The Congress recently released its manifesto for the forthcoming elections. While the manifesto is aimed at garnering public support there are aspects which pertain to national security which need a detailed analysis. The analysis is not to question the claims by a national political party but to place it in the right perspective. The major aspects which need to be studied are their comments on Kashmir and the armed forces.
On Kashmir, the Congress manifesto states a total of nine points. These include dialogue with all relevant stakeholders, reduce deployment of the army in internal areas, redeploying them towards the exterior to prevent infiltration and handing over internal security responsibility to the J and K police. It also includes appointment of three interlocutors, reviewing the AFSPA and caring for students of the valley who study across the country.
In Oct 2010 the Manmohan Singh led Congress government appointed three interlocutors for Kashmir. They were journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, Prof MM Ansari and Prof Mrs Radha Kumar. They submitted their report to the centre, which apparently vanished into the dustbin. Earlier in 2006 Manmohan Singh had conducted a series of round table conferences on Kashmir, the outcome of which would still be found in some dustbin. Hence, this part of the manifesto is old wine in a new bottle. It is only a means of delaying any decision.
Redeployment of the army has been attempted many times. Every time the army has been moved to barracks or moved away, terrorism only increased forcing a redeployment and additional losses. Further, the Congress misses out that infiltration is not a zero-sum game. Irrespective of troops deployed, there will always be gaps through which some infiltration will take place.
Talks with stakeholders is a vague term. No political party in India, BJP included, has ever been able to define who the stakeholders in Kashmir are. Neither has the Congress specified the same in its manifesto. Further, with Pak claiming to be a party to the conflict, will the Congress talk to them too.
National Security Is Vital For Economic & Social Progress
The Congress stating that it would review AFSPA is again nothing new. The manifesto states that ‘changes will be made in the text of the laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of Human Rights (HR).’ HR is anyway out of the purview of AFSPA. Such cases are dealt under normal law. A special cell has already been created in army HQs to handle HR cases which is directly under the army chief. To enable coordination with multiple agencies probing such cases, an IPS officer would also be a part of this cell. Hence, it appears that the manifesto is out of tune with reality and the times.
It is very surprising that the Congress party has made no mention of the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pundits, who were driven out of valley during their tenure. It appears that for them, they are no longer inhabitants of the valley.
On matters concerning national security the Congress manifesto covers enhancing defence spending and modernization. The reality remains that fearing the ghost of the Bofors behind every door, Anthony as the defence minister signed no contract all through his ten years. He either did not trust his superiors or was fearful of his own reputation. The result was that army modernization went back by a decade, recovering from which would still take time.
Gross Negligence In Handling National Security Is A Felony
It has also promised to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). This again appears to be only a promise being made for seeking support. It has had a decade of heading the government and whenever questioned the only response forthcoming was that a political consensus is being evolved, which never came about. A CDS is almost impossible in the Indian context as despite all promises and exploiting the military for political gains, no political party trusts the armed forces to the extent of appointing one. The rest of the aspects covered in the manifesto imply nothing worth noting.
On the foreign policy front, it seeks to break away from the BJP concept of ignoring SAARC and desires to ‘work with SAARC and ASEAN countries to enhance the volume of trade, investments, tourism and cultural exchanges and reap the benefits of geographical proximity.’ In fact, the first reaction of this statement came in the Pak newspaper Dawn which stated, ‘It (manifesto) revealed an indirect connect with Pakistan through the SAARC template.’
It sought to win over the large veteran community by promising implementation of complete OROP, enabling lateral entry into Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and enhancing the capacity of military hospitals to cater for veterans. OROP was not granted by the Congress since promised in 1972, despite reports by multiple committees. Anthony had even stated that it was financially not feasible. Reservations for vacancies of upto 15-20% for veterans into CAPFs is covered by government orders. However, no government, the present included, has even bothered to force them to implement it. Expecting it to be pushed in the future is also unlikely.
Lateral entry into civil services has many stumbling blocks and hence is only for seeking some support. Further, orders for constructing veteran special wards in major military hospitals is already on the cards and under implementation. Thus, the comments are only repeating what is already on the cards.
It had been stated by a veteran politician in a private conversation that if even 10% of poll promises are implemented then the government has done its role. Hence the manifesto only comprises of promises made to befool the public.
This analysis is not aimed at letting down a nation political party but to project the truth, most of which would be unknown and hence may appear to be different. The true facts are never announced by those who release the manifesto.