With mere days remaining until the country undertakes the largest exercise in the democracy anywhere in the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an exclusive interview to Republic Media Network, addressed the brimming issues, and elaborated on one of the most significant developments from February-March's heightened tensions between India and Pakistan - IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's capture and subsequent release - and the politics during those two days he was held captive by Pakistan.
In conversation with Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, PM Modi censured the Opposition for failing to unite after Pakistan captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
He said, "They did not have respect for our brave martyrs. And there are some people who worship them (Congress), people who survive on their (Congress) bread, they find statesmanship in Pakistan Prime Minister's statement. And they want to doubt their own Prime Minister. People of India must identify such people. And this is very unfortunate. You would know, when Abhinandan's incident happened, all Indian political parties should have united and said that we are proud of Indian forces that an F-16 was shot down. Instead, they went on saying 'when will Abhinandan return? When will Abhinandan return?' within 2 hours."
"Abhinandan's return talks...Ok, he was caught. The government will do what it has to do at a diplomatic level. But they (Opposition) had planned a candlelight march for Abhinandan, Pulwama, and Airstrike," he added.
Moreover, he accused the Opposition of politicising the 'grave issue' and also conspiring when Wing Commander Abhinandan was in Pakistan's custody.
He said, "Of course, there was planning. They were going to hold a candle light march for Abhinandan. But around 3 to 4 pm, Pakistan Prime Minister announced in the Parliament. And their politics was held up. They have tried to do politics at every moment on such a grave issue, such language doesn't suit them."
Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured by Pakistani authorities on February 27 after an aerial confrontation between the air forces of the two countries, a day after New Delhi had conducted counter-terror operations in Pakistan's Balakot. In the dogfight, the IAF had successfully thwarted Pakistan's attempt to ingress into Indian airspace and attack Indian targets, with Wing Commander Abhinandan shooting down a Pak F-16 before being shot down by ground fire and landing in Pakistan-held territory after ejecting. The Wing Commander's release was secured two days later after relentless and inexorable pressure mounted by India on Pakistan via multiple channels, demanding the his release and refusing to deal with Pakistan in the matter.