As he had done in his talks with Iran by saying that those who had ‘insulted’ Mohammed would be punished in an exemplary manner, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval has once again lent credibility to the anarchist outburst of the Muslim world against the comment of BJP’s suspended spokeswoman Nupur Sharma that Islam’s prophet had married Aisha when she was 6-years-old and consummated the marriage when she was 9. Ajit Doval said today that the controversy over the remark had damaged India’s reputation internationally as they had projected the country in a manner that was far from the truth.
“It has (damaged India’s reputation), in the sense that India has been projected (in a manner)— or some disinformation (sic) has been spread against India — that is far from the reality. Probably there is a need for us to engage them and talk to them and convince them. And you will find that wherever we have gone, wherever we have engaged with the concerned people, both outside and inside, we have been able to convince them. When people get emotionally aroused, their behaviour is a little disproportionate,” Doval said in an interview with news agency ANI.
NSA reiterates government position on Agnipath: No rollback
The NSA dealt also with the controversy over the Agnipath military recruitment scheme, saying it was for the good of the armed forces and even the youth who got trained through it. He said there would be ample employment opportunities for Agniveers as, by the time they retire from the forces, India would have a $ 5 trillion economy and industries will be vying to employ disciplined and trainable youth.
“There is no question of any rollback. This is not a knee-jerk reaction. This has been discussed for decades. In the 1970s, we had the Gen Krishna Rao Committee, in which Gen Chhibber and Gen Sundar were members. They talked about reforming the army, including the manpower policy. Then there was the Arun Singh report in 1989 and then there was a Group of Ministers’ report… there was the Subramaniam Committee report, the Kargil Committee report… All had this consistent refrain, ‘Go for a younger army.’ But there was a problem. While everybody realized it was necessary, no one had the ability and the will to take the risk,” Doval said in the interview.
The NSA also said that the recent bombing of a Sikh shrine in Afghanistan was unfortunate and that India was committed to extending all help to minorities in that country. “We have given visas to a large number of Sikhs and as flights become available, some of them will be coming back. We will look at the cases of Sikhs very very sympathetically. It was a very unfortunate incident. We have assured Sikhs and Hindus there that India will stand by its commitment,” Doval said.
On the continuing killing of civilians in Jammu and Kashmir, the NSA said the government was dealing with it. “Post-2019, the mood of the people has changed. They are not in favour of Pakistan and terrorism anymore. Where is Hurriyat today? Where are all the bandhs? There are a few individuals who are misled and are getting into this. We are doing our best to persuade them. Their families are making efforts. Some tanzeems (elements) are creating problems. We are fighting them with total resolve. We don’t deal with terrorism. We have to deal with the terrorist. We are very hopeful that in another few months we will be able to bring the situation under control,” he said.
On Kashmiri Pandits feeling unsafe and not being taken care of by the government, the NSA said, “I don’t think that is the feeling of all Kashmiri Pandits. Yes, they are a vulnerable section. They need protection. The government has taken various measures in the past. Probably, much more has to be done. And that is being done. No government will be able to give protection to each individual. The best is… we go on the offensive against the terrorists. And make sure that these people who threaten (Kashmiri Pandit) lives and property are accounted for.”
On the question of involving the western neighbour in the dialogue on Kashmir, the NSA said that India was open to engagement with Pakistan but only on its own terms. “We cannot have peace and war at the choice of our adversary. If we have to protect our interests, we will decide when, with whom and on what terms we will have peace. When our core interests are involved, there is no question of peace at any cost. There has got to be peace and we have got very good relations with our neighbours, Pakistan included. We would like to have good relations with them. But, certainly, the tolerance threshold for terrorism is very low. We would not like to make our citizens sitting ducks for terrorists. In the last eight years, the country has not seen any terror attack, except in Jammu and Kashmir where a proxy war is going on,” he said.
On the ongoing impasse with China in Eastern Ladakh, the NSA said, “We have got a long-pending territorial dispute with China. We have made our intention clear to China. They know we will not tolerate any transgression. There have been some unsavoury incidents. We have been able to resolve some issues through talks and negotiations. Few points still remain. We will continue our efforts. At the same time, we have to ensure we are vigilant and are able to protect our borders.”