Strongly opposing Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan's suggestion on the deployment of armed forces in Kashmir with the consent of the people, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday hit out at his party for taking a "weak" stand on issues of national security.
Stating that it was "regrettable" that a party with national ambitions was adopting a position similar to that of Pakistan and the separatists, BJP leader Arun Jaitley hoped that sensible elements in the AAP will seek to reverse this "soft" stand, otherwise "the slope downwards will be faster than the movement upwards".
"Issues of national security cannot be decided by populism or referendum. They can only be decided on security considerations. Till such time the infrastructure of terror remains, the presence of the army in Jammu and Kashmir is essential," the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said.
Lashing out at the Aam Aadmi Party, he said, "It is Pakistan which has been suggesting the de-militarisation of the Valley. Some separatist groups have been echoing that demand. It is regrettable that a party like the Aam Aadmi Party, which nourishes national ambitions, should adopt a position hostile to India's interests," Jaitley said.
AAP leader Prashant Bhushan had on Sunday suggested that the issue of the army’s presence in Kashmir may be decided by a referendum of the people in the Valley.
The BJP leader pointed out that the same leader had two years ago suggested a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir where people must be free to decide whether they wish to stay with India.
Attacking the AAP, BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said this is its first national agenda with a "separatist mindset" and cautioned against "other things to come" from the new party.
He said referendum is the first step, which will be followed by demands for a separate Jammu and Kashmir.
“The separatists are making such demands with a jihadi mindset, but the same thing is being said with a 'gentle face' by the AAP," he said.
Naqvi added that the army is "not on a picnic' in Kashmir.
"Questioning their integrity is not in national interest," Naqvi said.
Jaitley also slammed the AAP for its "soft and weak" position on national security and said, "Symbolism rather than substance has been displayed in the last ten days."
The BJP leader said after much difficulty, the issue of plebiscite is today no longer a part of the international agenda, a United Nations process or even the Indo-Pak bilateral talks.
Jaitley said the BJP is committed to Atal Bihari Vajpayee's declaration -- that all issues would be resolved within the framework of Insaaniyat (humanity), which entails elimination of terrorism, dismantling of terrorist infrastructure, comfort, peace and a high quality of life to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
"The de-militarisation of the Valley can take place only after this object is achieved. The army presence till then is necessary to protect both the territory and the people of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
The BJP leader said the defence of India is a subject exclusively in the Union government's domain, as it is neither a state subject nor a subject to be handled at the municipal level.
"The prime concern of the Indian State is to protect its own sovereignty and integrity. Kashmir has been a part of the unfinished agenda of Pakistan," he said.
Image: A violent protest in Kashmir ' Photograph: Reuters