Friday, August 19, 2016

Verbal gymnastics over Kashmir and Balochistan reflect utter confusion within Congress ranks

Sakshi Malik has soothed a billion frayed nerves by opening India's account at Rio Olympic Games but in order to give a real boost to our medals tally, Indian National Congress leaders should be fielded without delay.

The entire world will then watch transfixed how the senior netas clinch medal after medal with their verbal gymnastics. They will vault over the poles, make volte-faces, un-balance the beams, set the high-bars low and the low-bars high and floor the routines in maneuvers that are sure to floor the global audience. Who knows, we might overtake even the Chinese in gold count.

Well may such calisthenics bring medals, however, Congress and its leaders would do well to remember that mental gymnastics are ill-suited for politics, more so when it concerns matters of foreign policy. The utter confusion that reigns within the ranks of India's grand old party speaks volumes about the rudderless leadership.

File image of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. Reuters

No one in Congress seems to have a clue what the other is saying and between igniting and dousing daily flames, India's principal Opposition party is making India appear as a divided nation on international stage.

It is imperative that political parties will have differences. But as a party which has remained in power longer than any other, Congress is well-versed in statecraft. It knows well enough that the spate of contradictory and conflicting statements from its senior leaders ends up weakening India's position and strengthening Islamabad's hand at a time when India is struggling to cope with Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in Kashmir.

There is a proxy war going on in the valley, there is a diplomatic blitzkrieg and propaganda war unleashed by forces inimical to India and all that Congress can do is issue irresponsible statements only to retract it the next day.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Balochistan gambit and his references to Gilgit-Baltistan from the ramparts of Red Fort were supposed to divide Pakistan. Strangely, it seems to have divided the Congress instead.

On Monday, Salman Khurshid slammed Modi for referring to Balochistan in his Independence Day speech. The former external affairs minister said the PM was wrong to mention Balochistan and PoK in the same sentence.

"Balochistan is a different thing from PoK. We have every right to speak about PoK because it is our matter. Balochistan is not," said Khurshid, adding that it was Pakistan's "internal matter."

By evening, Congress spokesperson rushed to clarify. It wasn't party's position, he said.

"The Congress does not subscribe to the statement of Salman Khurshid. We believe there are serious human rights violations in Balochistan and PoK,” Surjewala said via an audio statement.

On Thursday, it was senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh's turn. While criticising Prime Minister's statements on Pakistan, Singh said in Bhopal: "Prime Minister Modi seems more concerned about Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which is welcome, than he is interested in holding talks with India's Kashmiris."

"Boosting trust among Kashmiris, whether they belong to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or India-occupied Kashmir, is possible only through dialogue," said Singh. He later claimed it was slip of tongue. Whether it was a genuine or Freudian is up for debate but the damage was done.

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