Leaders of 21 opposition parties today said they stood with the armed forces and issued a sharp takedown of the "leaders of the ruling party" for "blatant politicisation of the sacrifices of the armed forces". The reference was to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in the aftermath of the terror attack in Pulwama, had attacked the Congress at the inauguration of the National War Memorial earlier this week.
The opposition meeting at the parliament came amid a huge escalation in hostilities with Pakistan since yesterday's airstrikes on a Jaish-e Mohammed terror camp in Balakot by the Indian Air Force. Today, Pakistani Air Force, while attempting to target Indian military installations, was engaged by the IAF. While one Pakistani F-16 aircraft was shot down, India lost a plane, the pilot was declared "missing in action".
Indicating the Balakot air strikes and their aftermath, the opposition leaders said the government has failed to take them into confidence. A statement released at the end of the meeting read: "The Prime Minister has, regrettably, not convened an all-party meeting as per the established practice in our democracy".
Off the record, opposition leaders pointed out that the Pakistan aggression is little short of war. Pakistan shooting down an Indian plane and capturing a pilot has not happened since the 1971 war.
The opposition leaders, the statement said, "urged the government to take the nation into confidence on all measures to protect India's sovereignty, unity and integrity".
The BJP also came under attack for promoting a political event with PM Modi on Thursday.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, who did not attend the opposition meeting, also hit out at the government.
"PM Modi must suspend his political activities until #WingCommanderAbhinandan is returned safely. It can't be business as usual with him cross crossing the country at tax payer expense making political speeches while our pilot is a Pakistani captive," his tweet read.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who also skipped the meeting, tweeted:
When the all party meet happened, they were campaigning.— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) February 27, 2019
When our pilot went missing, they were launching apps.
The country demands that petty politics are set aside and our media acts responsibly so that our brave pilot is safely brought back home. #BringHimHome
At the end of the opposition meeting, a resolution was passed that said the opposition will stand with the country and against the enemy at this moment. In the joint statement, the opposition leaders also expressed deep concern for the Air Force pilot who went missing during this morning's engagement with Pakistani Air Force.
The meeting was attended by senior Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Pawar, JMM leader Shibu Soren, BSP leader SC Mishra, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party leader Derek O'Brian, Sharad Yadav and Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh.
Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar and Arun Jaitley later said the opposition statement would play into Pakistan's hands. Pakistani media is using it to claim that the political establishment in India is not united in its fight against terror, Mr Javadekar said.