NEW DELHI/ POKHRAN
Political parties on Saturday put up a united face as they underlined India’s determination to fight terrorism following the Pulwama terror attack and expressed their solidarity with security forces in defending the country’s unity and integrity.
An all-party meeting, called by the government and attended by senior leaders of all major parties, passed a resolution condemning the terror attack and the support being given to it from across the border. Members of the Opposition extended support to the government in tackling the challenge.
The meeting was held even as Indian Air Force Saturday carried out a mega exercise in Pokhran, Rajasthan, involving around 140 fighter jets and attack helicopters, in a fire power demonstration close to the border with Pakistan.
At the meeting chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad asked him to urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convene a meeting of the presidents of all major national and regional parties, a view supported by Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress and D Raja of the CPI.
The resolution adopted at the nearly two-hour meeting said, “India has displayed both firmness and resilience in dealing with these challenges. The entire nation speaks in one voice to express its determination to fight these challenges.”
It added, “Today, we stand united in solidarity with our security forces in fighting terrorism and in defending the unity and integrity of India.”
Opposition sources said the draft resolution shared by the government spoke of parties standing with security forces and “efforts of the central and state governments” but the mention of central and state governments was dropped from its final copy at the suggestion of opposition parties.
The resolution adopted at the all-party meeting did not name Pakistan but asserted that India has been facing the menace of the cross-border terrorism which of late, it added, is being actively encouraged by forces from the neighbouring country.
Sanjay Raut, a member of BJP ally Shiv Sena, asked the government to draw inspiration from former prime minister Indira Gandhi and hit Pakistan directly.
In his opening remarks, Singh briefed the leaders about the attack and his visit to the state on Friday.
“The government is determined to take its fight against terrorism to the logical conclusion. The sacrifices of security personnel will not go in vain. The people of Jammu and Kashmir want peace and are with us, but there are some elements supporting the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups,” he said.
The meeting was also attended by Anand Sharma and Jyotiraditya Scindia of the Congress, Sudip Bandyopadhyay of the TMC, Jithendra Reddy of the TRS, Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference and Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP among others.
Naresh Gujral of the Akali Dal, Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party, Upendra Kushwaha of the RLSP and Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav of the RJD were among others who attended the meeting.
As India’s military establishment mulls options to avenge the strike by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said the IAF was prepared to deliver “appropriate response” as assigned by India’s political leadership.
Speaking at the inauguration of the day and night Vayu Shakti exercise, he, however, did not either mention Pakistan or the Pulwama attack.
“I wish to assure the nation of the IAF’s capability and commitment in meeting national security challenges and defending sovereignty of our country,” he said.
Top IAF sources said though the Vayu Shakti was planned in advance, the drill was a demonstration of the force’s capability to hit targets with “pinpoint accuracy” and carry
out missions at short notice.
“While wars are fought few and far between, we have an ever present sub-conventional threat as the enemy knows it cannot defeat us in a conventional conflict,” the IAF chief said, in a clear reference to Pakistan.
“So, today we showcase our ability to punish, our ability to insert and extricate troops from hostile territories,” Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said.
In the Vayu Shakti exercise, the IAF showcased fire power capability of indigenously-developed platforms like Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, Advanced Light Helicopter and efficacy of Akash surface-to-air missile and Astra air-to-air missile.