Pakistan Being Used for Polarisation in Domestic Political Tussles, Says Former NSA Shivshankar Menon
PM Modi, during his August 15 speech at Red Fort in 2016, made a reference to the freedom struggle in Balochistan, thanking the people there for “their support".
File photo of former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon. (Courtesy: Getty Images)
New Delhi: Former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon minced no words as he said that Pakistan has been made into a domestic political issue in India over the last four years. Menon was speaking at the launch of The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace, co-authored by former RAW chief AS Dulat, former ISI chief Asad Durrani and Aditya Sinha, on Wednesday.
“You need to find a way to ensure that Pakistan is no longer a domestic political issue. But that has not happened. In the last four years, Pakistan has been made more and more into a domestic political issue. You have used it for polarisation,” he said.
He also called the Mumbai attacks in 2008 a fine example of how not to play politics with national issues. In the Mumbai attack in 2008, known as 26/11, a group of 10 Lahskar-e-Toiba terrorists carried out a series of attacks in across the city for four days, killing 164 people and injuring over 300. The Congress was in power at that point and BJP was the leading opposition.
“We had a general election within six months of the Mumbai attacks and nobody mentioned it as an issue. That’s an incredible fact. The issue was raised twice by the opposition, towards the end of January as a sign of government incompetence. People reacted by asking them how they could play politics with a national issue. We underestimate our own people,” the former NSA said.
The Islamic republic has often been spoken about at state election campaigns by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
In Gujarat, Modi alleged that his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh and former Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar had met Pakistani diplomats in Delhi with an aim to influence Gujarat polls. Pakistan responded by asking Indian politicians to “keep it out of domestic politics and to win elections on own strength".
Modi had also spoken of threats from Pakistan during his election campaign in Punjab in 2017 and asked “people to vote for a strong government". Shah, too, in 2015, had said that Pakistan would celebrate if BJP lost the elections. Just recently, during Karnataka election campaign, the BJP president had said that Congress and Pakistan think alike.
The former NSA said that India had a different standard regarding talks with Pakistan as compared to talks with other countries like China. Talks with China continued despite transgressions, but there has been no talk with Pakistan, he added.
Menon, however, appreciated the policies and work undertaken by India between 2003-2007, under former Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh. “They were popular among people,” he said.
Sharm el-Sheikh: A Missed Opportunity
Emphasising that there was no point in looking back at “missed opportunities”, the former NSA, however, said that the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh was a missed opportunity.
“There was complete suspension of dialogue, animosity and an atmosphere where they could say that India does not want peace with us and with that they could unite Pakistan behind themselves. You played into their hands and gave them exactly what they wanted,” he said.
Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani had met on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in 2009 and signed a joint statement. The statement said that Pakistan had provided a dossier on the Mumbai attacks and that it had some information on threats from Balochistan.
Back then, BJP accused Singh and the Congress party of compromising India’s stand on Pakistan and that “waters of the seven seas could not wash away the shame". The issue was brought up in the Parliament and senior BJP leaders, including Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, alleged that Singh had reversed the Pakistan policy by mentioning Balochistan, thus strengthening Pakistan.
Menon’s statement, on Sharm el-Sheikh being a missed opportunity due to internal struggle, holds importance as now, the Modi-led government has made references to Balochistan time and again. The position that the BJP has now is in stark contrast to what they had when they were in opposition. Modi, during his August 15 speech at Red Fort in 2016, made a reference to the freedom struggle in Balochistan, thanking the people there for “their support".
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