Former Defence Minister, George Fernandes in His Words

George Fernandes who was the defence minister from 2001 to 2004, oversaw the Pokhran nuclear tests and Kargil war.

4 min read
Former Defence Minister George Fernandes

Veteran politician and a former Union Defence Minister George Fernandes passed away at the age of 88 on Tuesday, 29 January, following a prolonged illness.

Fernandes who was the defence minister from 1998 and 2004 under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, oversaw the Pokhran nuclear tests of 1998 and the Kargil war in 1999. He also held various portfolios of communications, railways and industry under various governments.

Remembering his speeches, veteran BJP leader LK Advani had said last year, "George has done a great service to the nation. I always remember his speeches and miss them now," adding that he was surprised by the fact that Fernandes had command over 10 languages.

Here are a few of Fernandes’ speeches and remarks worth recalling.

‘Put Words into Action, End Cross-Border Terrorism’ - 2002

In this 2002 television address, India’s Former Defence Minister George Fernandes warned that there will be no de-escalation of India's troop mobilisation on the border with Pakistan, until cross-border terrorism stops.

“The promises made by the Pakistani president, General Musharraf, have to be translated into action. The government of India has welcomed the statements from General Musharraf. We have had his word, now we wait for the deed. India will wait for effective and full implementation of whatever measures have been announced by General Musharraf. The ultimate purpose to end for all times cross border terrorism.”
George Fernandes, Former Defence Minister

Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf had promised to crackdown on terrorist activity. Musharraf had also banned the two Islamic militant groups, but Fernandes urged Musharraf to put his words into action.

The war of words came at a time when Indian and Pakistani troops moved to the border and the Line of Control ceasefire line after an attack on India's Parliament on 13 December.


Fernandes Urges Pak to Halt Terrorism, Breaks down During Speech - 2002

In this tearful 2002 speech during a meeting of defence ministers in Singapore, George Fernandes told regional security officials that his country would not act rashly in its standoff with Pakistan, but remained steadfast in the fight against terrorism.

“India is focused on terrorism with determination. We are not threatening the territorial integrity of Pakistan, nor do we have any animosity against the people of Pakistan. We have resolved to address the problem of terrorism both tactically and strategically, all we expect from the Musharraf regime is that he resists from supporting terrorism.”
George Fernandes, Former Defence Minister

Fernandes wept, as he described the violence in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir and urged Pakistan to halt cross-border infiltration.


‘Don’t Need a Lesson on Restraint from Any Body’ - 1999

India tested an upgraded version of its intermediate-range missile in 1999, defying appeals from the United States to put its nuclear programme on hold.

The launch of the missile came eleven months after India conducted a series of underground nuclear explosions, which prompted Pakistan to respond with tests of its own, raising international fears of a nuclear arms race among the two nations.

Defying the international calls to defuse the mission, former Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes warned others not to intervene.

“I don’t think we need to be told by any body about restraint. What we have done is ensure that our security concerns are taken care of. And on that there is no compromise with anybody at any point in time.”
George Fernandes, Former Defence Minister

George Fernandes Resigns Over Corruption Charges in 2004

After allegations of corruption were leveled against George Fernandes over the purchase of coffins, the Barak missile and the Tehelka expose, the former defence minister resigned in 2004.

"The allegations made against me are completely false," said Fernandes, pointing that those behind the expose meant to undermine the national morale and security.

“To uphold the morale of our armed forces and prevent further damage to our national defense, I’ve decided to resign from government.”
George Fernandes, Former Defence Minister

‘Cannot Blame Kargil on Intelligence Failure’ - 2000

Celebrating the first anniversary of the Kargil war in 2000, George Fernandes said, its a day for celebration and remembering the men behind it, in a conversation with NDTV.

Talking about the intelligence failure in Kashmir, he said, “Measures have been taken from day one since Kargil to reevaluate the situation for better protection.” He also refuted allegations that intelligence failure as a reason for the war.


NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999: Fernandes Extends His Solidarity

Talking about the bravery of Yugoslavia and encouraging the audience to support Yugoslavia in the light of the NATO action, Fernandes said, “We need to strengthen our voice and be united. All the points raised by the delegates should be implemented and we must extent our support to the people of Yugoslavia.”

On 24 March 24, 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commenced air strikes against Yugoslavia with the bombing of Serbian military positions in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.


‘Penetrating the Pak Army Was Beyond Our Capability’ - 1999

In a conversation with journalist Vir Sanghvi on Star Talk in 1999, George Fernandes who was in the eye of the Kargil conflict, lauded the troops for doing a good job in pushing the intruders out of the country.

Stressing that there was no intelligence failure, he said, “ For 27 years the area had not been policed in the manner other frontiers have been policed and that’s because of the terrain. This is not to say that the entire length of the fight was not policed.”


Fernandes and His Love for Siachen Glacier

At the remote, icy heights of Siachen, George Fernandes reminisced his days as a defence minister and what made the glacier so special for him, with NDTV ‘s Shekhar Gupta

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