New Delhi: Congress leader Manish Tewari has criticised the party-led UPA government for its response to the 26/11 Mumbai attack, suggesting India should have taken action against Pakistan since "restraint is not a sign of strength", remarks that put the opposition party in an awkward situation for the second time this month after Salman Khurshid's Hindutva criticism.
As a row broke out on Tuesday over Tewari's views in his new book that India should have actioned a "kinetic response" in the days after the November 2008 Mumbai attack, the BJP hit out at the Congress and alleged that the UPA-I government put national security at stake by not responding strongly. "There comes a time when actions must speak louder than words," Tewari said.
As many as 166 people were killed in the coordinated attacks carried out by 10 Pakistani terrorists at different places in the country's commercial capital.
Tewari, who was the national spokesperson at the time of the Mumbai attack, also faced criticism from within the Congress with party leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury saying the former union minister should have raised the matter when he was in the government. Tewari became a minister in the UPA-II government. UPA was in power for two consecutive five-year terms from 2004.
In his book, Tewari also hit out at the Modi government, alleging that the scrapping of the China-specific Mountain Strike Corps in 2018 is the "greatest disservice" that the BJP government did to India's national security.
In his book "10 Flashpoints: 20 years" that is set to be released on December 2, Tewari looks back at the security situations that have impacted India in the last two decades.
Tewari is a member of the 'Group of 23' leaders who had written to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi seeking organisational overhaul and elections for every post in the party.
"Happy to announce that my Fourth Book will be in the market shortly - '10 Flash Points; 20 Years - National Security Situations that Impacted India'. The book objectively delves into every salient National Security Challenge India has faced in the past two decades," Tewari said in a tweet in the morning while announcing his book.
He has in the book dissected the responses both in terms of success and failures and examined the tools and processes of Indian statecraft in terms of both diplomacy and intelligence.
"For a state that has no compunctions in brutally slaughtering hundreds of innocent people, restraint is not a sign of strength; it is perceived as a symbol of weakness," he said in his book.
"There comes a time when actions must speak louder than words. 26/11 was one such time when it just should have been done. It, therefore, is my considered opinion that India should have actioned a kinetic response in the days following India's 9/11," he added.
Sources close to Tewari said that what he meant by kinetic response was that India should have carried out targeted strikes against Pakistan and dismantled terror infrastructure after the Mumbai attack.
The 13th anniversary of the 26/11 attack is to be observed on Friday.
The Congress, however, did not respond officially to the remarks made in Tewari's book. Party's national spokesperson Pawan Khera said the book is not yet out and one cannot comment without reading it.
Congress' Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said it is strange that Tewari has woken up now on the 26/11 attack and that he should instead focus his criticism on China and what it was doing on Indian territory.
"Sometimes, a book with controversies sells more. Today, when a controversy is raised, the book will be sold more and the BJP will become the salesman," Chowdhury claimed.
This is the second time this month that the Congress had to grapple with remarks made by its leaders in their latest books that have kicked up a row.
A controversy had erupted after Khurshid drew a parallel of Hindutva with Islamist radical outfits like IS and Boko Haram, drawing criticism from within the Congress and the BJP.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters here, BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said Tewari's book confirms that the "Congress-led UPA government was insensitive, useless and was even not concerned about national security".
The UPA government had put the national security at stake, he alleged.
"... What Manish Tewariji said in his book, which we all have seen in the media, it would not be wrong to say that the facts that have come out. It would be appropriate to call it a confession of the failure of the Congress..." Bhatia said.
Echoing similar sentiments, BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya said, after Salman Khurshid, another Congress leader "throws UPA under the bus to sell his book".
"Manish Tewari in his new book slams the UPA for weakness in the name of restraint post 26/11. Air Chief Marshal Fali Major is already on record saying IAF was ready to strike but UPA froze," Malviya tweeted along with the book page critical of the UPA government.
Hitting back at the BJP, Tewari said, "I am rather amused at BJP's reaction to one excerpt from a 304 Page book that tries to dissect responses to National Security situations that impacted India."
"I wonder would they react similarly to some 'hard analysis' about their handling of the National Security remit also," he asked.
The former minister claimed that in July 2018, the defence and finance ministers of the subsequent Modi-led government shelved all the plans of raising the Mountain Strike Corps against China citing financial constraints.