Antony should apologise for remark on border killings:Advani

Soldiers pay tributes to five Army jawans, who were killed in an attack in Poonch, after their mortal remains were brought at Palam Technical Airport in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

New Delhi: Accusing Defence Minister A K Antony of making a “false” statement on Poonch killings, BJP leader L K Advani on Wednesday said he should apologise as his remarks are intended to “exonerate” Pakistan as government wants to continue talks.

“I hold that what the ‘raksha mantri’ has said in the House is intended only to exonerate Pakistan government and absolve it of the responsibility of killing five Indian soldiers,” Advani told reporters in Parliament House.

Asked why the Defence Minister would make a contradictory statement, the BJP leader said, “I have a feeling that the government wants to continue talks with Pakistan.”

He claimed that if the talks would continue in a situation in which Pakistan army is named for the killings, the nation would feel outraged.

Terming this a “formal invasion” as the Pakistan army personnel had entered “our borders and killed Indian soldiers”,

Advani said he has suggested to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath that the statements of Antony and the Defence Ministry- which blames Pakistan army and terrorists for the attacks – should be reconciled.

“The Defence Minister himself should tell the House that what the truth is and apologise that what he said is false,” the BJP Parliamentary Party Chief said.

In reply to a question on whether Prime Minister Singh should hold talks with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the forthcoming UN summit, Advani said, “This is no time for such talks.”

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath on Wednesday came out in Antony’s support, saying the remarks were made on the basis of facts available at that time.

“There is no question of the Defence Minister misleading. He made a statement of facts, facts which were available at the time when he made the statement. If any facts emerge after that obviously those facts are after the statement,” Nath told reporters here.

He was asked by reporters to comment on the breach of privilege motion that BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had talked of moving against Antony. “The breach of privilege motion will be considered by the Speaker and it is for the Speaker to take a view on this,” Nath said and added that personally he did not see any breach of privilege. He also hoped that Parliament would function smoothly on Wednesday.

Antony’s statement on the killing of five Indian soldiers in Poonch had sparked of a controversy because he had described the intruders as “terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniform” while an Army spokesman had said that “soldiers from Pak Army” were involved.

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha has moved a Privilege notice against Antony for misleading the House.

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar announced in the Lok Sabha that she has received the notice and would take appropriate action. Advani faulted Antony’s statement on two grounds. Reading from the statements issued by the Defence Minister and the one issued by the Defence Ministry, he said the latter has clearly held the Pakistan government and its army responsible. “The minister has said 20 heavily armed men ambushed the Indian soldiers on our side of the LoC in the Poonch sector while the Defence Ministry said they were ambushed close to the border,” Advani said.

He charged that Antony has also contradicted the defence ministry when he said “20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan army uniforms” had killed the Indian soldiers while his ministry had said a Border Action Team of Pakistan army had killed them.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told Nath that there is difference in the two statements and the Defence Minister has given a “clean chit to Pakistan”.

Advani said the army version also points out that the action of the Pakistani forces is a “likely consequence of frustrations of terrorist Tanzeems (groups) and Pakistan army due to elimination of 19 hardcore terrorists near LoC and in Kashmir recently”.

17 infiltration bids were also foiled this year sid the senior leader and that BJP wants a clarification from Antony on the issue.

Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said there should be no talks between India and Pakistan. “There is no atmosphere for talks. You (government) are enthusiastic about the talks, but people think otherwise. You cannot have attacks and talks at the same time,” he said.

Flaying the contradictory statements made by the Defence Minister and the Army, party leader Venkaiah Naidu said by making such statements, government wants to give Pakistan an “escape route” and ensure that talks between the Indian and Pakistan prime ministers take place next month at the UN. “If the Indian government toes the line of Pakistan, it is letting down the country and demoralising the army. The government must apologise for the blunder they have committed,” he said.

Holding that the Pakistan army was involved in the incident, he said, “Indian Government should take it (the killing of the soldiers) up with Pakistan at the highest level and convey to Pakistan that no talks will be held till you give up terror”.

He said the development shows “utter confusion and irresponsibility” on the part of the government.

He also slammed some Congress leaders, who have sought to compare the killings along the LoC during the NDA regime with the UPA regime, saying “Congress should not politicise the issue. “This concerns the unity of the nation. It should not be taken lightly as tomorrow’s incident has shown”. (PTI)

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