Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked ministers, and by implication party members, to avoid “chest thumping” over the Army’s raids across the Line of Control (LoC) and leave it to authorised spokespersons to speak on the issue.
The PM’s remarks at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday came after a bitter political battle broke out over the “authenticity” of the cross-LoC strikes with Aam Aadmi Party and Congress asking the government to release evidence to counter Pakistani claims that the surgical strikes+ did not take place on terror launch pads.
While BJP countered the demands by accusing AAP and Congress of raising doubts over the Army’s actions, Modi seems concerned over the party and government’s responses veering towards triumphalism, providing grist to the charge that the government was making political capital of the successful raids.
The view in the government is that public sentiment has strongly hailed the raids and it was unnecessary to indulge in credit seeking – the political message of a decisive government did not need elaboration.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s comments, that the Pakistani army was like a patient yet to recover from anaesthesia, were seen as unnecessary even as BJP is keen to present a contrast between the Modi government’s actions and that of the previous Congress-headed dispensations.
Apart from the politics over the raids, the government is aware that Pakistan+ could retaliate and it may not be possible to consider a surgical strike as a response to every terrorist outrage.
The PM’s note of caution is in line with BJP’s word to members to avoid any flamboyant commentary as a “befitting reply” to the Uri attack had been given to Pakistan.
A day after the military strikes, the government and BJP were told to ensure that they did not overdo the bravado over the successful action, BJP sources said. Modi set the tone at a function in the capital on Sunday when he avoided any direct reference to the raids and instead concentrated on emphasising that India did not have a history of aggression.
The party shares the government’s concern that Pakistan’s retaliation could be by activating dormant terror cells in India and this would not be as easy to respond to as action on the border.
This did not mean, sources said, that the government had not factored in a possible Pakistani overt or covert response. Rather, the government chose to confront the threat of possible escalation but is not looking to provoke such a situation.
Asked about trade across the LoC, BJP sources said the government would want to act only at the right time. Also, the Centre is fighting the Pakistani establishment which harbours terrorists, not Pakistani people.
Modi’s outreach to Pakistani citizens during his public address in Kozhikode last week was intended to establish India’s peace credentials but did not preclude necessary action to deter terrorism.