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Panellists feel that government should address Mehbooba’s question on talks with Pakistan, spell out clearly rules of engagement with LeT, JeM and Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists to Indian army

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the attack on the military station at Sunjuwan in Jammu was carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad members and the attackers were assisted by Pakistan. Directly blaming Pakistan for the attack, New Delhi has said Islamabad will have to pay for the “misadventure” as well as for ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) to cover for infiltrating terrorists. At the same time, ousted Congress leader Mani Shanker Aiyar has raised questions regarding India’s handling of the crisis in the Valley.

APN’s popular debate Mudda took up this issue on Tuesday. Akshay Gaur moderated it and participants were Kashmir affairs expert Amit Raina, Congress’ Ajay Verma, BJP’s Anand Sahoo, defence experts Col Danveer Singh and Col Ramdev Singh Sengar, both retired, and APN consultant Govind Pant Raju.

Col Danveer Singh said, “At the political level, it is a marriage between absurds. In the Valley, the chief minister is against Major Aditya, the centre is with Major Aditya… Pakistan is hurling one attack after the other while the government keeps blowing its trumpet on surgical strikes. Pakistan has not been handled well politically. In the budget, there was nothing to show this.  An atmosphere of confusion prevails.”

Sahoo said the government’s intentions cannot be doubted on the matter. “Modi is showing enough mettle, he has called Pakistan PM over for meetings, has been doing a lot for army personnel, has been steering modernisation of the army, threatening Pakistan with dire consequences, in short, he has left no stone unturned. It is sad that things still remain the same. However, the government’s intentions cannot be doubted on the matter,” he said.

Col Danveer Singh wanted to know when Kashmir will see peace.

Sahoo likened the government’s methods of dealing with the issue to chemotherapy, mentioning that time is a key investment in terms of seeing results.

Raina felt the government has been contradictory in its policies vis-à-vis Kashmir.

Verma mentioned that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said that it’s time to talk to Pakistan. “What’s the government’s response to that statement? The government’s policy and intentions are both weak in this regard,” he said. Verma also said that since Aiyar has been suspended from the Congress, the party has nothing to do with his remark hailing Islamabad for seeking to resolve issues with India through dialogue, and for saying that New Delhi does not have such a policy.

Col Ramdev Singh said the Army is paying a heavy price but political will is needed to tackle the enemy. He said a surgical strike alone will not be enough.

Raju said Sitharaman should have made a statement much earlier, but now action needs to be taken at the earliest. Leaders should rise above politics. “There is no room for empty talk any longer,” he said. He added that the Congress should criticise Aiyar’s statement and should start legal proceedings against him.

The debate shifted to Aiyar’s remark and Major Aditya Kumar whose father is knocking the Supreme Court’s doors against the FIR filed against him while discharging his duties in dealing with stone-pelters.

Col Ramdev Singh said that confusion has been prevailing in Kashmir over the last two years. “When Maj Gogoi thought of an innovative way to control stone-pelters, he incurred the wrath of human rights activists,” he said, while explaining that army morale gets affected at times. He said no kind of politicising of national security matters should be tolerated.

Sahu said that the Congress should act against people making irresponsible remarks against the nation.

Raju said that the BJP’s silence shows that it, too, seems to be quietly assenting to Aiyar’s remarks.

Col Ramdev Singh said that the Indian Army is fully prepared to tackle Pakistani terrorists. “The BJP should make clear the rules of engagement to the army,” he added.

—Compiled by Niti Singh Bhandari

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