Strongly opposing AAP leader Prashant Bhushan's suggestion on deployment of armed forces in Kashmir with the consent of people, BJP on Monday hit out at his party for taking a "weak" stand on national security issues and said these cannot be decided by populism or referendum.
Stating that it was "regrettable" that a party with national ambitions was adopting a position similar to that of Pakistan and the separatists that was hostile to India's interests, Arun Jaitley hoped that sensible elements in AAP will seek to reverse this "soft" stand, otherwise "the slope downwards will be faster than the movement upwards".
"The 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 for 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 yesterday suggested that the issue of army presence in the Kashmir Valley 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 or otherwise.
Jaitley's remarks came even as Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday distanced from the views of Bhushan saying decisions on internal security are taken based on the law and order situation and there cannot have referendum on deployment of the army in Kashmir.
Attacking 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 followed by demands for a separate Jammu and Kashmir. "The separatists are making such demands with a 'jehadi' mindset, but the same thing is being said with a 'gentle face' by AAP," he said.
Naqvi added that Army is "not on a picnic' in Kashmir and is there to protect the honour of the country and to negate the nefarious designs of terrorists.
"Questioning their integrity is not in national interest." Jaitley also slammed the AAP for initial "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 which was internationalised by Pakistan was linked to the territory wrongfully occupied by Pakistan and today it is no longer a part of either the international agenda, a United Nations process or even the Indo-Pak bilateral talks.
Jaitley said BJP is committed to Atal Bihari Vajpayee's declaration that all issues would be resolved within the framework of "Insaniyat" (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 defence of India is a subject exclusively in the central 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 unfinished agenda of Pakistan emanating from partition," he said.