Sushma claims credit for Delhi 'hard line'

New Delhi, Jan. 15: The BJP's Sushma Swaraj today claimed credit for "forcing" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's "hard line" against Pakistan after the killing of two Indian soldiers.

She welcomed his statements and singled out the one in which he warned that after this "barbaric act", it would not be "business as usual" with Pakistan and those "responsible" would have to be "brought to book".

But typical of its politics to ride a two-horse chariot and sound reasonable and offensive by turn, the BJP signalled its intention to keep the LoC pot boiling.

Yashwant Sinha, a former foreign minister, told a TV channel this evening: "You cannot have peace with Pakistan. It should be replied to in the language it understands, which the Pakistan Army understands."

Sushma, who sprung the demand for "10 Pakistani heads for one Indian head" during a visit to decapitated jawan Hem Raj's home in Uttar Pradesh, said: "We succeeded in impressing (upon the government) the mood of the nation."

Speaking at a BJP event to launch a dedicated portal for A.B. Vajpayee, she continued: "The Prime Minister got the message, he too sensed the popular mood after which he began issuing a series of statements (against Pakistan)."

Sushma and her party colleague Arun Jaitley were briefed by Shivshankar Menon, the national security adviser, this morning following an assurance from the Prime Minister yesterday that the BJP would be kept in the loop on the Centre's responses against the LoC killings.

Sushma made the political points to an audience of Delhi BJP workers. "We began today's programme by paying homage to the slain soldiers. It is only appropriate that I also speak on the tragedy.

"The day I learnt that two of our soldiers were killed and the body of one was returned without his head, I called the NSA early morning and told him please convey to the PM that the country will not countenance this act.

"I assured him that the BJP will be with you on any tough decision the government takes. He thanked me. As it happened, for six days there was no response from the government."

She added that yesterday the Prime Minister had phoned to say Menon would brief her and Jaitley. "Today, I can say our dialogue was successful. The event was so barbaric that the PM finally sensed the mood of the nation and responded to it," said Sushma.

Government sources said it was not Sushma's "10 for one" line that had disturbed them as much as BJP chief Nitin Gadkari's proposal that India raise the killings at the UN and other international forums if necessary. Gadkari had also visited Hem Raj's family with Sushma.

Gadkari's statement cropped up at the meeting Sushma and Jaitley had with Menon. Sources said Sushma explained that Gadkari's point was that international leaders and policy-makers should be forced to take cognisance of the incident because of its dastardly nature.

The BJP has always endorsed India's official line that the LoC and "Pakistan-occupied Kashmir" are bilateral matters that the neighbours should sort out without international intervention.

BJP sources said Gadkari was not "sufficiently familiar" with the nuances and implications of diplomacy and perhaps ought not to have spoken "so much".

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