The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party and parivar slam public pullback

New Delhi, Oct. 17: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has criticised the Centre for creating an impression that demobilisation on the western front was done under “pressure”.

“Troop movement of any kind, employment or deployment, should be kept highly secret. But the way announcements were made recently in public gave the impression that the government was under foreign pressure. This is not good for a sovereign state,” said VHP vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore.

The RSS reacted cautiously, saying the government “knows best”. A day after the phased withdrawal of troops from the western front was announced, there was palpable unease in the BJP and the Sangh parivar.

One bone of contention was why deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani “jumped the gun” and announced last Sunday that the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) would meet three days later to take a decision on troop deployment, when the meeting was supposed to be kept “top secret”.

Other sore points included how the parivar would refute the perception that the decision was taken under “US pressure”. How would they explain that troop mobilisation had not achieved the purpose for which it was done — stopping infiltration and cross-border terrorism'

“While we can always tell our cadre that troops from the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir would stay put and that the phased withdrawal would give us a chance to properly assess Pakistan’s counter-moves and react fast if something went amiss, how do we convince them that the US or the UK had no role to play in influencing the Centre’s decision'” asked a senior BJP leader.

The party’s central office-bearers are expected to discuss these issues in their Mumbai meeting on October 19 and 20 and “package” an explanation for the rank-and-file. Advani himself would attend the meeting and “clarify” things, said party sources.

Sources said Advani’s reply in answer to a question on redeployment of troops “revealed much more than what it ought to have” by virtually suggesting that its mind was made up and the NSAB meeting on October 16 was a “formality”.

The sources maintained that until Advani gave the date and the meeting’s agenda away, the US was unsure of what the government intended to do.

About 10 days ago, US ambassador Robert Blackwill invited senior BJP members, including Rajya Sabha MP L.M. Singhvi and Surendra Arora, the convener of its foreign affairs cell, for an interaction on the subject.

He tried to impress on them that the Indian government’s move coupled with the US’ own initiatives had toned down Pakistan’s position and forced President Pervez Musharraf to admit, even if tangentially, that cross-border terrorism is taking place, the sources added. Members inferred that the US’ message is it was time for India to “reciprocate” by pulling back its troops.

But the BJP delegation said that as a political party, they also owed an “explanation” to their supporters on why India had to keep the sword of war hanging over Pakistan.

Blackwill was told that just as the US proved that it had taken some action after 9/11 by striking Afghanistan though Osama bin Laden proved elusive, India, too, had to take some “initiative” against its neighbour after the December 13 attack on Parliament.

Therefore, expecting it to “reciprocate” was not the best of advice, politically.

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