The LoC in Poonch where the five soldiers were killed in an ambush late on Monday night. (PTI)
New Delhi, Aug. 6: A.K. Antony’s Parliament statement today on the killing of five soldiers drew fire for alleged ambiguity, with Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley saying it would help Pakistan deny its role in the attack.
The defence minister’s suo motu statement on the ambush said it was carried out “by the Pak army on the LoC”. But the doubts cropped up when the first paragraph mentioned that the LoC raid was carried out by “approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms”.
Jaitley questioned the description, as did the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury. “By saying this was a terrorist attack, you are providing Pakistan with an opportunity to say these were non-state actors,” the BJP leader said.
Jaitley pointed out that Pakistan was “a state living in denial”, whether it was Kargil, the 26/11 attack or the beheading of an Indian soldier this January, and had long obliterated the line between non-state and state actors. He demanded the government rework its foreign policy to send a clear message to Islamabad.
Antony later replied that he was speaking based on early reports. “At this point, we do not want to jump to conclusions.”
Yechury echoed Jaitley. “The government is saying these were non-state actors,” he said. The minister’s statement, Yechury argued, appears to suggest as if the incident was not one between the Indian Army and the Pakistan Army.
Yechury also seized on Antony’s admission that ceasefire violations along the LoC had shot up 80 per cent over last year and infiltration attempts between January 1 and August 5 this year had doubled over the 2012 level.
“What is happening, are you helpless?” asked Yechury. He said the trend may be directly linked to Afghanistan from where the US will withdraw its troops in 2014, sparking concerns in India that the pullout would embolden terrorists and lead to more strikes.
Questions were also raised on the newly elected Nawaz Sharif government, which has vowed to improve ties with India. Jaitley questioned if Pakistan’s government and army were deliberately speaking in different voices.
Later, Lok Janshakti Party MP Ram Vilas Paswan said India should have a dual “tit-for-tat” policy for the border by giving liberty to its army to fire while New Delhi should deal diplomatically with Islamabad.
If Antony faced the BJP-Left onslaught in the Rajya Sabha, the government had to contend with a BJP-Mulayam fusillade in the Lok Sabha.
Mulayam Singh Yadav grabbed the issue in the lower House, probably looking to deflect attention from the controversy over the suspension of Uttar Pradesh IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal.
The Congress had hoped to assuage Mulayam, angry after Sonia Gandhi’s letter to the Prime Minister seeking fair treatment for Nagpal. Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath was seen talking to Mulayam and the Samajwadi Party boss faced no disruptions from pro-Telangana Congress MPs when he spoke.
Mulayam was unsparing, though. He took digs at Antony over his statement on the latest attack, demanded the Prime Minister brief the House and accused the government of presenting India as a “coward” before the world.
Mulayam tried to project himself as a “secular nationalist” and highlighted the incident to emphasise the threats from Pakistan and China, with the stress on the latter. He recalled that he had recently discussed the matter with L.K. Advani.
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha spoke after Mulayam but suspected a ploy to drown him out. “Is the Congress with India or Pakistan?” he asked when some anti-Telangana Congress MPs resorted to sloganeering in the well of the House as he spoke. Sinha alleged the Congress had sent the MPs to obstruct him.
“These MPs were silent when Mulayam Singh was speaking. When I rose, they started shouting,” Sinha alleged.
“Congress ka haath Pakistan ke saath hai kya (is the Congress’s hand with Pakistan)?” he asked, playing on the party’s poll symbol.
This led to a ruckus, with Congress MPs rising in protest and other BJP members joining the duel. It led to repeated adjournments and the Lok Sabha closed without transacting any business for the second day in a row.