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August 24, 1999


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E-Mail this column to a friend Kuldip Nayar

'The LoC may be de facto at present, it might become de jure tomorrow'

Senators in Pakistan, who are like the Rajya Sabha members in India, were privileged to be briefed by their government on Kargil. Military officers explained to them the situation with maps and charts. Foreign minister Sartaj Aziz had a session of questions and answers. Nothing like that happened in India. Even the Rajya Sabha members demand for a special session to discuss Kargil was rejected. They still do not know anything about the operation from official quarters.

I understand that the BJP-led alliance was reluctant to convene the Rajya Sabha on the ground that the hostilities at the border could be converted into a political warfare. But this is no reason to treat Parliament shabbily. The Rajya Sabha is the House which represents Parliament after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. Why couldn't the members be kept in the picture when the BJP executive and the selected leaders are given regular briefings? The real reason is that the Rajya Sabha might have brought the government down to earth from the dizzy heights of victory where it is still flying.

There is no doubt about the success at Kargil. The war was handled well, but not peace. For example, the government over-reacted when it brought down the Pakistan naval Atlantique plane. No country will undertake surveillance over India, much less Pakistan, with 16 persons on board.

Moreover, both Delhi and Islamabad have an agreement from 1991 that forbids any military action within 10 kilometres of airspace in each other's territory. There is also a high level contact between the Indian and Pakistan Directors General of Military Operation. If New Delhi felt the aircraft was flying within its territory, it could have contacted Pakistan on the hotline. Washington too has said 'in the event a violation occurs, a prompt alert is to be sent through diplomatic channels to the headquarters of the other country's air force.'

True, our annoyance -- and it is justified -- is over the shooting down of two Indian MiG fighter planes in the beginning of the intrusion. Pakistan has rubbed salt on India's wounds by honouring the two air defence men, who did the shooting. Still it is the restraint which won us acclaim in the world. Despite every provocation and despite the military pressure on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the government did not violate the Line of Control.

The restraint was not shown when the naval plane was brought down. The international opinion too reacted unfavourably. Washington, which has supported India all through the war at Kargil, ticked it off by saying that both sides should 're-institute' the 1991 agreement.

Churchill once said: In defeat, defiant, in victory, magnanimous. New Delhi seems to have hardened still more after Pakistan's defeat at Kargil. India's reply to the repeated pleas by Pakistan for a dialogue should have been accommodating. Perhaps it could have said that the talks are perforce deferred till after the election. It was not fair to bind the next government on such a matter as Kashmir.

We should go to the farthest extent to make peace with Pakistan. However intransigent our neighbour, because we have to live with it. Even otherwise, war is no solution to the problem. That Islamabad has betrayed our confidence goes without saying. So did Beijing in 1962. Still we have mended our fences with it without getting any part of the territory which China occupies.

However, the reason for New Delhi's tough attitude may be quite different. The National Democratic Alliance, which comprises the government, feels that any hint of talks may affect its electoral prospects. However, this posture ill suits a nation which seeks to string together all the countries in the region for common cooperative efforts towards development and the peoples' well-being.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere in the country is that of jingoism. Patriotism of the government's critics is being questioned. In fact, it was sad to see that at midnight on August 14-15, there were few people at the Gandhi Smriti where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. The function was a candlelight vigil for India-Pakistan peace and amity.

Pakistan should also create conducive conditions for talks. What purpose will a dialogue serve if Islamabad does not realise the futility of cross-border terrorism? Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief says peace but he has to act peace.

Four Jihad groups are functioning in Kashmir with headquarters in Pakistan. They are Lashkare-e-Tayyaba, the militant wing of the Muridke-based Markese-e-Dawat-ul Irshad (Centre for the propagation of Islam) under the leadership of Professor Mohammed Sayeed, also the chief of the Jama'at Able-e-Hadis.

The Harkatul Mujahideen, is the revival group of the late Harkat-ul Ansar, listed by the US as a terrorist organisation for its alleged links with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan reportedly harbouring Osma Bin Laden. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief or the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) is the Amir-e-Aala of the Harkat.

Al-Badr under Maulana Air Harnza and the United Jihad Council under Maulana Salahuddin, who was in the limelight during the Kargil incursion.

It is difficult to say how many of the Mujahideen under the four groups are native Kashmiris. Probably very few. As a Pakistani newspaper has admitted, they are 'the mixed bag of those generally identified as Afghans, Pakistanis (Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khan's men), Arabs, etc. In Kargil, it is established by now that the Pakistan armed forces led them to the Indian side of the LoC. When Pakistan explains that the Mujahideen are from Kashmir, it wants to fend off the responsibility -- and humiliation -- which has been heaped on it for the failure.

One thing which still remains unexplained is: who planned and authorised the Kargil launch? Were the Mujahideen an autonomous body of the men outside the operational command and control of the Pak army and the political hold of the Pakistan government. If so, what is going to be the nature of their equation with the army and the government in the future?

When Sharief agreed to withdraw the Mujahideen from Kargil under agreement in Washington, he destroyed the alibi which Pakistan gave in the past that it extended only diplomatic and moral support to the Mujahideen, they are not under Pakistan control. How could have Sharief made them withdraw? New Delhi knows now whom to address its complaint when their activity increases?

One interesting comment in Pakistan is that the Kargil operation in 1999 is perhaps similar to the mock war of 1971. East Pakistan was lost then; it may be Kashmir's turn now. The Kargil operation, according to the comment, was meant to prepare the Pakistanis for the loss. An article published in a Pakistani newspaper describes the mood thus: 'An evil spirit now hangs over Pakistan. The people are too tired, too disappointed, too often betrayed and too ill informed to comprehend the tragedy of Kargil....' And whatever Islamabad may say, the Kargil incursion has sanctified the LoC. It has come to be recognised as the international border. It may be de facto at present. But it looks like becoming de jure tomorrow.

No power would like either of the two sides to cross the LoC and fight all over again. New Delhi may not have made the proposal of converting the LoC into an international border officially, but it has hinted at it many a time. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then Pakistan Prime Minister, reportedly accepted the proposition at Simla in 1972 and promised to implement it. But he went back on the undertaking.

Pakistan refuses to accept the LoC on the logic that the integration of Kashmir is the unfinished agenda of Partition.'How can India agree to the proposition which means the acceptance of the two-nation theory?' However imperfect its secular polity, it cannot go to a situation where religion determines the nationhood and becomes the basis for the division of Jammu and Kashmir. If New Delhi were to accept the thesis, it would deliver a fatal blow to its pluralistic society.

Kuldip Nayar

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