Parrikar, withdraw myopic statement

Parrikar, withdraw myopic statement

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s assertion that “we have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only” should rank among the most myopic statements in recent memory. It is an open admission of state policy. Parrikar, like many other colleagues of his in the Union government, has often landed in controversy through his habit of putting his foot in his mouth. For, if the statement is taken seriously and analysed threadbare, the implications are serious.

The Indian state faces existential threats from various quarters – militancy in the North-East, secessionism in Kashmir and the Maoist insurgency in the forest regions of Dandakaranya stretching across several states. Parrikar’s statement implies that the state’s security forces could abdicate responsibility and encourage civilian vigilante groups to take on the various types of militancy.  The Supreme Court, in 2011, declared that such tactics, like the one practiced by the Salwa Judum in particular, as unconstitutional and directed the state to disband the group.  At the height of the secessionist movement in Kashmir, the Ikhwan (counter-insurgent) group backed by the state had gone on a rampage against perceived militants causing great damage and loss to ordinary Kashmiris. With the Indian state experimenting with this strategy and all but giving it up, Parrikar’s assertion has reignited doubts whether the failed policy is being revived. Worse, it has come at the right time for Pakistan which has desperately been trying to show up India in poor light on the issue of terrorism.

Since the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, India has occupied the moral high ground by pointing to Pakistan’s suspected involvement in it and has taken its complaint to the world, accusing Islamabad of not doing anything to stem covert attacks on India. In this context, Parrikar’s statement comes as a gift to Islamabad which has now interpreted it to say that India too is involved in terrorism, and that New Delhi is behind terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The defence minister’s tactless statement, in other words, has considerably weakened New Delhi in its fight against terrorism. Parrikar should immediately withdraw his statement or at least issue a clarification on what exactly he meant. The danger, otherwise, is that the defence minister’s assertion will be equated with official state policy. This can potentially stoke further trouble, in more ways than one. On the other hand, if the public statement was intended deliberately and Parrikar sees no reason to clarify, it can only mean that the problems of militancy in India will aggravate while the already cold relations with Pakistan will freeze further.
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