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Do you expect armed forces to take selfies and show proof: Nirmala Sitharaman

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The tough-talking Nirmala Sitharaman is as blunt as she can get. Ask her about the alleged politicisation of security matters in light of Balakot and Mission Shakti. Political will is required for any such action, unlike Pakistan, the Defence Minister minced no words while speaking to ETNow as part of India Development Debate.

Edited excerpts:

A lot is being said that the Modi sarkar going into battle 2019 is playing the patriotism card, the national security card to try and deflect from the lack of job creation from the economy. How do you react to that charge?

Well, who are the ones who are talking about these charges and who are the ones who are telling us that we are actually distracting people from what has to be discussed.

It is a shame that in a country which has over the decade suffered because of terrorism and our neighbour, who constantly disturbs us. We have seen a huge loss of lives, assets and everything else. The one single worry of every government has been how to contain terrorism and also the naxal problem.

If at a time when we have seen some of the major hits and as a result, you saw the mood post Pulwama, how the entire country reacted and the kind of disappointment and anger which was seething, we have responded to this. And I have said this before too that if only after Mumbai attack, had the then government taken some steps to curtail terror, we would not have faced this situation at all.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Pakistan will behave itself after one such lesson, but if we showed firm determination even then, we would not have had this problem. The sum and substance of it is here is the government which is giving a clear signal that it will have to stand up to the challenge of terrorism.

Zero tolerance is what we have promised and shown. We are telling people look here is a leadership which really addresses the concerns which are in the minds of the people, particularly on national security, be it at the borders or be it at some inland pockets where we have had a problem because of Naxalism.

So, what is wrong in distinguishing this government based on our actions as different from the previous government and saying here are we making the country feel absolutely safe? If the country is safe, all of us can get going with our normal day-to-day activity with the greater sense of confidence.

That is why we talk about it and the country is talking about it, not just us as a political party.

We have already seen it being a major election plank.

We will certainly speak about it. That is a major plank, it is obvious.

After our attack on Pakistan, there were certain charges of politicisation. Do you concede whether it was the BJP or the Congress, both of you are guilty of politicising that?

I would not agree with that at all. Politicisation happens if people are trying to talk about whether the armed forces took the right step or not.

Now, the debate here is armed forces did not act because they had to get the direction because in India unlike in Pakistan, the armed forces are clearly under the civilian government. Any action that the armed forces will have to take will have to have a political clearance and that is why when I talked about post Mumbai attack, even though the armed forces were ready, political clearance did not come by.

In this ASAT attack I mean the satellite, where the missile had gone up and hit the satellite, even the capacity existed even in 2012 when one of the missiles was tested. Some of the missile was tested, but the government then did not give the go-ahead. Political will is required for any such action.

Now it becomes politicised if you suspect that the armed forces acted only because there was any other motive than security considerations about Balakot. The politicisation started when the Opposition instead of standing by the country started questioning what the armed forces did.

Whether you question the government or not is understandable because especially nearer the elections, a party in power will be criticised, if not ideally be critiqued for their activity. That one can understand. But by asking for probe by questioning whether they really went into the Pakistani territory and so on, it is very clear that the object is to question the armed forces rather than the government.

You did not give the free hand to the armed forces when it was your time and your government. We have given as the Prime Minister said a free hand to the armed forces to say you take an action when you deem it fit. That is a political direction given by the party in power.

They are demanding proof.

That is where the politicisation commences and ends.

What do you say to all of those who are demanding proof and just not believing what you or the armed forces have to say?

Nirmala Sitharaman: That is politicisation. You have to trust the Indian armed forces because what they are doing is for securing the country and if you want proof, I have in fact said it in a light-hearted tone earlier. What is the proof you want other than they are saying it to you, other than the fact that Pakistani defence people have themselves said they saw the Indian aircraft and so on.

And of course, Pakistan is not allowing foreign journalists or anybody to go and visit the site. They are waiting to probably whitewash whatever has happened much before they take that.

Do you have satellite images?

That is always available, one can alRead More – Source