Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said that national security and terrorism are the most important problems for India.
“During the course of election campaign, whenever issues relating to the terror attack at Pulwama and the air strikes at Balakot are raised, India’s Opposition is on the back foot,” he claimed in a blog post. “Why are national security and terrorism related issues being made into subject matters of electoral debate? This is a question they raise.”
The Opposition has accused the Narendra Modi-led government of politicising the sacrifices made by the Indian Armed Forces.
Jaitley said that contrary to the Opposition’s perception, national security and terrorism are the most important problems facing India in the long run, as other challenges can be resolved faster. The finance minister claimed that because India remains the fastest growing economy in the world, it has more revenue available to tackle problems like poverty, employment generation, growth rate, quality of life, quality healthcare and education and world-class infrastructure.
“The India of 2030 and the India of 2040 will present a completely different look with the socioeconomic profile of the population having substantially changed,” he said. “In this changed India, there will be a lesser role of caste in politics, the quality of elected representatives will improve and obviously the standards of probity will be much tighter.”
Jaitley claimed Punjab, the northeastern states and southern states are peaceful at present. While Maoist extremism continues in central parts of India, it will be difficult for Maoists to sustain their violent movement for long due to India’s economic growth, he argued.
“The same, however, can’t be said of what is happening in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism emanating from the region,” he added. Jaitley said terrorism in the region will be a problem for India in the short, medium and long term.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader accused the Congress of creating the problem of terrorism in Kashmir. “When Pakistan did not reconcile to Kashmir being a part of India, the Congress Party wished the issue away,” he alleged. “It was its historical blunder on account of which we lost one-third of our territory.”
Jaitley claimed that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was “disastrously thought out”. “Instead of working for total integration, the party wanted a loose and liberal constitutional connect between rest of the nation and the state under an erroneous impression that such an arrangement would further the cause of integration,” he said. The finance minister said that Article 35-A, introduced in 1954, “catered to a separatist psyche and legitimised discrimination”.
“The 1957, 1962 and 1967 and even 1988  were rigged elections thereby leading to further alienation of the people,” the finance minister said. “All warnings were ignored and the separatists virtually took-over the state in 1989-90 leading to a violent civil disobedience.”
During the 10 years of United Progressive Alliance rule from 2004 to 2014, the radical Jamaat-e-Islami group transformed Islam practiced in the Valley from its basis in Sufism to Wahabbism, Jaitley alleged. He also claimed that the BJP’s alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party did not work because the regional party “could not come out of the clutches of the Jamaat-e-Islami agenda”.
Jaitley said that after the alliance broke up, the Centre has sent the message that terrorism will not be tolerated in Jammu and Kashmir, and has cracked down on extremists. “An important question before the country is – who is best suited to handle the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism?” he asked. “It obviously can’t be solved by those whose policies created the problem and are no longer willing to change their track. It can’t be solved by those who linked battle against terror with the vote bank politics of their political parties. It can’t be solved by those who believe that a loose constitutional connect will lead to integration even though the experience of seven decades is to the contrary.”
The finance minister said the people of Jammu and Kashmir deserve a “special relationship” with India, one that provides opportunities, peace, security and freedom from terrorism. Jaitley said that if terrorism is eliminated from Kashmir, the presence of security forces there can be reduced.
Taking a shot at the Congress, Jaitley said: “The current leadership of the Opposition parties has hardly a road map except to tread on the path to disaster.” He said a “strong government and a leader with clarity” is necessary to resolve the Kashmir problem.
Lok Sabha elections are being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. The results will be declared on May 23.