While speaking at a conclave organized by Hindi news channel Aaj Tak earlier this month, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar kicked up a storm by stating, "We have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists... Why can't we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?"
This controversial statement drew sharp criticism from the Defence Minister's counterpart in Pakistan, Khawaja Asif, who said that it confirmed that India "is sponsoring terrorism against its neighbours in the name of preventing terrorist activities."
"Modi's speech glorifies what he describes as "Hindu terrorism" and appears to be an endorsement of terrorism as a foreign policy tool."
Back home in India the response to Parrikar's statement was not encouraging either. Former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram asked whether Parrikar realised "the enormity of the statement he made." He added: "India does not harbour terrorists. India does not have terrorists in its agencies. And India cannot use a terrorist to neutralise another terrorist."
The government also appears to have distanced itself from Parrikar's remark. Addressing a Border Security Force (BSF) function, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval maintained that Parrikar's comments can be interpreted in multiple ways. "It could mean having skills, equipments, tactics, it can have many meanings," he said. But NSA Doval certainly did not come out in full support of fighting terrorists with terrorists.
Parrikar's statement has come at a time when Pakistan is trying to corner India by accusing the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) of sponsoring insurgent activities in the troubled region of Baluchistan. However, this is not the first time that someone from the Hindu Right has sought to make terrorism a part of India's foreign policy.
Former Telecom Minister Arun Shourie, who recently made headlines for criticising the Modi government on various counts, had prescribed a similar solution for dealing with Pakistan. During a debate in the Rajya Sabha, Shourie had said, "Not an eye for an eye, but for an eye, both eyes. For a tooth, the whole jaw." He further recommended that one way to avoid terror attacks in India would be to keep Pakistan occupied in dealing with its own strife-torn provinces.
However, the real inspiration behind Parrikar's "Kante se kanta nikalna (removing a thorn with a thorn)" remark seems to be coming from none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a previous article for The Huffington Post, I had mentioned how Narendra Modi praised the media for its usage of the controversial term "Islamic terrorism" in a television discussion held post 9/11. However, a few years later, Modi was seen taking grave objection to the term "saffron terrorism" which he felt was degrading to Hindu temples and saints. The remarks only reflected the Prime Minister's hypocrisy and contradictory attitude towards terrorism perpetrated by Muslims and Hindus, respectively.
The audio excerpt below, from a speech made by Modi, is adding a different dimension to the debate.
In the video Mr Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, can be heard taking on President Pervez Musharraf. Referring to Musharraf as miyan (a term reflecting his Muslim identity), Modi says to thundering applause, "Miyan Musharraf you don't know that a Hindu can never be a terrorist. But Miyan if because of your sins and actions a Hindu ever embarks on the path of terrorism, Miyan Musharraf open your ears and hear carefully, the day Hindu terrorism is born, then Pakistan would be wiped off the world map."
"Statements which call "to neutralise terrorists through terrorists" bring enormous disrepute to a country that in theory at least has always stood for non violence and peaceful co-existence."
There are two major takeaways from this diatribe. Firstly, Mr Modi can be heard using the term "Hindu terrorism" very casually. If Mr Modi has objections to the Congress using the term "saffron terrorism" then why does he himself use the term "Hindu terrorism"? It is highly inappropriate to associate any religion with terrorism. Equating religion with terrorism even for the sake of rhetoric cannot be overlooked. If Mr Modi genuinely stands against religious stereotyping in regard to terrorism then he should himself refrain from using certain controversial terms.
Even more worrying, Modi's speech glorifies what he describes as "Hindu terrorism" and appears to be an endorsement of terrorism as a foreign policy tool. Terrorism, which involves the killing of innocents for political gain, can never be employed by a democratically elected sovereign government to settle scores with a neighbouring country which is perceived as being aggressive.
Bilateral disputes between two nuclear armed nations have to be settled through dialogue, engagement and persuasion. They can't be settled by killing innocents as collateral damage. Mr Modi and Mr Parrikar have to realise this as soon as possible because they are entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the world's largest democracy. Statements which call "to neutralise terrorists through terrorists" bring enormous disrepute to a country that in theory at least has always stood for non violence and peaceful co-existence.