Ruling out an apology by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Monday charged former prime minister Manmohan Singh with defying the stated national policy on terror by meeting Pakistani diplomats and demanded to know the context, relevance and necessity of such a meet.
He termed the dinner meeting at suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence as “political misadventure” and said the main opposition party is expected to follow the national line that terror and talks cannot go hand in hand.
Addressing a press conference hours after Singh demanded an apology from Modi for setting a “dangerous precedent” by alleging “innuendos and falsehoods” about the meeting, Jaitley said the Congress must explain the context of the meeting.
“It is surprising that for a misadventure that the Congress party indulged in, to which some of its senior leaders became a party, they should expect the Prime Minister of India to apologise for it,” he said.
India’s national position on talks with Pakistan is well known and all responsible groups in India, including the main opposition party, are expected to honour that, Jaitley asserted.
Stating that this was not the first time that such “misadventures” have taken place, he referred to the Sharm el-Sheikh declaration after Indo-Pak talks “when Baluchistan issue was allowed to enter the text of the agreement and the condition precedent for a dialogue that Pakistan territory should not be used for terrorism was done away with”.
He said the Congress and its leadership should come out with detailed facts on what transpired in the meeting and what was its necessity under the present circumstances.
Jaitley said that till yesterday the Congress was denying the meeting and “today instead of accepting this as a misadventure, they try to blame those who are raising this issue”.
Asked if the leaders present at the meeting should be tried for treason, he said it is a political misadventure and “it has a political cost”.
Asked about Singh’s statement that Gujarat elections, as stated by Prime Minister, was not discussed at the dinner, Jaitley said the party must explain the context, relevance and necessity of such a meet.
On Aiyar, he said the suspended Congress leader “has always had an inconsistent position” and maintained “a parallel line of dialogue”, “underplayed Pakistan’s role in instigating terrorism in India and they continue to engage with them”.
“But that responsible section of the Congress party should have become privy to that engagement is indeed worrisome. It’s admittedly as I said, a complete misadventure for very senior people in India’s public life to have done what some of the senior Congress leaders did.
“And having done that, to expect the Prime Minister of India to apologise for having flagged the issue is indeed beyond comprehension,” he wondered.
He said the main Opposition party is expected to follow the national policy, which states that terror and talks cannot go hand in hand.
“Is (the) main opposition party not part of the State?” he asked.
Jaitley said that if anyone defies the national line, he should be prepared to answer questions.
He wanted the former prime minister to explain what transpired at the meeting and went on to defend his government’s track record of fighting terror, saying no government in the past has a track record this government has in fighting terrorism.
In response to Singh’s demand for apology, Jaitley further said people who have violated the national policy of talks and terror not going hand in hand should apologise.
On Singh’s comment that remarks by Modi at a public rally had demeaned the office of the Prime Minister, Jaitley said debate never demeans any office.
“When you have meeting of such kind, you should be prepared that questions will be asked,” he said. “If anyone of us defies a national line which is inconsistent with India’s line, we should be prepared to answer questions.”
The finance minister also said: “(The) misadventure is a political misadventure and it has political fallout.”
He also claimed that the BJP is comfortably winning in Gujarat.