Foreign Secy contradicts Defence Minister on surgical strikes claim
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Tuesday is understood to have differed with the claims of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army’s special forces across the LoC on September 29 to demolish terror camps.
Briefing the parliamentary panel on external affairs, the foreign secretary was quoted by MPs as saying that, “the army had carried out target specific, limited-calibre, counter-terrorist operations across the LoC in the past too but this is for the first time the government has gone public about it.”
The comments assume significance as the defence minister last week rejected the Congress party’s claims that the surgical strikes were undertaken during their tenure too. Many former military officials had described the past actions as “covert operations,” but agreed with Parrikar that the surgical strikes were undertaken for the first time.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is a member of the Committee, attended the meet but did not ask questions.
The Foreign Secretary also told the Committee that while India has been engaging with Pakistan post the September 29 surgical strikes, no “calendar” has so far been prepared regarding future engagement and its level with Islamabad, members said on condition of anonymity.
Replying to a question, he said people-to-people contact would continue and there was no plan to stop it.
During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Bipin Rawat also gave details of the strikes targeting terrorist launch pads across the LoC. They told the panel that the strikes have fulfilled the purpose as of now. When a Congress member wanted to know whether similar operations could be carried out in the future as well, the government representatives said the strikes have caused a nagging doubt in the Pakistani establishment whether India will carry out similar operations in the future.
When asked about the casualty they could inflict on the terrorists, the officials said the Army had crossed the LoC to carry out strikes and not to collect evidence.
Jaishankar sought to skirt the issue of UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan stating that it did not witness any action at LoC during the surgical strikes. He said since panel chairman Shashi Tharoor had been associated with the body, he would not like to say anything.
During the meeting, there was a brief exchange of words between a BJP and a Left party member when the former raised the issue of security of MPs after the strikes. Some members said the topic of the meeting was national security and not individual security.
Special Secretary of Internal Security M K Singhla, informed the panel about the types of security being extended to the VIPs.
Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar and DG BSF K K Sharma were also present at the meeting besides the Foreign Secretary and the Vice Chief of Army Staff.