Parties across the political spectrum joined hands to corner the government on its foreign policy on Tuesday, in a rare coming together of divergent forces in Parliament in what was seen as parties getting into poll gear.
Not just the Opposition BJP – which has often taken a hard line on foreign policy to embarrass the UP – but parties as varied as the SP, BSP, CPI(M), JD (U), Shiv Sena and others took turns to attack Defence Minister AK Antony not just on his statement but on the UPA’s foreign policy, ranging from Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
The language was also harsh: while Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut used the word “impotent government”, Shivanand Tiwari used the words “gharib ki joru” (poor man’s wife) for the country and called Parliament’s anger “napunsak gussa” (impotent rage), drawing a quick rebuke from BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Members across parties took turns to hit out at the Defence Minister for providing the Pakistan army an “escape route” by saying that the attackers were armed terrorists and persons clad in the Pakistan army’s uniform.
“You are giving Pakistan an escape route through your statement,” SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said in the Rajya Sabha. DMK MP Kanimojhi also dubbed the minister’s statement an “excuse”.
In the Lok Sabha, SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav cautioned the government about the Chinese and Pakistani threats, obliquely picking holes in Congress foreign policy even in the Nehru years. “Nehru was deceived by China. Dr. Lohia and others believed he died because he couldn’t tolerate this deceit. I have been saying China is deceitful,” Yadav said. He added: “Even Pakistan is not afraid of you. It is trying to scare a large nation like India.”
BSP supremo Mayawati called for a review of India’s foreign policy, even evoking thumping of desks from BJP MPs. “Let not there be delay. A tough stand is required. Keep vigilant of neighbours like Pakistan and China,” she said.
CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury said in the Rajya Sabha: “Let us not justify ourselves... by saying that... terrorists were dressed as the Pakistani army. If there is an 80 % increase in ceasefire violation, what have you done?”
Even Janardan Waghmare, belonging to Congress ally NCP, dubbed India “a soft state and a banana state”. RJD’s Ram Kripal Yadav said Pakistan should be given a message that India can give a befitting reply (moonh-tod jawaab).
While reflecting the mood, however, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan said while the army should be ordered to take tit-for-tat action on the border, parallel diplomacy should continue. CPI’s D Raja also sought to know whether the government would stop talks or keep engaging with Pakistan, favouring the latter policy: “Will we stop dialogue? Are we weak and panicky? Government to government talks are seriously required.”