by Sunita Mudaliar
How prepared is the Indian Army now to fight a war on any of its borders – land or sea? Nagpur Today asked Defense Minister Parrikar, when in Nagpur; to which he replied with a question himself – “what is your perception?”
He did agree that there was this feeling that the Indian Army’s ‘ war preparedness’ had become weak post UPA 2 since “nothing was really happening”.
He replied to such and many more queries about India’s borders and relations with its neighbors candidly in an informal talk.
Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar, former CM of Goa and now India’s Defense Minister was in Nagpur on Sunday.
After finishing his “official work” he spent a long time at the Sangh Bhawan in Mahal and also at the Gadkari wada. His dinner was hosted at senior BJP leader Ashok Mankar’s house where he interacted with all city BJP MLAs, the Guardian Minister, Corporators, Mayor Datke and former BJP Mayors of Nagpur. He had a free and frank discussion with everyone present.
“Ask me anything; I’ll try my best to reply” he assured the select gathering. Nagpur Today was privileged to be the only press present at this exclusive dinner meet. Given here is a gist of replies he gave to various questions.
The First googly was thrown by MLA Ashish Deshmukh, who wanted to know since Nagpur was a safe being in the center of the country, why couldn’t a thought be given to shifting the national capital here? To which Mahohar Parrikar replied that he did not want to attempt ‘batting’ to that question since he didn’t want a controversy needlessly. “As it is, anything we say gets raked into a controversy, I would rather not give it more fodder” was his candid reply.
Then Kalpana Pande, former Mayor and Professor of Maths asked a question prefacing it with ” this is what my students are constantly asking about”.
What is the status of our border issues with Pakistan and China and are we close to resolving them? She asked.
The border issues haven’t changed, what has changed is our attitude towards them, the Defense Minister said candidly.“We have a very extensive border with China, and China has over the years has made incursions and captured many of our areas, like Aksai Chin , beyond Ladakh. The ‘traditional’ border the McMohan line ( which incidentally is rejected by China) is an imaginary line… it only exists on paper. But many of these territories are very remote, very hostile nature wise. It is impossible to set up permanent Army posts there, but since I have become Defense Minister we do have offensive patrolling, regularly.
I call it offensive, not defensive, since we do not tolerate any ‘misadventure’ by the Chinese army. If they try to encroach, we politely drive them back.” Parrikar replied extensively.
About POK, he said in a forthright manner – “it is our territory and we shall take it back one day.” Giving a corollary he said ” if your neighbor ‘takes over’ your house by force, it does not become his, even if many years have passed. You know it is yours, you will not give it up.”
Recalling former Prime Minister Vajpayee’s comments after the attack on Indian Parliament by Pak IS, when he said “ab aar ya paar ki takkar hogi” (Now it will be a fight to the end) Manohar Parrikar said, that is the only language Pakistan understands.
About finding permanant solutions to the border issue and if PM, Modi had made any headway regarding this with China in his current visit, Parrikar opined ” it is not something that can be discussed and solved by our PM on a brief China visit. It needs extensive discussions and negotiations sitting across the table by professional teams from both sides. We are doing it – already there have been more than a dozen meetings. Visits by premiers to each others countries help in creating the right atmosphere for a settlement. But these things take time…”
Anil Sole wanted to know if our large imports of Defense material would stop and we would concentrate on ‘Make in India’. Parrikar replied that during Modi’s extensive foreign visits, many countries are being persuaded to start manufacture of things like light aircraft, jeeps, cargo helicopters etc. in India.
“But they will not bring their manufacturing plants to India unless we ourselves assure them of lucrative purchases. We are in discussions for a number of such projects – you will see the result in 2 -3 years.
“Already some general items like artillery and some weapons have been brought in the ‘general’ category ( denotified) and 49% FDI is being allowed in it”Speaking about the ISIS brutal activities and whether it could brew trouble for India also, he replied that it was a age old Shia- Sunni conflict between two sects of Islam.
“82 countries world wide are affected, but India will not be because Indians are different. We are not given to radicalism as a people” he said.
Parrikar who incidentally is an engineer is the first IIT graduate to become the Chief Minister of any Indian state. And later a Union Minister. He was awarded by IIT Bombay with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2001. Manohar Parrikar and Mr. Nandan Nilekani former Chairman of the new Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), have graduated together from IIT Bombay in the year 1978.
Apart from being an IITian Parrikar is also a very devoted RSS member. He has often expressed considerable pride of his RSS background, saying that he learnt “discipline, progressiveness, gender equality, equality of all before the law, nationalism and social responsibility from the RSS.” No wonder then, that yesterday he spent some time with his other ‘alma mater’.
In his exclusive interaction with NT, Manohar Parrikar divulged he was in Nagpur to resolve ” some long standing issues of the Defense factories at Ambazari (Nagpur MIDC) and Bhandara”. The Engineer in him seems to be keen to do a personal survey of our indigenous Defense manufacturing units so they can be upgraded and modernized.
While replying to whether he liked being CM of Goa more than Defense Minister in Delhi, he replied that “work is work. I enjoy working – it is the challenge that keeps me going”.
He also spoke about strenthening the country ” as a whole”. Just making it strong on the Defense front is like saying ” I will have strong biceps while the rest of the body remains weak and malnourished!”
“We have to become stronger economically, industrially and on other fronts to be considered a powerful super nation”. But respect for India in international circles has already grown.He also said that in a far reaching agreement ratified in our Parliament we have “done away with our border disputes with Bangladesh once for all”.
As with other ruling politicians Parrikar could not help making a swipe at the ‘Indian media” which he said “misses all the important issues and keeping mountains out of insignificant mole hills”.
NT is happy that we got to interact with him on many ‘significant issues’.