Se­ri­ous about pun­ish­ing Pak­istan, says Par­rikar Govt merges rail, gen­eral bud­gets

TOUGH TALK

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Rahul Singh let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com Yash­want Raj let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com HT Correspondent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

De­fence min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar dis­missed on Wed­nes­day a nu­clear threat from Pak­istan, de­scrib­ing the neigh­bour’s provoca­tive state­ments after the Uri strike as a case of “empty ves­sels make more noise”.

His state­ment came hours after Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi met his top min­is­ters and mil­i­tary com­man­ders to weigh an ef­fec­tive re­sponse to the deadly week­end ter­ror­ist at­tack at the north Kash­mir army base that killed 18 sol­diers.

“The stronger man doesn’t make too many ar­gu­ments,” Par­rikar said, re­spond­ing to a ques­tion on Pak­istan’s nu­clear saber-rat­tling amid calls for a swift re­tal­i­a­tion.

“How to pun­ish, that is for us to work out. We are se­ri­ous about it.”

It wasn’t im­me­di­ately known what the Modi-headed cabi­net com­mit­tee on se­cu­rity de­cided, but he has been un­der pres­sure to keep his elec­tion prom­ise two years ago to deal firmly with at­tacks on In­dia from Pak­istan. The army has said it will re­tal­i­ate at a time and place of its choos­ing.

Some­thing ob­vi­ously went wrong in Uri, Par­rikar said, stress­ing the gov­ern­ment will take steps to pre­vent such at­tacks from hap­pen­ing again. He said he be­lieved in the “prin­ci­ple of zero er­ror” and In­dia needed to en­sure “wrongs” are not re­peated.

What next? Par­rikar said he pre­ferred to “ex­e­cute things” rather than talk.

“In­dia is a re­spon­si­ble power but that doesn’t mean I will sleep over this kind of ter­ror­ism that is be­ing pushed from across the bor­der,” he said.

Politi­cians and army vet­er­ans have called for a mus­cu­lar re­sponse, in­clud­ing air strikes on train­ing camps in Pak­istanoc­cu­pied Kash­mir.

De­spite grow­ing clam­our for pun­ish­ing Pak­istan, In­dia is un­likely to act rashly and its moves will be well-cal­cu­lated, se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cers said.

The United States has urged Pak­istan to co­op­er­ate in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ter­ror­ist at­tack on the In­dian army fa­cil­ity in Jammu and Kash­mir’s Uri on Sun­day, sug­gest­ing, by im­pli­ca­tion, Is­lam­abad can in­deed help.

A state de­part­ment spokesman said Wed­nes­day US sec­re­tary of state John Kerry “dis­cussed the in­ci­dent” with Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif when they met on the side­lines of the UN gen­eral assem­bly on Sun­day. “The sec­re­tary urged Pak­istani co­op­er­a­tion in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” the spokesman added.

The US also of­fered to help with in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the at­tack, which left 18 In­dian sol­diers dead, in a phone call by deputy sec­re­tary of state An­thony Blinken to for­eign sec­re­tary S Jais­hankar.

In­dia has said the at­tack was car­ried out by Jaish-eMo­ham­mad, a Pak­istan-based ter­ror­ist out­fit that was also blamed for the at­tack on In­dian air­base in Pathankot in Jan­uary.

A source said while the US had strongly con­demned the at­tack then, as it has now, it had not fol­lowed up by ask­ing Pak­istan to co­op­er­ate in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The gov­ern­ment on Wed­nes­day ap­proved the merger of the rail and gen­eral bud­gets from next year, end­ing a 92-year-old prac­tice of a sep­a­rate bud­get for the coun­try’s largest trans­porter.

The com­mon bud­get could be an­nounced in the first week of Fe­bru­ary as the gov­ern­ment also “ap­proved in-prin­ci­ple” ad­vanc­ing the bud­get sched­ule.

While the merger will lessen the bur­den on the cash-strapped In­dian rail­ways, an ad­vance bud­get—in tan­dem with the tar­geted roll-out of the goods and ser­vices tax (GST) from April 1—will give the states and the Cen­tre early ac­cess to funds for con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in sum­mer.

Ex­perts said an early bud­get could give the gov­ern­ment ad­di­tional rev­enue be­tween Rs 80,000 crore to Rs 1 lakh crore an­nu­ally as any in­crease in in­di­rect taxes will come into ef­fect from April 1 in­stead of the two-three months’ de­lay at present. It will also help peo­ple do bet­ter tax plan­ning.

“While we are in favour of ad­vanc­ing the bud­get date and fin­ish­ing the en­tire fi­nan­cial busi­ness be­fore March 31, the ac­tual dates (for bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion) will be de­cided after con­sul­ta­tions and de­pend­ing on cal­en­dar of the state elec­tions,” Union fi­nance min­is­ter Jait­ley said after a cabi­net meet­ing.

Five states, in­clud­ing Ut­tar Pradesh and Pun­jab, are sched­uled to go to the polls early next year.

Jait­ley said the cabi­net did not dis­cuss the dates of the win­ter or bud­get ses­sions of Par­lia­ment.

The pre­vi­ous NDA gov­ern­ment led by Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee had changed an­other Bri­tish-era prac­tice in 2001, ad­vanc­ing the time of pre­sent­ing the bud­get to 11am from 5pm.

The union cabi­net also de­cided to do away with the de­mar­ca­tion of planned and non-planned ex­penses to keep the gov­ern­ment ac­counts sim­pler and more trans­par­ent.

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