- Union Minister said military action should have been taken after 26/11
- Ms Sitharaman's remark comes two days after PM Modi slammed Congress
- Sam Pitroda had said attacking Pakistan was not the right decision
Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today accused the previous Congress-led UPA government of not taking retaliatory action against Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and claimed that the military would have been more than willing to respond in such a situation.
"If only a similar deterrent action was taken after the Mumbai attack... I have enough reasons to believe that the armed forces did tell the govt at that time: We are ready if you want us to do something, but we want you to take the call," news agency ANI quoted her as saying at an event in Hyderabad today.
Ms Sitharaman's statement comes two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi tore into the Congress over one of its leaders, Sam Pitroda, questioning the impact of the February 26 air strike on a terrorist camp in Pakistan's Balakot. "Loyal courtier of Congress' royal dynasty admits what the nation already knew -- Congress was unwilling to respond to forces of terror. This is a New India, where we answer terrorists in a language they understand and with interest!" PM Modi tweeted, adding that Mr Pitroda had demeaned the armed forces with his remark.
Incidentally, it was the Indian Overseas Congress chief who first linked the Mumbai terror attacks with the recent air strikes. "I don't know much about the attacks, it happens all the time. An attack happened in Mumbai also, and we could have reacted then and just sent our planes over. But that is not the right approach. According to me, that's not how you deal with world," ANI quoted Mr Pitroda as saying on Thursday.
He also maintained that it was wrong to "blame every citizen" of Pakistan for an act carried out by a few terrorists, a thought that another Congress leader -- Navjot Singh Sidhu -- had expressed on an earlier occasion too.
The Balakot air strikes were launched 12 days after a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on February 14. Controversy arose after BJP chief Amit Shah claimed in an election rally that over 300 terrorists were killed in the attack even as the Air Force maintained that arriving at an estimate of casualties would not be possible.
The BJP has often targeted the Congress for not doing enough to avenge the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which resulted in the death of at least 170 people.