Why oh why are we ruled by these nuts (Shivraj Patil edition)?
A few days ago it was the foreign minister who expressed gratuituous regret about India’s nuclear stance. Now it is the home minister forswearing India’s right to ‘hot pursuit’ against cross-border terrorism.
“India is neither a soft state nor weak state. We are correct. We would like to be correct. We will not like to go to extremes,.. We will try to convince them, the theory of hot pursuit is not allowed. Then you should be prepared to face the consequences also. We have fought many wars with Pakistan. We have adopted the ways of a civilised world. Specially with Bangladesh, we are trying to create a situation where we can tell them that providing safe sanctuary to terrorists is not dangerous for us alone, it is dangerous for you too. I hope they will understand that,” he told a questioner. [Daily Excelsior]
It is not even proper for a minister for home affairs alone to make such statements involving renounciation of a military option that is especially useful coercive diplomatic tool. There is a deterrent value in the threat of hot-pursuit (and its stronger, controversial cousin — the pre-emptive strike) that has vapourised after Patil’s remarks. Besides, no state in its right mind unilaterally relinquishes policy options, at least not without sufficient debate and national consensus. It is doubtful whether there is consensus even with Manmohan Singh’s cabinet on this issue, and then there is parliament. Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee or National Security Advisor J N Dixit would not throw ‘hot-pursuit’ away so readily.
Considering that almost all terrorism affecting India has a cross-border element, it is all the more ridiculous to renounce ‘hot-pursuit’. And the manner in which Shivraj Patil did it suggests that India is fearful of the consequences of doing so. Needless apology is just as uncalled for as needless bravado. Just imagine what those terrorists and their foreign protectors are thinking right now.
Patil has shot himself and India’s security policy in the foot (again). If his intention was to argue that India was not a ‘soft-state’, he has roundly failed — moral ‘correctness’ and diplomatic persuasion are unarguably nice to have, but a toothless tiger finds it difficult to protect itself and might evenend up dancing to the tune of a circus band.
Asking the cabinet’s loose cannons to be more careful will not help, given their character. Mr Patil, like his colleague from the external affairs ministry, deserves the right to lead a quiet life in retirement. Dr Manmohan Singh should not deny him that right anymore.