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Before and After Kargil

By Sumer Koul

The Prime Minister said the other day that “we have learnt a lesson from Kagil,” that we won’t let “such a situation arise again,” that “the supreme sacrifice of our soldiers will not be allowed to go waste.” Ringing words these. But do they ring true? Only time can tell. As of now the restraint with which we combated the invasion and the magnanimity with which we allowed the enemy to go home (and lay mines in the vacated areas) do not encourage optimism. Nor does history.

The lesson from Kargil is a lesson we should have learnt in 1947 when Pakistan first invaded us. Then as now, at the sacrifice of hundreds of our soldiers, we had them on the run and by all accounts, would have reclaimed the entire state if only we hadn’t rushed to a fraudulent court of justice called the United Nations. This was to prove the mother of all our blunders vis-a-vis this congenitally hostile neighbour.

That we learnt nothing from that war was proved when Pakistan did an encore in 1965, and again six years later. On both occasions and especially in 1971 when we had them completely on their knees, we did not drive home the advantage on the political plane. Instead, we returned to them on a platter large areas including strategic points in Kashmir (along with more than 90,000 prisoners of war) and all in return for two predictably dubious agreements, first at Tashkent and then at Simla.

These blunders were made by the Congress governments, but the underlying infirmities in resolve and vision seem to afflict the entire political spectrum. The non-Congress governments did nothing to repair the damage and, in fact, it was under one such regime that Pakistan unleashed the so-called proxy war in Kasmir, a war which has gone on for ten years and taken a toll of 18,000 Indian lives. And now Kargil.

Even as our Prime Minister was sincerely bear-hugging a visibly reluctant Nawaz Sharif at Wagah and we were applauding the “historic breakthrough”, Pakistan was invading Kargil! The ink had not dried on the Lahore declaration when Sharif threatened to exercise “some other option”. The belligerent statement should have dented our unilateral euphoria but it didn’t. While our politics ignored the intimidation, MEA put benign construction on it, dismisssing the threat as merely aimed at “some fringe elements in Pakistan.” Not only did Pakistan actually thrust a war on us, it also decided when to stop the fighting. That the latter decision had much to do with the lack of overt support from its patrons abroad, particulary President Clinton, is undeniable. But in our desire to celebrate this as a triumph of our diplomacy, we must not underrate the decisive role played by the raw courage, deep commitment and victories of our soldiers.

Four hundred young lives snuffed out. Scores disabled for life. At the end of the day we have to ask ourselves: All this sacrifice for what? To throw out the invader and recapture our land, yes - but is that all there should be to it? Even when a bandit enters your house, you don’t merely throw him out; you want to ensure that he is punished for his crime. Why should it be different if the bandit is a country and a habitual offender, as Pakistan is? In other words, the pertinent question is not whether we have learnt a lesson from Kargil but whether we have taught a lesson to Pakistan. There is little evidence that we have.

On the very day it began the withdrawal and we stopped “air action and use of certain weapons so as not to impede the withdrawal” - in other words, gave them safe passage - Pakistan continued heavy shelling from across the LoC, felling more of our men. It has since stepped up terrorist killings in the state, attacking even our army camps. According to an official spokesman, “ISI and Pakistan army have lined up 2,000 terrorists to be smuggled into J&K as a follow-up to the Kargil intrusion.” We let them off the hook in Kargil and they are back at their bloody deeds in Kashmir.

Throughout the war we did and said things which were utterly uncalled for and added up to confirming Pakistan’s (and the world’s perception of India as a sponge state. Pakistan invades us and we publicly debate whether it is the government or army or ISI or foreign mercenaries who are behind the invasion. Our deep-set reluctance to call a spade a spade makes us describe the blatant aggression variously as intrusion, incursion, war-like, near-war. It is a planned invasion and occupation and Pakistan army’s involvement is abundantly clear but  we still call them infiltrators and intruders. Pakistan’s “perfidy” notwithstanding, we let their foreign minister come over for talks. Then we say ‘no talks till the aggression is vacated’, and yet we receive another Pakistani emissary and send our own there - secretly.

As the Indian army gets into action, Pakistan talks of a bigger war and of using nuclear weapons, but our leaders are at pains to say ‘no, no we do not want a bigger war.’ Given the facts, the world would have thought it would have been the other way round! Pakistan says the LoC is not defined. Any other country would have seized on this and gone on to destroy their bases and camps in PoK, which in any case we claim as our territory. Instead, we rush to produce the maps signed at Simla! They shoot down our plane and kill the captured pilot in cold blood. All we do is to tell Pakistan that murdering a PoW is against the Geneva convention - and an official spokesman actually “appreciates the gesture” of Pakistan returning the body! A young lieutenant and five jawans are  fiendishly tortured to death. We are content merely to call it “a barbaric act”. On our part, we wrap their dead in their flag and bury them “with all respects.” Yes we are not like them; we are a civilised people. But there is nothing called a civilised war. It is a matter of killing the enemy before he kills you, of avenging the killing of your comrades, of punishing those who attack your country. More than ever before the people of India have genuinely grieved with the families of the martyrs. Going by the innumerable surveys, they are angry and fed up. They ask that we hit Pakistan so hard that it gives up its devilish designs. The government’s reluctance to retalitate in full measure and the Opposition’s petty and election-oriented politicking altogether put the Indian people and army on one wave length and the political and bureaucratic establishements on quite another.

Given the way we have handled the aftermath of India-Pakistan wars, one sometimes wonders if we deserve the magnificiant army we have. Every great performance of our jawans and young officers has been considerably nullified by poor performance at the political and diplomatic levels. Is this because “our govenments have been timid,” as former army chief VN Sharma says, or is it “the victim syndrome” at play, as security analyst Brhma Chellaney says? It is both and something more: an egregious mindset that seeks good-boy certificates from the West, particularly from the US.

This mindset has to go. We must do things only and entirely in the interests of the country, as our army does, and not be obessed with international opinion. The time to get into the right gear is now. Even while maintaining high vigil on the border, we must turn our guns on the terroristts in the state. There should be no pussy-footing about this. Unfortunately but typically our response to post-Kargil terrorism has been weak-kneed and reactive - rather than pre-emptive and punitively retaliatory. We must eliminate them (and their local collaborators), not by employing minimum force as hitherto, but decisively by whatever means necessary.

We must also prepare to deal with a soon-to-emerge concerted western “advice” to respond to Sharif’s calls for talks. Let us make no mistake. He wants talks as a facade to impress the world even as ISI and the military-mullah complex enlarge and intensify their machinations against us.

If history is not to repeat itself yet again, we should agree to talks on three conditions: they must pay war reparations; they must hand over for trial those who committed the destardly torture on our captured soldiers; and they must at once cease and desist in Kashmir (and elsewhere in India).

Only when we secure these conditions can we claim not to have let the sacrifice of our soldiers go waste.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Pakistan's Role

Kargil 1999

 

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