Mudda panel speaks none too favourably about India’s war-preparedness

Thursday’s edition of Mudda discussed, in its first part, the war-preparedness of India given the escalating incidence of friction with both China and Pakistan. The second part was on politicians attacking mediapersons, following Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav’s security personnel attacking mediapersons at the secretariat in Patna.

The participants were Colonel Fasi Ahmad (defence expert), Major General Harsh Kakkar (defence expert), Govind Pant Raju (APN consulting editor), Naval Kishore (RJD spokesperson), Surendra Varma (BJP national spokesperson), Zeeshan Haider (Congress UP spokesperson), and Prabhat Ranjan of the JD(U). The show was anchored by Himanshu.
Col Ahmad said: “Being ‘ready’ for war is a very relative term. But we have always been prepared to fight with whatever we have, even though there are gaps because our defence budget resembles one from 1962.” Admitting that the government had other priorities, he said: “We plan to fight yesterday’s war.” He said that “redundancy should increase with the availability of fast-paced technology but that doesn’t happen here.” He also added: “In defence preparedness many things do not come into the public domain and politicians should not use loose terms as we have never faced a doomsday-like scenario in our war-preparedness.”

Maj. Gen Kakkar said: “If you are discussing the latest increase in financial power of the Army vice-chief to maintain combat-readiness for ‘short wars’, understand that it only allows for replenishment and replacement of existing stock when it reaches expiry date. To buy new weapons, a cabinet approval is still needed.” Moreover, he added, “an integrated financial adviser will be involved in everything we buy.”

Haider said the “defence budget has steadily risen but as India is a vast country we need to balance our budget vis-a-vis our large population.” He added that he was sure “the BJP will also take every step to ensure the safety of our country as it is the duty of every government to ensure that our borders remain safe.”

Raju said: “There have always been shortages but an important change in our attitude took place after the Bofors scam, which raised questions on defence purchases and increased the checks and balances.” He said the present order is “morally appreciable but it is still a small decision, comparable to having pocket money.” He insisted that “we will have to increase our budget.” He added: “China has an expansionist policy and Pakistan has bad relations with Afghanistan and with us, so no matter how well we try to maintain our relations with them, they will function as per their policies.”

Varma said that the BJP has provided for “operational flexibility alongside checks and balances.”
In the second part of the programme, Ranjan said: “We strongly condemn the attack on the media in Patna.”

Kishore said: “To make a news item newsy and to malign the image of a politician some media houses tend to distort the information.” He added: “The problem arises when mediapersons come prepared with written responses to their questions and insist that you give them that response.”
Haider condemned the attack on the media but also sided with Kishore, saying: “Media houses do twist news and misreport, often to malign someone.” However, he was quick to add: “I maintain that the media is well within its right to ask questions and attacking them should be punishable.”

Raju got unusually worked up on this issue and said what happened in Patna “was an attack on journalism and what Kishore has said is lamentable.” He added: “Politicians do not get security to do gunda-gardi and you must answer the media instead of roughing them up.”

Kishore was quick to defend himself but the discussion soon turned into a screaming match between the two. This was followed by Kishore and Varma engaging in mudslinging over their respective parties and politicians.

Compiled by Shailaja Paramathma