction that the government has crafted an approach which is consistent with India’s dignity as well as its long-term national interests aimed at bringing a quick end to this conflict and providing speedy relief to the suffering people of Iraq,” the statement read.

Sources said the three reasons for bringing in the resolution were:

- The killing of Kashmiri Pundits in Nadimarg in the Kashmir Valley, which supported the BJP government’s contention that it was not West Asia but Pakistan that was the “epicentre of international terrorism”.

The resolution said: “The national executive emphasises the need for the international community to remain focused on the global war against terrorism and to eschew ‘double standards’ in this campaign.”

- To set the record straight on the government’s “so-called pro-US stance” by signalling that India was not willing to put all its eggs in Washington’s basket and was for a more interventionist role by the UN and Nam.

- The perception that Iraq was not viewed through a communal prism but as a “much larger and more cataclysmic development” which involved questions of safeguarding borders and protecting nations against the “superpower”.

RSS ideologue Dattopant Thengadi in a recent speech in Delhi reportedly spoke of the US’ “military terrorism” while a BJP functionary said: “For the RSS, the US and Muslims are two species of poisonous snakes. Neither is a lesser evil. One is sampnath and the other is naagnath.”

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