The current controversy which is about two Italian marines jumping bail is not normally such a serious matter but backtracking on the assurance to the Supreme Court that they would come back by the required date assumed proportions of a diplomatic crisis. No doubt, we must follow all diplomatic procedures and put all pressure on Italy to see that the two marines come back and fulfill their promises. However, the cautionary point is that we cannot blow up this matter. Many people are saying cut off diplomatic relations with Italy but that may be too much. But we must make our protests clear. Italy has only recently gone in for elections and the new Government is not yet fully in place. The interim Government is not able probably to give clear directions.
Our External Affairs Ministry should take appropriate action in this matter. Beyond that, nothing is required. The Budget of course has been passed and therefore the Government is active for the next one year and there will be no crisis in the planning of the Government. Whether they can last till then and hold elections next year or they will have to hold elections at the end of this year is anybody’s guess. The unfortunate part is that one scam after the other keeps on surfacing, bringing down the Government’s credibility. The Prime Minister has made some bold statements but merely making statements can only embolden his own party but carries no conviction with the people. In the last one year, the credibility of the Government has dropped beyond all imagination. The moment 2G scam blew open and after that one scam after the other followed and the Government has really been shown in a poor light. And as we all know, once the rot spreads, the bureaucracy becomes ineffective, they don’t listen to their political masters and at all levels there is demoralisation.
Of course, it is the Prime Minister’s prerogative to call for elections but I think he should realise that the earlier he calls for elections the better it will be for all parties and for the country until of course the party itself knows that they are not going to win and they must stick to power for so as long as possible. Apart from this, Jammu and Kashmir has again shown that militancy has not come to an end and Pakistan will continue to indulge in its mischief making. We can keep on having composite dialogues with them but they have got multichannel arrangements. They have their Government. They have their ISI. They have their Taliban, they have other non-state actors there. Somebody or the other is always creating trouble. An appropriate response from India is required. Our agents should be activated to retaliate in international language. Merely being goody-goody and showing that we are not going to react whatever the other party may do is not in the country’s interests. I agree that Mr. Gujral, Mr. Manmohan Singh, Mr. Advani, they have all got roots in what is now Pakistan. Their villages or their towns which were in India are now in Pakistan. They naturally have a soft corner. They would like to have good relations with Pakistan. In fact, the late Mr. Gujral started the Gujral doctrine which was extremely soft towards Pakistan. But I feel a stage has come when our security agencies should be taken into confidence and an appropriate response at different levels categorical but clear should go to Pakistan. They must know that they cannot take India lightly. After all, national sovereignty and integrity are as important to India as to Pakistan. Kashmir is a big dispute in Pakistan’s eyes, but for us it is not a dispute, it is an issue which has to be resolved. But what they are doing is unacceptable. Innocent lives are lost, our security personnel are killed, this must stop. This can really stop if we take our own security agencies into confidence and take measures which are well known but not to be spoken about publically. What is to be done has to be done.