Senior Congress leader and former home minister P Chidambaram attacked Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Thursday, saying that he has crossed the line with his statement against those who hinder army operations in the Kashmir Valley in support of terrorists.
"The Army Chief's comments are intemperate. It is a political problem which needs a political solution and a political reach out. I am worried and I request the government to halt this approach and adopt a different one. More infiltration and more encounters are taking place in the state and things are getting very bad,” Chidambaram said.
He also criticised government’s Kashmir policy and the entire Congress cadre soon fell in line, attacking the army and the government for their actions in the violence-torn valley. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because the Congress has, in the recent past, criticised every action taken by the army to safeguard national interest in Kashmir. The party has made sure that every issue related to the army is politicised.
Congress, assuming the leadership of the hopelessly fractured Parliamentary opposition, raised questions about the legitimacy of the surgical strikes undertaken by the Indian Army in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Uri last year. Congress rallied the opposition against the army and demanded proof of the covert action.
If that was not enough, the Congress came out in open support of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who attacked the army for conducting routine survey operations in the state. The party said that Prime Minister Narender Modi was using the army to curb the democratic space for dissent and stood behind Banerjee as she peddled baseless conspiracy theories about the army’s ‘plan’ to overthrow her government.
In December last year, the Congress had criticised the Centre over the new Army Chief's appointment by superseding two officers. It forgot that the tradition of ignoring seniority over merit was not established by the current government, but by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Congress governments in the past, on three occasions, overlooked seniority in appointing army chiefs.
This is perhaps the best time to recall that Chidambaram, in 2013, blamed the army for hindering the peace process in Kashmir. He said that the army stalled his efforts to revoke the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the valley that gives the army the authority to conduct anti-terror operations in the valley. If that’s true, the army must be praised for having averted a disaster.
Congress needs to rethink its position on Kashmir. In power for 10 years, the party failed to find a 'political solution' to the issue. It also failed to work on the ground prepared by former prime minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee. Congress must realise that it has lost legitimacy on the issue. No one trusts the party when it comes to the army and national security. The sooner it does, the better.