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Going Public Limits Options: Chidambaram on Surgical Strikes

At Shivshankar Menon’s book launch, Pakistan dominated the discussion.

2 min read
Going Public Limits Options: Chidambaram on Surgical Strikes
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India should continue engaging with Pakistan despite the current tensions between the two South Asian neighbours, former Union Minister of Home and Finance P Chidambaram said on Friday.

"You have to continue to engage with Pakistan," Chidambaram said at a panel discussion after former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh officially released a new book Choices: Inside the Making of India's Foreign Policy, written by former National Security Advisor and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon at an event organised by Penguin and Brookings India.

The discussion was moderated by journalist broadcaster Karan Thapar and the panel included Srinath Raghavan, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, along with Chidambaram and Menon.


Chidambaram said that surgical strikes will not deter terrorists from across the border.

He said that perhaps the government should not have gone public with the army's surgical strike as it has put the Pakistan government in the public spotlight and has forced it to go on the offensive.

"Going public limits your options," he stated, adding that "you must heed public opinion, but you must also lead public opinion".

Raghavan said that since the September surgical attack, the LoC has become "very active" and the ceasefire agreement is now hanging by a thread.

The former Minister of Home and Finance was of the view that the current government's policy has swung from "over enthusiasm" to the other extreme.

Menon observed that the surgical strikes have not stopped Pakistani terrorists from carrying out further attacks.

What happened at Nagrota is just as shameful as what happened in Mumbai. The cross-border, cross-LoC action will not prevent Pakistan-based terrorist groups from attacking Indian installations and camps.

Chidambaram also rued the absence of a "unified command" at the Home Ministry level under the BJP-led NDA government, which he said was present during the UPA years to take stock of the security situation.

He added that there used to be daily meetings involving the Home Ministry, IB and NSA, among others, to take stock of security during that period.

Chidambaram said India "gained enormously" by not retaliating against Pakistan after the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that claimed more than 160 lives.

He added that after he was made Home Minister on December 1, 2008, he realised that retaliation was "not an option, it was not feasible".

Menon, who was the Foreign Secretary at the time of the Mumbai attacks, said that he too had felt that retaliatory action should have been taken against Pakistan but later realised that it was a "purely emotional reaction".

In the book, Menon argues that India would have responded differently to the Mumbai terror attacks had there been a different "mix of people" at the helm.

Personalities matter. With a different mix of people at the helm, it is quite possible that India would have chosen differently. In fact, if India is forced to make a similar choice in the future, I am sure it will respond differently.
Shivshankar Menon in Choices

(With inputs from IANS and PTI)

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