Congress’s G-23 leader Manish Tewari — whose criticism of the UPA government’s reaction to the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai had so pleased the BJP — has not spared the NDA government in his new book. Overall, India’s institutional learnings on national security challenges “are at best tenuous and at worst, non-existent”, he wrote in his book “10 Flash Points; 20 Years – National Security Situations that Impacted India”.
To make his point, Mr Tewari has gone over the government’s reaction to recent challenges, from surgical strikes to Chinese incursions.
“The NDA seems to have made the unfortunate assessment that these strikes pay political dividends,” Manish Tewari wrote about the surgical strikes, which took place in September 2016 after the attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri, in which 19 soldiers were killed.
“Accordingly, the marketing of such government action to domestic public opinion has regrettably attained paramount priority. While earlier, the approach was to act with stealth and impose a cost that sends a clear message to the adversary, this model has been turned on its head with the post-Uri strikes,” he added.
The Congress has repeatedly claimed that NDA had publicised the strike to reap political dividends. The six earlier strikes during the Congress rule and two during the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had received no publicity, the party contended.
The BJP has claimed that action against terror launchpads in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir was taken for the first time by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
During the strike at Balakot of February 2019 — a retaliation to the terror attack at Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama — Mr Tewari wrote that there was no mechanism for de-escalation, pointing to the risks inherent in such a situation.
“What Pulwama-Balakot demonstrated was that there were no institutional off-ramps that could have been accessed to de-escalate the situation. Had Wing Commander Abhinandan not been released under Indian pressure or otherwise, or if the Balakot strike would have had unintended collateral consequences, an escalation would have been inevitable,” he wrote.
Talking of the Chinese incursions into India territory last year, Mr Tewari wrote that the parallels with the Sino-India border war of 1962, even after a gap of 58 years, was “spooky”.
The Chinese intrusions in the summer of 2020 “caught the BJP-led government napping”, Mr Tewari wrote.
“What makes it worse is that this is a repetition of what happened exactly 20 years ago when India had faced a similar situation in the form of the Kargil intrusions in the high Himalayas about 500 kilometres from where the present stand-off with China is playing itself out”.
The Congress has repeatedly questioned the government if the incursions have given China more Indian territory under its control.
Mr Tewari also questioned the government’s move to create a Chief of Defence staff, integrating the three wings of the armed forces and streamline the weapons procurement process.
”Would the institution of CDS as a single-point military advisor to the government take away from the diversity of views currently available to the government? Can the CDS really catalyse greater jointness and more operational integration of the services?” he wrote in his new book.
Mr Tewari’s criticism of the UPA government’s response to the 26/11 strikes created a huge controversy, making his party deeply uncomfortable.
One of the 23 leaders who signed the explosive letter to Sonia Gandhi last year, flagging a drift in leadership and demanding sweeping organisational changes, Manish Tewari had written that “restraint is not a sign of strength; it is perceived as a symbol of weakness… it is my considered opinion that India should have actioned a kinetic response in the days following India’s 9/11”.