It is good that Minister for Defence Nirmala Sitharaman has categorically backed the Indian Army and said that the Government would always stand by the forces in their fight against terrorism. Her remarks have come in the backdrop of a police complaint filed in Jammu & Kashmir against an Army officer over an incident when Army personnel fired at a stone-pelting mob that had threatened to lynch an Army man, and the Army’s criticism by the pro-separatist sections in Kashmir valley. The Minister added that a fitting response would be given to Pakistan for the recent spate of terror attacks in the State.
The registration of a first information report (FIR) against the Army officer was indeed uncalled for, and the Mehbooba Mufti Government ought to understand that such actions can demoralise the country’s Armed Forces who are fighting a grave battle against militancy in order to not just preserve the sovereignty and integrity of India but also protect the lives of ordinary citizens of the State. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is part of the coalition regime in J&K, is in a dilemma. On the one hand, it is in favour of continued strong measures to deal with the problem in the State. On the other, it has to reconcile with its major ally, Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) soft approach to militancy. This sort of arrangement does tend to strain credibility. Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether the State Government had informed the Defence Minister while filing the FIR, and whether Sitharaman had given the nod for the same. The Minister herself refused to elaborate on the issue at her press conference on Monday. She said that Pakistan would get a befitting response to the terror attacks of the last few days. That the Indian forces will respond more than adequately is a given since we can trust them fully. What remains unclear is the following: Who will ensure that Mehbooba Mufti and her party leaders stop their soft-pedalling? They ought to have realised by now that Pakistan is incorrigible. New Delhi has talked to Islamabad in the past on several occasions and various commitments had been then made by the latter to end support to terrorism. Those like the J&K Chief Minister and the Left-Liberals who have been demanding the resumption of bilateral dialogue must understand that Pakistan will not respect any commitment. While India is willing to talk, it wants an end to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Is this too much to ask for?