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