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'Politics over surgical strike is an insult to the army'

October 14, 2016 12:37 IST

‘The army decides on the response and chooses its own time and place for action. The political leadership never interferes.’

Former Defence Minister A K Antony tells Amit Agnihotri that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s statement is an insult not only to the Indian Army but also the previous National Democratic Alliance government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Edited excerpts:

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said no surgical strikes had happened against terrorists across the Line of Control when the UPA was in power. How would you like to react to the remarks?

Well, I can say that I feel sorry and sad over the statement. The defence minister is playing politics over surgical strikes. This is an insult to the Indian Army. This is dangerous for the country.

Parrikar further said the September 29 surgical strikes had allowed the army to vent the frustration bottled up over the past 30 years. Is that correct?

I don’t agree with that statement. Many surgical strikes took place when the UPA was in power and even before that. The army decides on the response based on the gravity of the situation and chooses its own time and place for action. The political leadership never interferes.

Why do you think the defence minister is casting a doubt on the previous governments?

If the defence minister said no surgical strikes happened in the past 30 years, he is also referring to the previous NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is actually insulting his own party leader.

What is the difference between the conduct of the BJP and Congress ministers in handling such matters?

UPA ministers never went public to claim credit for surgical strikes. At no point, did our ministers give media bytes to claim credit. It is not good for the government to come out with operational details of surgical strikes. Such information is never put out in the public domain.

The BJP said the Congress neglected the armed forces. What do you have to say to the charges?

The government should focus on removing anomalies in the one rank, one pension scheme, which was approved by the UPA government and was later changed by the NDA government. We had sanctioned a mountain strike corps at Rs 60,000 crore. But it has been practically abandoned by the NDA.

During UPA-II, the defence ministry never surrendered capital expenditure to the government but the NDA has done so in the past two years. UPA had made arrangements to improve medical and housing facilities for the armed forces and also increased disability pension. The NDA has diluted these measures.

You said the army is an apolitical force. Please explain.

During communal clashes, many a times the army is deployed as it enjoys a reputation of being a secular and an apolitical force. That remains unchanged. The Indian Army is the best in the world and never crossed the LoC on its own. It did so only in retaliation to an attack or infiltration in the past. The government should not politicise defence matters.

Amit Agnihotri