“When Pakistan beheaded our soldiers, we fed their PM chicken biryani… The Centre lacks courage.” These words were used by Narendra Modi at an election rally in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections to slam the UPA government’s response to the killing of two soldiers — Hemraj Singh and Sudhakar Singh — along the LoC in January, 2013.
Sushma Swaraj, the then Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, had said, “We should take revenge… If we don’t get his (Hemraj’s) head, we should get 10 of theirs.”
Now, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Modi-led NDA government has significantly toned down that rhetoric. In fact, it lists what it calls UPA government’s “stern” warning and the steps taken by the Manmohan Singh government in the wake of the incident.
The Ministry of External Affairs has said in the affidavit that following a warning by the then Prime Minister, “the Pakistan DGMO began conveying the assurance that instructions had been issued to its troops along the LoC to abide by the ceasefire”.
Listing the measures taken by the previous government, the affidavit said, “On January 15, 2013, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, in a
stern public warning to Pakistan, said that it cannot be business as usual after the killing and brutal beheading of Indian soldiers on the LoC. Those responsible for killing and mutilating Indian soldiers should be brought to book.”
It also recorded the statement made by the then external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, who had said that Pakistan should not think such incidents will be ignored, or that bilateral ties will remain unaffected.
“The Hon’ble Minister also clarified that these provocative actions by the Pakistan Army, in contravention to all norms of international behaviour, would lead us to draw appropriate conclusions about Pakistan’s seriousness in pursuing normalisation of ties with India,” it added.
The Centre’s affidavit also states that the MEA spokesperson had then made a statement that Pakistan needed to take practical measures on the ground. The affidavit does not spell out any steps proposed or being contemplated by the NDA government, but simply records the measures by the UPA government.
The government was responding to a court notice on a PIL moved by one Sarwa Mitter, who had sought the court’s intervention on account of “inaction” by the government in taking steps to address the killings of the two personnel.
The court is hearing this petition along with a separate PIL filed by the father of Kargil martyr Captain Saurabh Kalia, who was reportedly tortured and killed in captivity by the Pakistan Army in 1999. In this matter too, the court had issued notices to the Centre.
The Centre has also challenged the maintainability of the petition, arguing that foreign policy was purely an executive function to be performed by the government and that no PIL could seek an action against a foreign state.