Vol. XL No. 32 August 07, 2016

Parrikar and His Ilk

DEFENCE minister Manohar Parrikar symbolises much of what is wrong with the Modi government. Parrikar, as the minister for defence, occupies a vital position in the union cabinet. But this has not deterred him from spewing intolerance and bigotry; making bellicose statements against Pakistan and compromising the image of the armed forces. More worryingly, he seems bent upon converting the Indian armed forces into a subordinate ally of the Pentagon. Parrikar has made one egregious remark after another. The latest controversial statement being his attack on actor Aamir Khan stating that he was arrogant and needs to be taught a lesson. This response was to Aamir Khan’s remark made some time back that given the climate of intolerance, his wife was asking whether it was worth living in the country. Parrikar also lauded those who launched a campaign against a private online trading company forcing that company to cancel its sponsorship of the actor. By this, Parrikar not only endorsed coercive action against those who are so-called“anti-national” but also encouraged bigots to teach a lesson to those who do not subscribe to his Hindutva brand of patriotism. That this instance was no aberration is evident from the earlier record of public statements by Parrikar. Last year in May, the defence minister declared that “you have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only” and cited the saying “kaante se kaante nikalte hei”. This provided Pakistan the basis to claim that India is promoting State-sponsored terrorism. Later, in June last year, he made the astounding statement that the lack of respect for the Indian army is because it has not fought a war for 40-50 years. The evidence for this he cited was the lack of attention an IAS or any other authority accords to a letter from a military commanding officer. Here is a defence minister who, without any qualms, states that unless the army goes to war, it cannot earn respect. This jingoistic stance goes against the grain that the army is there to maintain peace and protect the country’s borders. Under Parrikar’s stewardship as defence minister, India is soon going to sign the first of the military collaboration agreements, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the United States, which will result in the Indian armed forces becoming part of the United States geo-political strategy. Manohar Parrikar is an IIT alumnus and was considered to be a modern exponent of the BJP outlook. His record as the defence minister speaks otherwise. Whatever the gloss and sophistication, Parrikar essentially puts out a worldview which is coloured by bigotry, rank communalism and jingoism. This is accompanied by a craven attitude to the United States and its imperialist project. Manohar Parrikar is not an exception. His ilk dominate the cabinet. He is in a sense, the alter ego of Narendra Modi. (August 3, 2016)