NEW DELHI -- Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today rubbished Congress' claim of the army having undertaken surgical strikes under it and demanded a "major" share of credit for the military action post-Uri attack for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, escalating a bruising war of words with Congress.
Stung by the attack, Congress accused him of "blatant politicisation" of the issue and demanded an apology.
Speaking at two events in Mumbai, Parrikar said all the 127 crore people of India, including "doubting Thomases", and the army share and deserve credit for the operation as it was done by the armed forces and not by any political party.
At the same time, he said that "major share" of credit does go to Modi and the government for decision-making and planning.
He also made it clear that Congress' claims of such attacks having been carried out when the UPA was in power were wrong as those operations were undertaken by border action teams at local level "without the knowledge" of the government.
"I don't mind sharing the credit, including on surgical strike, with every countryman because it is done by our armed forces and not by any political party. So all Indians, including, those doubting Thomases, can share the credit," he said at a function in Mumbai, adding his statement will settle the nerves of many.
Parrikar's remarks drew stinging criticism from the Congress, which called them "misleading" and said by rejecting the claim that such strikes had taken place in the past, the Defence Minister had "undermined" the sacrifices made by the army.
"Mr Parrikar, Indian Army deserves all credit but why mislead the people and undermine army's sacrifices by denying earlier surgical strikes?" Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked and demanded an apology from the Minister.
"Operation Ginger in 2011 was a large-scale surgical strike. Why is Manohar Parrikar quiet on army's valour? Is (it) not blatant politicisation?"
"Converting national security into an event management exercise to polish the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is extremely unfortunate," he said.
"The 127 crore people of this country and the Indian armed forces deserve the credit for the surgical strike," the Defence Minister, who addressed vents in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, said.
"The only credit of the Union government is that it took the decision," he said, adding "there were no surgical strikes ever carried out by Indian Army (prior to the September 29 strikes)."
"There was frustration in the society as well as among the 13.5 lakh army personnel that enemy does not bother government."
"The earlier military actions were carried out mostly in low intensity and were covert. The reports used to be communicated later to the higher authorities. This was the first such strike which was approved by the government," he said.
To a query on the mindset of the Indian army, Parrikar said, "In last 30 years, there were three wars and non-conventional attacks like terrorism. There was frustration in the society as well as among the 13.5 lakh army personnel that enemy does not bother government," Parrikar said.
"It was a 30-year steam that was vented out (on September 29). That is why people have expressed joy over it. Had anything gone wrong (during the surgical strike) entire blame would have been borne by the government."
In a veiled criticism of media coverage of Kashmir events, he said, "Publicity is like oxygen. If stone pelting is not aired, 75 per cent stone pelting will stop."
Parrikar was speaking on "strengthening India's defence capabilities", anchored by security analyst Nitin Gokhale, in suburban Bandra.
Asked if there was intelligence failure in Pathankot and Uri attacks, Parrikar said, "There were some shortcomings in intelligence. (However), I don't call it a failure.
"India's response to terror attacks was predictable so far. Post surgical strikes, India's response has become highly unpredictable. This is a very important position we have attained through such surgical strike," Parrikar said.
Any government should be "cheered" for taking decisions, he added.
"Prime Minister Modi has tried his best for improving relationship with our neighbour (Pakistan) but our hand of friendship was perceived as weakness. Hence, we gave an unpredictable response to them," he said.
Speaking on Indo-China ties, he said the incidents of transgression have come down significantly as we have focused on dialogue.
"But, as a country, we can't put a ban on imports of Chinese products as we are part of the World Trade Organisation. However, not to buy Chinese products can be taken at individual level," he said.
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