Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman Sunday slammed the Opposition and the Congress in particular for questioning the air strikes in Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack and accused them of politicising it.
The BJP government gave freedom to the armed forces to act and they delivered, she said. Sitharaman also accused the previous Congress-led UPA government of not taking a similar deterrent action following the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai and claimed that the Army was willing to respond if the then government wanted them to do something. "If only a similar deterrent action had been taken after the Mumbai attack and I have enough reasons to believe the armed forces did tell the government at that time, if you want us to do something we are ready, but we want you to take the call...," she said.
Her statement comes two days after Sam Pitroda, chief of Indian Overseas Congress, asked the government to come out with "more facts" on the Balakot air strikes. Prime Minister Modi, using the hashtag 'Janta Maaf Nahi Karegi' (people will not forgive) in a tweet, had attacked Pitroda for reportedly saying he wanted to "know more" about the Balakot air attack, including the number of terrorists killed.
Several BJP leaders, including BJP chief Amit Shah, slammed Pitroda for his remarks. Referring to the Balakot air strikes, she said the Prime Minister had clearly said it was now up to the armed forces to take the call on how to proceed and that freedom was given to them. "When action was taken by us...what is being asked how many people did you actually kill...what is the proof. It is absolutely shocking conduct. The morale of the armed forces is being hit at. So, when the Opposition is questioning you are questioning them (armed forces) and then you keep telling us that don't politicise Balakot. You are the one who is politicising it by asking us for proof by asking the government did you really kill terrorists or did you really cross the border. Pakistan can ask it..," Sitharaman said addressing an event 'Telangana For Modi' organised by 'Modi Army' (supporters of Modi) here.
Speaking at another event, Sitharaman alleged that not respecting armed forces, but to bring them to shame to make them kneel down to their interests and even defame them has been the approach of the Congress party. The government, Sitharaman said, had credible information that more such (Pulwama like) suicide terror attacks may happen and to prevent such attacks "we had to take a pre-emptive strike in Balakot." Sitharaman was addressing an ex-servicemen and intellectuals meet here organised by BJP candidate N Ramchander Rao who is contesting from the Malkajgiri Lok Sabha segment. They (opposition) even had the courage to ask the government for evidence, she said. Sitharaman said during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, over 90,000 Pakistan soldiers were sent back unconditionally by India. But, they (Pakistan) have been terrible in terms of record of dealing with PoW, the Defence minister said.
"I still feel heavy in my heart when I think of our soldier Kalia who was caught and mutilated. Justice has to be given to him. It's not been given..his parents are going around and saying no justice for my son and that's the Pakistan we are talking of," she said. During the 1999 Kargil conflict, Captain Saurabh Kalia was tortured by his Pakistani captors who later handed over his mutilated body to India. "And after our PoW (referring to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman), who was held by Pakistan, was sent back ... in Pakistan that was touted as a peaceful gesture," and demands were even made in Pakistan that Prime Minister (Imran Khan) should be given nobel prize.
Varthaman was captured by Pakistan on February 27 after his MiG 21 Bison went down during a dogfight with Pakistani jets. But before his plane was hit, Varthaman shot down a F-16 of Pakistan air force. Sitharaman said she could understand Pakistan saying that. "Why would some sections in India speak that voice. I was astonished... Who are these people mentioning it and the political parties who are supporting them. We do not want this and therefore the return of Narendra Modi (back to power at the Centre) is important," Sitharaman said.
Referring to the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, she said "...so many lives were lost in the attack and clear evidence showed Pakistan had perpetrated it. You (then Congress government) don't give the freedom to the armed forces to even stand up with honour. "That's what this government has done and gave the freedom to the armed forces that you decide the time, you decide the way and how to handle because you are the best persons to handle it," Sitharaman said. It wouldn't have been necessary if only the previous government had taken a deterrent measure after the Mumbai attack, Sitharaman said.
Pakistan, which kept saying it was also a victim of terror attack after the Pulwama incident, also did not take action against camps where terrorists were being trained. "Therefore we had to take the action," Sitharaman added. Addressing BJP workers, Sitharaman said dynasty politics was not good for democracy and the BJP did not practice it. She said the Modi government had acted firmly against terrorists by carrying out strikes twice, once in 2016 after the Uri attack and now after Pulwama by not only destroying terror camps in PoK, but also in Pakistan,. Sitharaman said efforts had been made to control Naxalism, which has come down.