NCP president Sharad Pawar (File Photo)
MUMBAI: The border dispute with China should be resolved through negotiations and not military action, said NCP president Sharad Pawar in an interview that appeared in Saamna on Sunday.
He said an offensive strategy will entail a big price and the vexatious border issue should be brought to an amicable end through talks.
“Pakistan is not our real tension, it is China, which is our real opponent,” the NCP supremo said and added that India should use diplomatic channels and try to exert pressure on China through other countries and the United Nations.
Pawar, who held the defence portfolio in the Narasimha Rao regime in the 1990s, on Saturday became the first leader from a party other than the Shiv Sena to be interviewed in its mouthpiece. The Sunday interview was the second part of a three-part series.
“India’s military strength is just 1:10 against China. We cannot have direct war at a combat level with them considering our military, naval, air wing, and arms-ammunition,” he said.
Pointing out that India’s relations with its neighbours had worsened over the years and that China had been assiduously wooing India’s neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Pawar said: “China has seen to it that our neighbours turn away from us. Pakistan was always with them, Nepal has distanced itself from us. India did all it could to create Bangladesh. However, they now are with China. These fractured ties with the neighbouring countries is the contribution of the recent past.”
Senior officials from India and China met virtually last Friday to talk through the details of the disengagement exercise, days before the next round of military commander-level talks are due.
Pawar, while fielding questions from Saamna executive editor Sanjay Raut, expressed concern over the economy of the state. “The state is reeling under financial crisis and apparently we may have to borrow to pay salaries of the state employees,” he said.
While praising Uddhav Thackeray for “having passed the semesters” as chief minister, Pawar cautioned that the exam was far from over as the CM is “yet to face the practicals”.
“But, Thackeray is doing well and there is no need to worry about the outcome,” he said.
Saying that he was briefed by state officials and finance minister Ajit Pawar on the shrinking economy, Pawar said: “In the last three months the state hasn’t recovered even 50% of its revenue. The economic crisis puts some constraints on administrative activities.”
He said helping the state tide over the crisis is the Centre’s responsibility.
On whether he, who is considered prime minister Narendra Modi’s guru, would ask his ‘shishya’ to take several stern measures to revive the economy, Pawar said: “Don’t put I and Modi in trouble by labelling me as his guru. No one has a guru in politics. We relate to each other as per our expediency.”
On whether he thought India needed Manmohan Singh, Pawar said: “Hundred per cent. I was part of the union cabinet when Manmohan Singh was the finance minister. India was then going through acute financial crisis, but Manmohan Singh gave the economy a new direction… Modi should seek advice to keep the nation moving on.”